Eyes on the street in a Burlington community results in three arrests for trafficking in marijuana.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  July 23, 2012  They call it eyes on the street; people keeping their eyes open and taking note of things that just don’t  look right.

It was just this kind of community concern that led to phone calls to the Halton Regional Police Service that resulted in Burlington uniform officers, supported by members of the Drug and Morality Unit initiating an investigation into the trafficking of cannabis marijuana from a residence in the City of Burlington.

Two men were observed outside the residence completing a drug transaction and were subsequently arrested.  A quantity of cannabis marijuana was recovered.  A short time later, another man was arrested for the offence of Trafficking in Cannabis Marijuana as he departed the residence.

A Controlled Drugs and Substances Act search warrant was executed at the residence, resulting in the seizure of approximately 28 grams of cannabis marijuana, $275.00 dollars in Canadian currency and additional evidence of drug trafficking.

ACCUSEDThomas BARRIE (19 years) of Burlington
CHARGES: Possession of Cannabis Marijuana for the Purpose of Trafficking, Trafficking in Cannabis Marijuana

ACCUSED:  Christopher WARRINER (20 years) of Burlington                    
CHARGE:  Possession of a Controlled Substance – Cannabis Marijuana

ACCUSED:  Dylan BROWN (20 years) of Burlington
CHARGE:  Possession of a Controlled Substance – Cannabis Marijuana

Police see an engaged community as vital component in eradicating illegal drug activity.  Investigators remind the public to utilize Crime Stoppers to report any illegal drug, gang or gun activity at 1-800-222-TIPS(8477), through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.com or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637(crimes).

 

 

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New Regional police chief spent 16 formative years with the Halton Police service. Left to polish his resume and is now the top cop.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 29, 2012  Stephen J. Tanner will become the next chief of the Halton Regional Police Service.

For Tanner it is a bit of coming home.  He takes office on September 1, 2012.   Deputy Chief Andrew Fletcher will continue as Acting Chief during this transition period supported by Deputy Chief Bob Percy and Acting Deputy Chief Marty Power.

Earlier this month Tanner was elected President of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) for a one year term.

Local boy leaves home; does well and returns to become the new sheriff. Gets a new uniform and a car with a siren. Steve Tanner is the new Halton Regional Service chief of police.

Chief Designate Tanner has an extensive record of leadership as Chief of Police in Kingston since November 2008, and Belleville Chief from January 2002 to November 2008.  Steve Tanner is no stranger to the Halton Region; he was born and raised in Oakville.

Following his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1982 (Science & Psychology) from the University of Guelph, Steve Tanner joined the Halton Regional Police Service as a Constable in Burlington.

Over his formative 16 years with Halton Police, his career progressed through a variety of operational and supervisory responsibilities leading to his promotion to Acting Staff Sergeant prior to his selection as the Deputy Chief of Police of the Guelph Police Service.  In March 2000, he was selected as Deputy Chief for the Belleville Police Service and in January 2002 he was appointed as their Chief.  In November 2008 he was appointed as Chief of Police of the Kingston Police Service.

The Burlington that Steve Tanner left in 1998 isn’t all that different to what he is coming back to – his pay cheque will be the biggest change for him

The Halton Regional Police Services Board is the governing body for the Halton Regional Police Service and is comprised of seven members.  The provincial appointees are: Bob Maich, Board Chair; Andrew Tyrrell, and Marion Yee; Randy Hammell, Vice-Chair, a citizen appointee made by Regional Council; Mayor Rob Burton, Regional Councillor and Mayor of Oakville; Rick Craven, Regional and Burlington Councillor; and Jeff Knoll, Regional and Oakville Councillor.  Oversight and financial accountability for the police service rests with the citizen based Police Services Board.

 

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It has become the crime of choice for many criminals – it is relatively easy and it happens because we don’t pay attention – identity theft..

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 29, 2012  Halton Regional Police have laid a total of 140 charges related to fraud and identity theft

Early in March 2012, the Regional Fraud Unit began an investigation that focused on a large amount of identity theft and account takeovers within the Halton and Toronto area.

Thieves see identity theft as easy - they see your identity as money in their pockets. Protect yourself.

The targeted group would commit identity thefts and attend financial institutions and get access a victims bank using identity they had stolen and then removing funds from an account.

The project culminated on June 27th with the arrest of three individuals and residential search warrants executed in both Milton and Toronto.  Police recovered an assortment of identity documents, false identifications, credit cards, computers, instruments of forgery and cash.

Police are in the process of contacting the victims of these identity thefts and the investigation is ongoing as police anticipate laying additional charges.

Charged are Christopher Corey DEWSBURY (31) and Camille DEWSBURY (30) of Milton and Shelley Marie BOIS (53) of Toronto.

The trio face over 140 criminal code charges relating to Fraud, Possession of Counterfeit Mark,  Possession of Identity Information and Conspiracy to Commit an Indictable Offence.  All are scheduled to appear in Milton Court on the 24th of July, 2012.

Anyone with information concerning this or any other crime is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1 800 222-TIPS(8477), through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.com or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637(crimes).

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Knife point robbery on Brant at Caroline; suspect is believed to be a 15-17 year old female.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  June 19, 2012  Last Sunday evening as the last of the Sound of Music fans were heading home, at 12:40 a.m.,  a 14-year-old male victim and a friend were walking north on Brant Street near Caroline Street.

A lone female approached the victim, brandished a knife, held it against the victim’s stomach and demanded his property. The victim complied and gave up his knapsack and cell phone.

Writing up another report, not that many during the Sound of Music Festival

The suspect is described as a white female, 15 – 17 years, medium build, approximately 5’3” to 5’5”, fare skin with shoulder length brown hair.  The suspect was wearing a grey or black beanie style hat.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Burlington Criminal Investigations Bureau at 905 825-4747 x2343, Crime Stoppers at 1 800 222-TIPS(8477), through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.com or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637(crimes).

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Alert residents see suspicious behavior and call police; two Toronto types don’t drive home.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  June 16, 2012   It is watchful citizens that catch the criminals..

There was a series of daytime house break in in the Francis Road community.  Word got out – Our Burlington was a large part of getting that word out – and when a resident saw what they thought was suspicious behaviour they called police.

Here is how the police tell the story:

On June 13th at 10:00 a.m. alert citizens reported suspicious activity of two men possibly casing homes in the area of Francis Road and Marley Crescent in Burlington.  There were also some reports of these same men going door-to-door offering gardening services.

Police responded to the area and located one man seated in his parked vehicle. A second man was seen exiting from between two houses, the man ran when he spotted police.

Both men were arrested and suspected of breaking into homes. Investigation discovered that a break and enter did occur at a Francis Road home, but nothing had been taken.

