POLITICS

In story of Tori Stafford tragedy, characters a study in contrasts

05/10/2012 05:50 EDT | Updated 07/10/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON, Ont. - An at-a-glance look at the principal players in the tragic story of Victoria Stafford:

Name: Victoria Elizabeth Stafford

Died April 8, 2009, age 8, from multiple blows to the head

By all accounts, Tori was a bubbly, energetic and spunky little girl.

She was inquisitive and thoughful, always trying to help her peers, but she had an impish side — on the last day of her life, she pretended to cut decals off a friend's shirt at school. On school picture day, the day before she died, Tori snuck a pair of soccer cleats into her bag — unbeknownst to her mother — and wore them for the picture.

The resulting photo, which also features her pink T-shirt that says, "shopping," perfectly highlights the two sides of Tori: a "girly girl" who loved lip gloss and barrettes, and a tomboy who loved getting dirty and jumping in puddles. "She'd be outside in a dress picking up worms and bugs," her mom testified.

Her own words: "My name's Victoria, but everybody calls me Tori," she told her abductor as she was unwittingly led to her death.

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Name: Michael Thomas Christopher Stephen Rafferty

Age 31, charged with first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping

Little is known about Rafferty's early life, except that he told people he wasn't close to his brothers and he was sent to live with his aunt and uncle in the country — near where Tori was killed — for a time in middle school.

It appears he spent a lot of time on the dating website Plenty of Fish; in the spring of 2009 he dated more than a dozen women he met there. Few of the relationships lasted longer than a couple of weeks; several women bailed after one date. In the absence of the jury, the Crown told the judge some of Rafferty's girlfriends had "disconcerting" things to say about his behaviour toward their children.

Evidence that Rafferty had child pornography on his laptop and had conducted several pedophilic Internet searches — "real underage rape" was one — was excluded from the trial.

Most — if not all — of his money seems to have come from one girlfriend, who had for months been working as an escort and giving him her earnings.

His own words: "Just because I'm sleazy doesn't make me what I'm being accused of," Rafferty said in his interrogation.

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Name: Terri-Lynne Ruth McClintic

Age 21, serving a life sentence for first-degree murder after pleading guilty two years ago in Tori's death

McClintic had a checkered childhood: born to one stripper and adopted by another, McClintic moved between eight communities before she was 17 with her drug-addicted adoptive mother, who got money from being on disability and dealing drugs.

As a child, McClintic microwaved a dog until it screamed. She first started using drugs at age eight. She started smoking marijuana, then used cocaine, ecstasy and morphine, settling mostly on OxyContin when she moved back to Woodstock at age 17.

By then she had also racked up six assault convictions — one for giving her mom a black eye — and soon added more in Woodstock, after she robbed two people, stabbed one of them and tried to resist arrest.

In testimony she referenced past physical abuse and hinted at sexual abuse. Letters she wrote while in a youth detention facility are filled with violent torture imagery, expressing a desire to do unspeakable things to innocent people as well as those who wronged her.

In her words: "I juz wanna be on road n take the first person I see, grab em...bring em wit me (and)...mutilate the (expletive) out of them, smash (their) skull apart then piece it togetha like a puzzle that way (they) stay conscious of the pain I'm inflictin on em," McClintic wrote to a friend while in custody in March 2008.

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Name: Tara McDonald

Age 33, Tori's mother

McDonald and Rodney Stafford married when she was just 17. A couple years later son Daryn came along, and two years after that, on July 15, 2000, Victoria was born. McDonald and Stafford split up about 2 1/2 years later.

McDonald had custody, though her mother helped her to raise the children. In 2005 McDonald began to abuse OxyContin, and though she was going to the local methadone clinic at the time Tori disappeared, she was still taking the powerful prescription painkiller. She testified that she has been clean for more than six months.

McDonald met McClintic twice as she was buying OxyContin from McClintic's mother, though she said her boyfriend James Goris bought drugs from the McClintics more frequently.

In her words: "Just remember her because she was the prettiest, most beautiful little girl in the world," McDonald in May 2009 after Rafferty and McClintic were charged.

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Rodney Stafford

Age 36, Tori's father

Rodney Stafford has emerged as the family spokesman, a fixture of post-testimony media scrums outside the courthouse throughout the trial. He says he wants people to remember Tori and be aware of the dangers children can face.

He and McDonald are estranged and spent the trial sitting with their families in different sections of the courtroom.

Stafford has admitted he wasn't always around for his kids and completed the last of his high school credits while Tori was missing.

To honour his daughter's memory, Stafford embarked upon a bike ride in 2009 from Woodstock, Ont., to Edmonton, where Tori had taken a trip with relatives the previous year. He raised money for Child Find Ontario.

The following summer, he made the same trip in reverse, from Edmonton to Woodstock, this time alongside his son Daryn, who Stafford says lost his best friend in Tori.

In his words: "It's not about Rafferty, it's about the little girl who lost her life," Stafford said outside court on the first day of Rafferty's trial.

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Name: Det. Staff Sgt. Jim Smyth

Veteran provincial police officer who took McClintic's confession, discovered Tori's remains

In policing since 1989, Smyth was already an experienced investigator when he was summoned to assist in the Tori Stafford case.

At the outset of his May 19 interview with McClintic, she continued to insist she'd had nothing to do with Tori's disappearance. By the end of the 3 1/2-hour interview, however, Smyth had extracted a confession.

She wanted to help find Tori's remains, so that night Smyth and three other officers drove her around as she pointed out familiar landmarks. Rafferty was arrested that same day and interrogated by Smyth that same night.

When Rafferty's cellphone records showed a call from April 8, 2009, near Mount Forest, Ont., Smyth went for a drive in the area. Acting on a hunch based on what McClintic had described, he turned down a rural laneway; on July 19, he discovered Tori's remains.

Smyth has since been promoted to the criminal profiling unit of the behavioural sciences section of the provincial police. On his last day as part of the Tori Stafford investigation, he attended her private funeral.

In his words: "Eight years old, Mike. Eight years old, buddy.... All she wanted to do was go home and have a little party for her friends because her mom just redecorated her room for her. That's pure evil, bud. And that's all I've seen for the last three hours, is pure evil from you." — Smyth during his interrogation of Rafferty.