The suspect had entered the unlocked home while the resident was outside doing yard work. The resident happened to return indoors and interrupted the crime in progress.

This incident is similar in pattern to other recent Burlington residential break-ins that occur while homeowners are focused on outdoor activities. Halton Regional Police Service continues to investigate a possible connection.

ACCUSED: Denis PARCZEWSKI, 26 years of Toronto;  CHARGES: Break and Enter, Possession of Burglary Tools

ACCUSED: Hubert ZMIJEWSKI, 23 years of Toronto,  CHARGES: Break and Enter, Possession of Burglary Tools

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It was a police operation code named “commute” – covered a lot of ground between Hamilton and Toronto; none on the GO train.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON   June 12, 2012   This was a big one.  A total of nine people charged with multiple offences during what the police called project “Commute”.

Police had an undercover officer make multiple purchases of cocaine from a trafficker in Halton Region.  Subsequent investigation revealed this illegal activity was supported by an organized network of individuals.

Monday June 11,  Halton Police arrested a number of people and exercised search warrants at several residences in Burlington, Oakville, Hamilton and Toronto.  The police have been at this one for more than eleven months, following leads and getting at everyone they saw as part of what they now describe as an organized ring of drug traffickers that covered the Region of Halton, City of Hamilton and City of Toronto.

Numerous police units were involved in Operation Commute; an 11 month investigation that resulted in the seizure of three kilos of drugs and $45,000 in cash plus nine arrests.

Drug and Morality officers were assisted by members of the Halton Guns & Gangs Unit, PAVIS (Provincial Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy), PWEU (Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit),  Halton RIS (Regional Investigative Services), Halton and Hamilton uniformed members,  Halton TRU (Tactical Rescue Unit), Hamilton ERU (Emergency Response Unit), and Toronto ETF (Emergency Task Force).

The accused are:

Steven BAKER, 25 yrs, Hamilton

-Trafficking in a controlled substance (cocaine)

-Trafficking in a controlled substance (cocaine and crack cocaine)

-Possession for the purposes of trafficking (cocaine)

-Possession of proceeds of crime (over $5000)

 

Glen THOMAS, 32 yrs, Pickering

-Possession for the purposes of trafficking (oxycodone)

-Possession of proceeds of crime (over $5000)

 

Goun IM, 20 yrs, Oakville

-Possession for the purposes of trafficking (oxycodone)

-Possession of proceeds of crime (over $5000)

 

Brook TENN, 28 yrs, Hamilton

-Possession for the purposes of trafficking (cocaine and crack cocaine)

-Possession for the purposes of trafficking (oxycodone)

-Produce a controlled substance (crack cocaine)

-Careless storage of a firearm (contravention of regulations)

-Unauthorized possession of a prohibited firearm

-Possession of a prohibited firearm knowing that its possession is unauthorized

 

Pierre KALATA, 30 yrs, Oakville

-Trafficking in a controlled substance (cocaine)

-Possession for the purposes of trafficking (cocaine)

-Conspiracy to import a controlled substance (cocaine)

-Breach of recognizance of bail (3 counts)

 

Joseph SANSONE, 22 yrs, Toronto

-Trafficking in a controlled substance (cocaine)

-Possession for the purposes of trafficking (cocaine)

-Possession for the purposes of trafficking (ecstasy)

-Possession of proceeds of crime (over $5000)

-Conspiracy to import a controlled substance (cocaine)

-Careless storage of a firearm (contravention of regulations) two counts

-Unauthorized possession of a firearm

-Unauthorized possession of a prohibited firearm

-Possession of a prohibited firearm knowing that its possession is unauthorized

-Possession of a firearm knowing its possession is unauthorized

 

Lindsay COUTTS, 23 yrs, Toronto

-Possession for the purposes of trafficking (cocaine)

-Possession for the purposes of trafficking (ecstasy)

-Possession of proceeds of crime (over $5000)

-Conspiracy to import a controlled substance (cocaine)

-Careless storage of a firearm (contravention of regulations) two counts

-Unauthorized possession of a firearm

-Unauthorized possession of a prohibited firearm

-Possession of a prohibited firearm knowing that its possession is unauthorized

-Possession of a firearm knowing that its possession is unauthorized

 

These accused persons are scheduled to appear in Milton bail court on the 12th of June 2012.

Two additional people were added to the list of those arrested:

Sausha JEFFERSON, 33 yrs, Mississauga

-Conspiracy to import a controlled substance (cocaine)

 

Romina PISANI, 28 yrs, Concord

-Conspiracy to import a controlled substance (cocaine)

 

These accused persons will appear in Milton court on the 31st of July 2012.

During a drug raid police assume there are weapons inside the residence - they go in fully prepared.

This is a major multi-level police investigation. Seized was three kilograms of cocaine, quantities of oxycodone, ecstasy and marihuana.  All of these are dangerous, mind altering drugs that result in addictions.  The people in this business also had three illegal handguns, ammunition, a bulletproof vest, approximately $45,000.00 in Canadian currency and equipment used in the production of crack cocaine.

The number of police units involved indicates how serious the drug problem is in the region.  The people arrested were selling the drugs – who was buying the stuff?

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Halton Police Make Arrest in Stabbing Incident in Burlington near Tansley Woods Recreation Center

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  June 9, 2012  The Halton Regional Police Service were called to the wooded area near Tansley Woods Recreation Center on reports of a stabbing incident at approximately 6:10 p.m. on June 8, 2012.

Two groups of young males were meeting on the pathway when one of the males produced a knife and began to assault another male youth.  The victim, a 16 year old male, was struck in the arm and abdomen area before the suspect fled the area on a bicycle.

The suspect was stopped nearby by Halton Police and taken into custody.  A subsequent search of the area by Halton Tactical Officers and a Police Dog resulted in the suspected weapon being recovered.

The victim was transported to Joseph Brant Memorial hospital where he was treated for his injuries and later released.

A 17 year old male from Burlington has been charged with the following offences:

 (1) Possession of a Weapon for a Dangerous Purpose

(2) Assault with a Weapon

(3) Obstruct Police

(4) Possession of a Controlled Substance for the Purpose of Trafficking (2 counts)

(5) Possession of a Controlled Substance (2 counts)

The suspect was held in custody for a bail hearing on June 9, 2012.

 

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Series of break-ins in the Headon, Millcroft, Alton Village and Orchard communities – they are looking for gold jewelry for the most part.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  June 7, 2012  They first of all ensure that you aren’

The police cannot protect our propert without help from the public.

t home by either ringing your doorbell or calling the house.

If you`re not home – they kick in the door and proceed to ransack daytime residential break-ins that have occurred in the Headon Forest, Millcroft, Alton Village and Orchard communities of Burlington.

The Halton Regional Police are investigating a number of daytime residential break-ins that have occurred in the Headon Forest, Millcroft, Alton Village and Orchard communities of Burlington.

Eight reported incidents have occurred since February 25th and investigation has revealed these occurrences are likely connected.   In all eight cases the front door is kicked open and the suspects primarily search for gold jewellery. Gold jewellery of South Asian origin is particularly sought after.

What can a homeowner do?  Short of putting a stout piece of wood or an iron bar across the door – which kind of takes something away from the décor of the house doesn’it – all the public can rely upon is watchful neighbours or some kind of home alarm system.  These are not that expensive and certainly worth looking into.  There is one with a $99 set up and $495 a month -0 less than the repairs you would have to do if you got an unwelcome call.

As always – keep the police informed – they can`t do their job without your help.

 

 

 

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Police identify and arrest three identity theft thieves.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  May 31, 2012  The Fraud unit of the Halton Regional Police is keeping very busy – they recently arrested three people who have been stealing identities and using those identities to purchase high value items at big box stores in a stretch of Ontario that runs from Mississauga to Brantford.

Detective Brad Murray, Regional Fraud Unit, who was involved in the arrest of a group that were skimming data from Automatic Teller Machines a number of months ago has put his experience with identity fraud to this most recent case.

The investigation into his most recent challenge began back in April and culminated on May 23rd with the arrest of three individuals and a search warrant on their residence.  Police recovered an assortment of gift cards, $8000.00 in US and Canadian currency along with $20,000.00 in jewellery.

Also located in the home were over 27 different identities and a taser/stun gun. Police are in the process of contacting the victims of the identity thefts and the investigation is still ongoing as investigators anticipate laying additional charges.

Charges are Craig Alanzo McIntosh (37), Kevin Oneil McIntosh (35) and Jennifer Halyk (32) all of Mississauga. The trio face over 95 criminal code charges relating to Fraud, Possession of Property Obtained by Crime and Possession of Identity Information.  All are scheduled to appear in Milton Court on the 19th of June, 2012.

 

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It took a little while but police arrest Hamilton resident for assault at Club 54 on Harvester Road.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  May 24, 2012  It looks as if the Burlington detachment of the Regional Police are making it very clear that they will not put up with rowdy scenes in the “club” district along Harvester Road or the South Service Road part of town.

Way back in April there was an assault that sent a man to hospital with serious injuries.  There was an argument between two patrons outside Club 54, at 3345 Harvester Rd., in Burlington at  2:30 a.m.

The victim, a 21-year-old Oakville man, was punched in the head by another unknown male resulting in injury to the victim. The assailant fled the scene on foot and police are seeking assistance in identifying him.

He was described as white in his early 20’s, 5’6 to 5’8, small build with an olive/dark complexion and shaved head.  He was wearing a grey sweater, grey jacket and jeans.

The victim was transported to Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital.

And that’s where things stood – until May 20th , when a comprehensive investigation and some police with keen observation skills made an arrest.

Charged with assault causing  bodily harm is Tariq HIJAZI, 24,  of Hamilton

The accused will next appear in court on June 20, 2012.

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Author is Mother of an 11 year old daughter, resident of Woodstock who has finally come to terms with the murder of Tori Stafford.

By Martha Emonts

WOODSTOCK, ON  May 23, 2012    For the past few weeks I have written over 12,000 words on the abduction and murder of Tori Stafford. I have tried to give you the one perspective that has been missing from most reports on the subject. While most articles have focused on what has happened to the victim, her family or the apprehended killers, I have tried to show you what Tori’s story has done to an average parent within the community and the community itself. Hopefully I have provided you with some insight into my hometown and how we felt about this tragedy.  All that is left to tell you is about my experience in writing this and maybe to answer a few questions that have crossed your minds while reading the various sections.

I didn’t tell many people I was publicly writing about the murder. I kept it quiet for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most prominent was that that the case was very emotional for my hometown. There was a great deal of debate over almost every aspect of the case, the vast majority of it rife with some form of controversy. You have to understand in a small town like Woodstock, old fashioned values and justice are still brimming near the surface. You’ll find more “eye for an eye” than “turning the other cheek”.

The trial renewed discussion about capital punishment, with even my own family disagreeing over the “what should be“ fate of Tori’s killers. Those discussions were not pleasant and involved a lot of heated words and flustered conversations. Some of my family knew I was writing these segments and followed along religiously- maybe not always agreeing, but okay with what I wrote because I kept things fair. A couple would call to tell me I was wrong and I shouldn’t have said something a certain way. And I only told the more tolerant ones. Could you imagine telling the others? Yeah,…not likely.

Now you might be thinking; wouldn’t I be worried they might stumble across my article and see what I wrote? You’re right, I was worried about that. But steps were taken to avoid that issue all together. No I didn’t email viruses to their computers. I did something much more devious- I adopted a pen name. Elizabeth Maloney does not exist anywhere but in my mind.  I`ll tell you a bit more about that in a minute.

For now, let`s go back to my clandestine existence of writing under a pen name about a topic that was highly controversial in my world. Articles were written late at night after my daughter was in bed, because with having a full time job, it was the only time I could put fingers to keyboard. Reviewing the heinous details of Tori`s tragic murder every night before bed, it’s a wonder I didn’t have nightmares.  The articles took their toll on me, leaving me raw with emotion some nights.

One such night, I made the mistake of watching part of the movie `The Lovely Bones`.  For those of you who have not seen the movie, its about a young girl who is murdered by a man in her neighbourhood and the story is about her transition from earth to heaven, watching her family and her murder from the place in between. There were so many similarities between the movie and Tori that I ended up in tears. It was probably the rawest and most emotional moment I felt while doing this series, but it was also the best. By the time I went to bed that night I felt I was meant to see that movie when I did. The little girl in The Lovely Bones resolves what she needs to and happily moves on to heaven feeling at peace with herself and filled with love for her family. That night, as the tears streamed onto my pillow, I imagined the same for Tori. I felt relief for that little girl. Knowing that she was probably looking down at us the same way and knowing she was finding the peace we were so badly struggling to find here on earth.

And on many nights my daughter went to bed puzzled at why her mother had insisted on hugging her several times before she went to sleep. Tori has reminded me that even though my daughter drives me absolutely crazy most of the time now, our time together is very precious. Neither my daughter nor I have been given a guarantee for tomorrow. The last thing I want her to hear from me at bed time is how much I love her and how she is the best thing I have ever done with my life. Tori has given me the greatest gift- the gift of appreciation for my child. In a world where we often put people off or let angry words get in the way, I have been given a powerful reminder of how we have to cherish every moment we can, because that moment just might be our last.

Martha Emonts, mother of an 11 year old daughter who wrote of the trial that convicted the murderer of Tori Stafford.

So today I put the last couple of things to rest. Today I let go of little Tori, hoping I did her some justice in my telling of the events. The little girl I have come to affiliate with my own child. I feel like Tori has become part of my life and having to let her go is proving more difficult than I had once thought. But let her go I must, because life must go on.

And lastly, today, I also put my pen name to rest. Over the weeks I have given you a glimpse into my thoughts and feelings, all while keeping you in the dark about my true identity. It was a necessity at the time but with the case resolved, the murderers firmly behind bars and everyone beginning to move on with their lives, it is time I fess up and do the same. These 12 segments you have loyally read for the past few weeks under the name of Elizabeth Maloney, actually belonged to me, Martha Emonts;  thirty-six year old mother of one beautiful 11 year old daughter and a proud resident of the City of Woodstock.

Editors note: Martha Emonts works in Burlington and sent us a note about what she felt was an error on our part in a piece we had written – she was right.  We corrected the mistake and in the process learned of her feelings about the trail then taking place in London, Ontario of the man accused of murdering  8 year old Tori Stafford in Woodstock, Emonts home town.  While not a Burlington story, Emonts works in Burlington/Hamilton in the finance industry and we felt her raw emotions were worth publishing.  Children being taken off the street and never again seen by their parents is, as Emonts’  put it: can happen anytime, anywhere, and the most gut-wrenching of all; to anyone.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

 

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What does the brutal murder of a delightful, inquisitve friendly little eight year old girl do to a community? How does it recover?

Part 11

This series is a first person account, told by a parent who has lived through the fear and pain that rocked Woodstock when an eight year old girl was abducted on her way home from school and subsequently murdered.  Elizabeth  Maloney takes us through each step of the ordeal and starts with: A girl the same age as my daughter – is missing, she didn’t get home after school. The worry sets in. No longer can a parent feel reassured by the spotlight of safety once provided by broad daylight. Things are different now.  It can happen anytime, anywhere, and the most gut-wrenching of all; to anyone.

By Elizabeth Maloney WOODSTOCK, ON May 19, 2012  Can we move on from this? And how?

For three plus years, the City of Woodstock has talked about, thought about or debated about the death of Victoria Stafford.  We were consumed with finding the little girl and then with finding her killers. But now that Tori has been laid to rest, and her murderers tried and behind bars, what is there left to do? It’s kind of like the first few days after you graduate from high school- you are grateful you survived, that you finally succeeded and now that it’s over, you’re not sure what to do with yourself.

Much like any other small Ontario town - the recent addition of a large auto assembly plant brought lots of jobs to the city but other than that - it's just another small town that drew some attention it could have well done without.

But much like high school, after a few days of reveling in the success, you get the idea that you have to move forward, get your direction and put one foot in front of the other. And that is where Woodstock is. We’ve been celebrating the verdict, but now it’s time we find our way. How have things changed for Tori’s family, the Oxford County Police Services and the community as a whole?

Our mourning period sufficiently satisfied, now it’s time for new growth from the ashes.

Signs of life after Tori are starting to bud sporadically around the City, much like tiny buds on a tree during the first warm days of spring. Tori’s mother, Tara McDonald has announced her plans with a job waiting for her and going back to school in her future, working towards her goal of becoming someone Tori would be proud of.

Rodney Stafford, Tori’s father, has stated that he is going to do something to make sure some good comes out of this tragedy, by continuing to raise money for ChildFind, challenging current laws or pushing for security cameras in schools. While the rest of Tori’s family have not publicly announced their plans, rest assured they are picking up the pieces much like Tara and Rodney and trying to move forward as best they can.

Since the investigation into Tori’s abduction and murder, Oxford Community Police Services (OCPS) has waged a war on drugs in the city. Woodstock was saddled with allegations of having a seedy, underground drug culture running rampant within the city limits. Every community has drug issues – even Woodstock – but I don’t think our “problem” is any larger than most other communities. I think the chief difference is that no one believed the friendly City of Woodstock had one. There is no doubt of the drug connection to this murder, with three of the major players in this investigation reported in the media as having a drug addiction; one could hardly argue. This case shone a bright light in that dark corner, making it impossible to ignore.

Woodstock - a city with an old city hall, a pleasant city hall square - quiet sort of suburban - a decent place to raise kids - and then everything changed.

Tori’s murder case provided the catalyst needed to motivate OCPS to launch a crackdown on the supply of drugs like Oxycontin. In the few years since Tori’s murder they have offered help to addicts while simultaneously breaking up the channels the drugs flowed through. Chief Rodney Freeman spoke of this when he said “We’re not going to win the war on drugs. But our effort has been to disrupt and displace the drug cultures within our city to the very best extent we can.” In other words, they’re not going to be able to eliminate the drug issue completely, but they sure as heck were going to make it harder for them to operate.

As for the many families in Woodstock, when Tori went missing the expected reactions occurred. Parents became more cautious, not allowing children to venture far, and in some extreme cases at all. We didn’t just watch our kids, we watched other peoples’ kids! My own child was sequestered to the back yard when she asked to go outside, with instructions not to play out the front of the house and to come in immediately should anyone come around. Tori’s story had rattled most of us parents. We were suddenly aware that two predators had been lurking amongst us for quite some time. It was alarming to say the least and we reacted the only way we knew how- out of fear.

Perhaps the saddest thing I learned out of all of this was the reaction of the children of Woodstock. According to a lady who works for one of the family services agencies in the city, they fielded calls from parents asking how to answer their children’s questions about Tori. Children who usually remain oblivious to the harsh realities of the world around them somehow were not immune this time. They were painfully aware of what had happened to Tori and many of them had questions. Parents were challenged with finding the right answers- giving enough so their children realized the gravity of the situation, but not enough to irrevocably scare them into hiding.

 

Lots of sports teams with parents heavily involved - the author of this series, a resident of Woodstock, coaches her daughters soccer team - but it isn't the same

So are our children still “bubble-wrapped” and under careful guard today? No, not really. While we still keep watchful eye, as parents we know we can’t watch our children every single second of their lives. Instead of locking them away out of the fear we felt, we teach them how to protect themselves and I believe that most of the parents within the city are doing just that, or at least moving towards that. Education programs about strangers were renewed in the schools and parents employed the buddy system, cell phones and check in times as a means of giving their children freedom but security at the same time. We are giving our children the tools to survive in a world that does not care about their innocence. Because we know that to just lock them up only imprisons them and does nothing to teach them about survival. We can’t stop all the predators before they strike, but we can arm our children with the tools to avoid, out-smart and escape them. Some argue this is robbing our children of their innocence. But I look at it this way, better to be robbed of innocence in this manner than for a predator to do the robbing and my child end up like Tori.

We are making progress, but with all tragedies, it will take some time. Wounds this severe don’t heal overnight. We are on the right path and pointed in the right direction. The bottom line is that Woodstock came together in this tragedy. Our citizens participated in the searches, the vigils and sadly the memorials of Tori Stafford. We cried, we raged, we mourned. We circled around Tori and her family and banded together even in our darkest hours. If after seeing that, you still have doubt that Woodstock will bounce back from our loss, let me be clear: Speaking on behalf of my city, we will heal. We will rise from the darkness, if for no other reason out of respect and homage to our dear little Tori. Our innocence may be lost, but our spirit is still fully intact.

 Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

 

 

 

 

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Good police work means putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Halton Regional Police doing just that – can you help?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON   May 18, 2012  The Burlington detachment of the Halton Regional police have noticed a string of disturbing incidents involving young students and think there might be a pattern.  Here is what they know so far – can you help with any piece of this puzzle?

Incident 1:

On May 15th at 1:40 p.m. a man in a parked car struck up a conversation with a 15 year old female student at a bus stop in front of MM Robinson HS, located at 2425 Upper Middle Rd., Burlington. The male asked questions about the school, asked for the student’s name, and even asked the student to reach through the open window to hand him a piece of paper that was located on the passenger seat. The student did reach into the car; however the man made no attempt to grab or harm her.

The man is described as 55-60 years, heavy build, South Asian.  Vehicle description: Silver – four door.

That young lady should never has put her hand into the car.  The police officer taking the report must have cringed as he listened to the student.

Incident 2:

They are out there - they are dangerous - but we can teach our children how to protect themselves.

On May 17th at 4:30 p.m. two 15 year old males were walking along Tavistock Drive near Clarksdale Public School. A man drove up to them, got their attention, held up a package of cookies and offered them one.  The man is described as white, 60 years old, average build, white/grey hair, wearing glasses.  Vehicle is described as a black, four door Lincoln.

Does any of this trigger something you saw.  Don’t worry if you don’t have a complete recollection – the police know how to put the parts together – but they do need those pieces and they can only come from you.

Anyone with information concerning this incident is asked to contact the Burlington Criminal Investigations Bureau at 905 825-4747 x2385, Crime Stoppers at 1 800 222-TIPS(8477), through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.com or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637(crimes).

 

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The trial is over, impact statements given, the sentence delivered and they all leave the Courtroom for the last time. Now what?

Part 10

This series is a first person account, told by a parent who has lived through the fear and pain that rocked Woodstock when an eight year old girl was abducted on her way home from school and subsequently murdered.  Elizabeth  Maloney takes us through each step of the ordeal and starts with: A girl the same age as my daughter – is missing, she didn’t get home after school. The worry sets in. No longer can a parent feel reassured by the spotlight of safety once provided by broad daylight. Things are different now.  It can happen anytime, anywhere, and the most gut-wrenching of all; to anyone.

By Elizabeth Maloney

WOODSTOCK, ON  May 16, 2012   Over the course of this trial, the family of Victoria Stafford has spent a large part of their time being spectators to the court proceedings.  Having to sit quietly on the sidelines and follow along, much like the rest of us, just with a closer seat. How frustrating the last ten  weeks must have been; to be voiceless in a room with the alleged killer sitting a dozen or so feet away. Your head and heart are screaming for justice.

Tara McDonald will carry questions for the rest of her life.

The silence broke yesterday when the family gathered in the Court Room for what should be the last time to take part in the sentencing hearing of Michael Rafferty. The judge would be ruling on Mr. Rafferty’s fate, having been found guilty last Friday night on the charges of first degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault. But not before the family would take the stand and explain how the loss of their beloved Tori has scarred their lives.

This is not the first time Tori’s family have given victim impact statements. They did so at Terri-Lynne  McClintic’s sentencing speaking of their tragic loss. It would seem though, that their harshest and most painful words were reserved for Rafferty.

Tori’s parents spoke along with statements from Tori’s brother Daryn, grandmothers, several aunts and uncles.  All of them listing the pain and suffering they have dealt with over the last three years. Unable to hold back her tears, Tara McDonald, Tori’s mother, spoke about having no choice but to be strong and how her pain pales to that suffered by her daughter. And how she had to trade in heartwarming moments like Tori’s prom, graduation and wedding, for sombre memories the likes of the day Tori went missing and the day she was found.

One of Tori’s aunts, Rebecca Nichols, echoed a similar sentiment. Saying that instead of remembering Tori the way she was with her beautiful blue eyes and her smile and laugh, every time she hears Tori’s name she now thinks first of the forensic photographs of Tori’s distorted body.

 

They were close to inseparable - except for that one day.

As heart-wrenching as these statements were, it was Daryn’s prepared statement read by Crown Attorney, Stephanie Venne, that grabbed everyone. Daryn wrote about being afraid to walk alone on the street without looking back. He talked about having low self-esteem and anxiety. He also spoke of his guilt; how Tori and him had fought before parting ways on April 8, 2009, not knowing it would be the last time he would ever see her. And then he explained the loss of his “bestest friend” the one who felt what he felt. “No hugs, no ‘See you later,’ no goodbyes, just a part of my heart ripped out,” Daryn wrote in his statement. Continuing on to say he feels so alone and that it’s like the world is playing a sick trick on him, but instead it was his reality.

Daryn’s grief even touched a chord with the defendant himself. Rafferty who had remained unemotional and detached throughout the trial, wiped away tears as he sat listening in the prisoner’s box. It was unexpected to say the least, but it garnered no sympathy from the family. If I were to hazard a guess, I would think the family was happy to finally see him feeling some kind of discomfort over what he had done.

Rodney Stafford struggles with his pain - now he and his son must work out the life they will live without Tori

Tori’s father, Rodney Stafford had the harshest words of them all for Rafferty. His grief and, at times, his rage were painfully apparent as he spoke to the court. Rodney told the court how he agonized over Tori’s disappearance until she was found in a rock pile near Mount Forest months later. Of how he had to visit his daughter’s grave stone to say hi and not by having her in his arms and holding her tight. At one point he looked at Rafferty and spoke to him directly, calling him a “piece of s**t”, eliciting applause from the courtroom observers. Rodney perhaps summed it up the best near the end of his statement when he said “Nothing will ever replace what was stolen from all of us. A human life, a child’s life, my daughter’s life.”

When the family finished their statements, the court asked Michael Rafferty if he had anything to say. After being silent throughout the entire proceedings, Rafferty decided to break his silence here and now. He said he admitted he was guilty of many crimes and there are things he was very, very ashamed of doing, but he still stands behind not guilty. He confessed that he believed he was a “definite part” of why Tori is not with us today and that although we may not be believe him, he is sorry. He hopes that everyone will find closure from his sentence.

In a move that I think none of us saw coming, Rafferty addressed Tori’s mother Tara directly during his address to the court. He offered to fill in “all the pieces of the puzzle” if she wanted to hear them, but away from the court, the media and the public. Was this a genuine offer or an attempt to cast some shadow back at Tara, who had often been the scapegoat for suspicion in this case? Surely people would question why this offer was made to Tara and not to Rodney or the family as a whole.

With all parties heard from, Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney, gave his ruling on Rafferty’s sentence. He referred to the negative media attention that angered many regarding the excluded evidence obtained from Rafferty’s computer, explaining the necessity of a fair trial. He pointed out that character evidence is more about who the defendant is, not so much as to what he did, stating “Being a pervert does not mean that he is a murderer.” He went on to say “But with the verdict of the jury, that presumption of innocence has been stripped away, revealing who he really is: a child abductor; a child rapist; and a child murderer.” At the very end he told Rafferty he was a “monster.”

Daryn Stafford is a teenager now. His sister is still his" bestest" friend.

Rafferty was sentenced to twenty five years for the murder charge, and to ten years each for the kidnapping and sexual assault charges. The sentences were to be carried out concurrently. Rafferty is also banned from possessing any weapons, his name will be added to the sex offender’s registry and he also must provide a sample of his DNA. Rafferty will not be eligible for parole until May 19, 2034. However, he may be able to apply for the faint-hope clause after 15 years.

Unless an appeal is filed within the next  25  days, this will bring to a close the three year odyssey we have all endured. Tori’s family and the community of Woodstock will wake up today with no trial or verdict looming. Nothing left to do but to somehow get up and move forward in the aftermath of one of the city’s darkest and most painful periods. The city has changed; there is no doubt about it. Can we move on from this? And how?

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

 

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The murder trial of their daughter ready to go to a jury; Tori’s Mother and Father struggle to cope. They succeed.

Part 8

This series is a first person account, told by a parent who has lived through the fear and pain that rocked Woodstock when an eight year old girl was abducted on her way home from school and subsequently murdered.  Elizabeth  Maloney takes us through each step of the ordeal and starts with: A girl the same age as my daughter – is missing, she didn’t get home after school. The worry sets in. No longer can a parent feel reassured by the spotlight of safety once provided by broad daylight. Things are different now.  It can happen anytime, anywhere, and the most gut-wrenching of all; to anyone.

By Elizabeth Maloney

WOODSTOCK, ON  May 9, 2012   Imagine with me for a moment. I am going to ask you to imagine something horrible, but bear with me. Imagine one day after school, only one of your two children comes home- the other is missing. Twelve hours pass, then twenty-four,…still no sign of your baby. Another day goes by, and then another.

She just didn't come home. Her brother did, Tori didn't and she was never seen alive again.

Each day waking with renewed hope that today will bring answers, each night going to bed just as lost as the night before. The ache, the emptiness inside. The media surrounding your home, pointing a camera in your direction each time you emerge, wanting a sound bite on “how do you feel”. How would you feel? Being the spectacle of a nation; your every comment, tear and irrational reaction recorded for the masses to see? And later, for those eyes to turn their suspicious gaze on you, and you know they are thinking “maybe the mom or dad had something to do with this”.

That was life for Tara McDonald and Rodney Stafford. Treated to revolving bouts of sympathy, pity and suspicion. Knowing the entire country was watching them suffer, and not being able to deal with the darkest moment of their life in private. Something like this is difficult enough. Think about it. If it was your child, how rational would you be? Would you be worrying about what you wore to a news conference, or if what you were doing made you look suspicious. No, you wouldn’t- your mind would be where it should be- on your missing child.

But despite how awful the public ordeal of Tori’s abduction and subsequent murder may have been, I would think it would pale in comparison to having to deal with the trial, and being in the same room as her alleged murderers. For the past ten weeks, Tara and Rodney have sat in the same courtroom as Tori’s accused killers, Michael Rafferty and at times Terri-Lynn McClintic, with only several yards separating them. As a mother myself, I have no idea how Tara and Rodney have maintained enough composure to be able to be in the same room as Rafferty and McClintic without rushing the prisoner’s box.

 

The not knowing when on for day after day. The eyes of the public were on them every minute. An ordeal they did not need - but Tara McDonald managed to keep it together.

Yet somehow that is what they did. They endured the testimony of Terri-Lynn McClintic, who spared no detail in her narrative of the horror that Tori faced. Six long days of what was labelled the most disturbing testimony of the trial, and they were there every day. Sitting through the excruciating details compelled to bear witness to the crimes against their daughter- in the  only way they can  be there for her, this one last time.

And if the wound wasn’t raw enough, there were pictures; unrecognizable, horrific pictures of their once beautiful little girl. Identified only by her dental records and the Hannah Montana shirt she was wearing when she disappeared. The pictures were more than Rodney could handle and he left the courtroom- it was the only time he left the proceedings. Tara stayed behind crying as the images flashed by. The Coroner explained the state of Tori’s body, every gruesome piece of evidence laid out before the court. Every word another reminder that Tori will never come home.

Of all the proceedings there was one single thing I found more appalling than anything else. On the day of the Coroner’s testimony, some of the most sensitive testimony of the trial, Michael Rafferty wore a deep purple shirt and purple striped tie. It was the same shade of purple that had become synonymous with Tori, and the colour of the ribbons her family wore in her memory. The audacity of his wardrobe choice left me fuming. For the accused to come to court in a show of solidarity to the victim’s family was a huge slap in the face to Rodney, Tara, their families and the community as a whole. And I was not alone in this opinion, with other members of the community taking note of it as well. Whether that was Rafferty’s idea or that of his defence council, Dirk Derstine it was in poor taste.

In spite of all these painful obstacles, Tara and Rodney have fared reasonably well through the trial. Tara was more outspoken during Tori’s disappearance, holding daily media conferences on her front lawn. During the trial she has become a little quieter, taking a bit of a backseat in the media eye. She has kicked the drugs and has been clean for six months now. After a brief move to Brantford, she came back to Woodstock and has been at nearly every session of the McClintic and Rafferty trials.

No longer with the Mother of his daughter Rodney Stafford handled his grief in his own way; resolved to be in the court room every day with a picture of his daughter in his hand.

Rodney on the other hand is determined to build a legacy for his daughter. He has made numerous appearances over the last three years. Showing up on Charles Adler’s program, raising money for ChildFind and speaking to the media at every opportunity. Even pushing a bill proposal loosely named Tori’s law that calls for capital punishment for child killers. He has kept the promise he made at the beginning of the trial to be there and look his daughter’s accused killers in the eye.

It seems that despite their tragic loss one silver lining has come from this horrible event- both Tara and Rodney seem to be stronger people for it. Both of them have come a long way in the last three years. More action, more attention to the family and more cooperation with each other. If Tori were here she would be proud of both of them.

With the prosecution finishing their closing remarks today, the case will soon be in the jury’s hands. Tori’s family will not likely have to wait long now for the final resolution in this case. The last shred of justice to be served in Tori’s name. After that, the media will subside and Tori will become a memory for most of us. But for her family it will be just another day of trying to live without their beloved little girl.

So now, we await the verdict.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

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The cyber crooks never stop; they are relentless. The best defence you have is to be vigilant.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  May 12, 2012  The email said I had recently changed my Facebook password.  I didn’t change that password and the email message was not from Facebook – but it certainly looked that way.

The message I got, set out below, needs to be looked at carefully – the way you look at your bank statement.

Look at the address he email came from –

Facebook <confirm+pepper@beach.net>

that’s not Facebook.  That’s a bunch of crooks on the other side of the world who want to steal my identity and with the bits and pieces they father they will create a profile of me and decide if I am worth trying to steal something from.

Read the address of the sender - that is not Facebook - that's someone pretending to be Facebook.

When these crooks succeed, and they succeed far more often than we realize, they do massive damage to the finances of the person they are attacking and sometime to the close to irreparable damage to reputations.

You can steer clear of much of this by being attentive – realize they’re out there and for them it costs next to nothing to send out electronic messages with the hope they will snag you.

The one thing the public needs is a place to send the attempts they get – the police are pretty good at tracking this kind of thing – but they need to know it is taking place.  The more they know the faster they can act.

At some point we will have an international agency that can track, apprehend, arrest and punish these crooks.

But for now – when you learn something tell your friends.  And pay attention.

 

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Guilty, guilty, guilty – he will rot in that prison. Tori Stafford’s murderer to be formally sentenced next week.

Part 9

This series is a first person account, told by a parent who has lived through the fear and pain that rocked Woodstock when an eight year old girl was abducted on her way home from school and subsequently murdered.  Elizabeth  Maloney takes us through each step of the ordeal and starts with: A girl the same age as my daughter – is missing, she didn’t get home after school. The worry sets in. No longer can a parent feel reassured by the spotlight of safety once provided by broad daylight. Things are different now.  It can happen anytime, anywhere, and the most gut-wrenching of all; to anyone.

 By Elizabeth Maloney

WOODSTOCK ON  May 11, 2012    At 9:09pm Friday evening, there was a silence throughout Woodstock. The news was broadcasting- the verdict is in. I was on my cell texting friends, warning everyone to get in front of a TV  A friend, who does not have cable,  dashed over to her neighbour and banged on the door. Her startled neighbour was puzzled until she told him the verdict was in as she rushed into the house.   It was that important. I think the city must have ground to a halt. In fact the more I think about it, I am sure there were no cars going by on my usually busy street. We were all waiting, holding our breath.

I had Goosebumps and the hair on the back of my neck was standing on end. I was furiously texting between 3 people. This is it. They are back earlier than we had thought. This was either going to be really good or really bad. The newscasters keep promising any moment we will know, be it seemed to be taking forever.

He will live in a prison with Bernardo and Williams and sit in his cell for 23 hours of each day. Child molesters are seen as the worst of the worst in prison society - there are men in there who will want to do to him what he did to that eight year old child.

And then suddenly,…..Count 1, murder in the first degree: GUILTY! I swear I heard a collective cheer within the city.  More texting back and forth. Count 2, kidnapping: GUILTY! And Count 3, sexual assault: GUILTY!  I believe a loud “YES!” escaped my lips and I pumped my fist. It was a celebration! It was over and Tori had justice!  It was like a weight suddenly lifted off the entire city.

More messages back and forth. Many wishing Rafferty would rot in prison. Several stating they wish Canada had the death penalty back. Postings littered Facebook, many making similar statements. In the end we just all felt better. We all felt he was guilty and now it was fact. Michael Rafferty was no longer the accused- it was Michael Rafferty, the convicted murderer and rapist of Tori Stafford. It was vindication, for Tori, her family and Woodstock as a whole.

Tara McDonald - an addiction to drugs brought her into a world with people who would end the life of her daughter.

Tori’s mother, Tara McDonald, left the courtroom quickly and did not stop to talk to the media. The emotion of the moment must have been overwhelming. Tori’s brother Darren was reportedly with her in the courtroom. Now 14 years old, he and his mother hugged when the verdict was announced. Someone in the courtroom asked Tara if she was happy and she said yes.

Rodney Stafford and his mother Doreen Graichen came out and spoke to the reporters. Rodney close to tears at one point said that they were “happy” with the verdict and thanked the Crown, the investigators, the people of Woodstock and even the whole province.

The Crown and Police Services both made several statements, but refused to answer questions, out of respect for the McDonald/Stafford families. They also cited the 30 day waiting period for the appeal. It was short and sweet and to the point. Rafferty was going to prison and for no less than 25 years. The soonest Rafferty could be released from prison would be 2037.

I had tears in my eyes. Especially when Rodney spoke. As I said before, I didn’t know the family, but in the last three years, I felt I knew Tori and in a way I had come to love her, just as the rest of the city had. The emotion of it all was a lot to deal with. Especially in light of what we had learned about Rafferty since the Jury was charged and sequestered.

Back on Wednesday, when the jury was safe away from the public, debating in a room in the London courthouse, new details began to leak out about the investigation into Rafferty.  Police had found much more evidence than we had been led to believe. When Rafferty was arrested he had his IPod Touch with him which was seized and searched. A search warrant was issued for Rafferty’s residence and a search there found a hard drive in a plastic bag hidden behind his dresser.  The hard drive harboured images of child porn and the laptop had a history of searches for “pre-teen” and “underage rape”.  He also downloaded a movie on Karla Homolka, at least one snuff film involving a child and a “how to” guide for raping children.

Unspeakable grief - Tori's Father sitting with his Mother.

Pretty damning evidence right? Wrong! The jury would never hear about it. The evidence was found under a faulty search warrant that omitted to list contents of computers or other electronics. Justice Thomas Heeney, ruled on January 31, 2012 that Rafferty’s rights were violated by the search of the electronics, as police did not have the appropriate warrant and thus the evidence was set aside.

Residents of Woodstock, and practically everywhere, were outraged when they heard this.  To most of us, this erased all doubt in our eyes about Rafferty’s guilt. To know the jury may never hear it was like a stake driven through the heart. Many of us had been debating if they would convict Rafferty on the sexual assault charge and to know the evidence was right there, but inadmissible was utter torture. If he  somehow escaped the charge, I don’t know what we would have done.

But the jurors saw through it. Their almost uncanny perception of this case drove them to stop deliberations and ask for clarification of what could be termed sexual assault. Pointing specifically to Tori’s clothing from the waist down being removed. I think that astute question is what sealed the fate of Mr. Rafferty. That is personal opinion, but I honestly believe that. I’m sure we will find out from the jurors themselves in the days to come.

So tonight Woodstock breathes a heavy sign of relief. An end to a nightmare and the hellish ordeal of bringing the responsible parties to justice. As Rodney said during his interview tonight, it doesn’t bring Tori back. But I’ll tell you what,  it does give us: a little bit of justice and a whole lot of closure. It is now time for the family to heal and begin the process of living life without Tori. Their battle is far from over.  Every day will still present challenges in dealing with their grief. I wish them well and I hope they find  a reason to smile again.

All the public could see was a sweet innocent child - and it was painful.

But for tonight all there is left to say is “Rest in peace Tori –  finally, you can rest in peace.”

Next week a judge will formally sentence Michael Rafferty to “life in prison”, which under out laws means he must remain in a prison for not less than 25 years.  There is a faint hope” cause that allows him to apply for an earlier release.   There is a reason for calling it the faint hope clause.

During the sentencing victims of this horrible, despicable crime are given an opportunity to make a statement on the impact the crime has had on their lives.

 

 

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Suspects arrested. Now for the trial. We expected it to be a simple case of convicting – little did we know.

Part 7

This series is a first person account, told by a parent who has lived through the fear and pain that rocked Woodstock when an eight year old girl was abducted on her way home from school and subsequently murdered.  Elizabeth  Maloney takes us through each step of the ordeal and starts with: A girl the same age as my daughter – is missing, she didn’t get home after school. The worry sets in. No longer can a parent feel reassured by the spotlight of safety once provided by broad daylight. Things are different now.  It can happen anytime, anywhere, and the most gut-wrenching of all; to anyone.

 By Elizabeth Maloney

WOODSTOCK, ON  May 10, 2012  With Tori’s accused murderers finally behind bars, now there was nothing to do but prepare for the trial. Things became calm and quiet for quite a long time. But on December 9, 2010 news broke that Terri-Lynn McClintic had plead guilty to the first degree murder of Tori Stafford. But not on that day- way back on April 30, 2010. A publication ban placed by the courts had pre-empted our knowledge of this fact, but a Supreme court decision was now allowing us some of the details of McClintic’ s plea and how it played out.

 

The community felt cheated when there was no trial for Terri-Lynne McClintic -just a sentencing hearing at which Tori's brother spoke of losing his "bestest" friend.

As a member of this city I have to admit, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe this all happened months ago and was hidden from us. I felt cheated. Our community collectively looked for Tori, worried about Tori and mourned Tori and now we had been shut out of getting justice for “our” little girl.

I understand that it was all a necessary part of the legal wrangling that go hand-in-hand with a case like this, but still it hurt. Terri-Lynn McClintic escaped having to face the community as a whole and I was just going to have to get over the injustice of it all.

At least she had to face Tori’s family. They were in court that day and even gave victim impact statements before her sentencing. One by one, they took the stand. Tori’s mother Tara, father Rodney, brother Darren and other family members, told of a loss that pales to all else in this world. Their messages were a blend of sadness for the loss of Tori in their life, how their world was different now and the outrage of why it was their family member who had to die. Darren’s was perhaps the most painful to hear, speaking of the loss of his “bestest friend” and how she was the most important person in the world to him.

After all the proceedings were said and done, Terri-Lynn was sentenced to life- the mandatory sentence in a first degree murder plea. Her sentence was to be served at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario. Terri-Lynn had already served 7 months of her sentence by the time we finally found this all out.

In addition to Terri-Lynn’s plea arrangement and sentence, an edited version of McClintic’s statement to police, an edited version of the agreed statement of facts describing the events of April 8, 2009 and details of her cooperation with police were also publicized for the first time. Finally we had a time-line of the day in question, from when Tori was abducted to her untimely death only hours later.  McClintic admitted her guilt, freely and willingly, even attempting to express remorse for her actions. And now she was going to jail, her part in this tragedy played out and judged. But that was not the end of Terri-Lynn’s involvement. We would see her again in 2012.

We heard almost nothing from McClintic during her sentencing - but we would hear from her again in 2012 - it was to be terrible.

With McClintic successfully navigating a clear and media-free path to jail, the public was still looking to hold someone accountable. Enter Mr. Michael Rafferty, McClintic’s boyfriend and co-conspirator. Upon his arrest, Rafferty took the opposite approach to that of his former girlfriend. He hid from the cameras and refused to co-operate with police. Since his arrest in May 2009, Rafferty has not said one word. He never spoke out; not even to proclaim his innocence. There is a saying “ better to remain silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Either Rafferty or his lawyers must have seen the wisdom  in this old adage.  And as we were about to find out it would seem his whole defense was based on this premise.

On March 5th, 2012, the case that was supposed to happen in 2010 finally began in a courtroom in London. Proceedings had been moved from Woodstock to protect the integrity and fairness of the trial. No one in Woodstock seemed to mind though. No one wanted Rafferty to have grounds for appeal, so it had to be done right. The general outlook on the situation can be summed up using the words of a fellow Woodstonians. “(Rafferty was).. far enough to be tried and close enough to burn.” And almost everyone in Woodstock wanted him to “burn”.

As anxious as we were to have the murder trial underway, we weren’t prepared for some of the horrible details that would be revealed through the course of witness testimony. I will warn you, just as the judge warned the jury, some of these details are very disturbing and can be quite difficult to handle. But as I see it, we have to face the evil in order to honour Tori and her memory. The only way to acknowledge Tori’s life is to acknowledge the agony she endure for those last few hours of her life.

The Crown called 61 witnesses in total- Tori’s 3rd grade teacher, her mother Tara McDonald, co-accused Terri McClintic, the Coroner and the OPP officer who found Tori’s body, just to name a few.

Tori Stafford's grade three teacher took the stand for what had to be one of the hardest days in her teaching career.

Tori had left school just like any other day and was walking to her mother’s place on Frances St. But as we all too well know, she never made it there. Terri-Lynn picked up the tale at that point, telling the courtroom how she approach Tori and talked to her about seeing her puppy. She lured Tori into Rafferty’s car and the final moments of Tori’s life began to tick away. She told how they stopped so Rafferty could buy drugs and another stop at the Home Depot in Guelph so she could purchase the supplies that would aid in concealing Tori’s broken little body.

And then the drive to the abandoned, secluded field off of 6th Concession near Mount Forest. McClintic said Rafferty had been talking of abducting a child and had even wanted one younger than Tori for his sinister purposes. According to McClintic, she walked away from the car, giving Rafferty the opportunity to repeatedly rape the little girl. McClintic only came back when Tori asked to go to the bathroom, taking the little girl by the hand. I can only imagine what must have been said between them. Tori’s tear-stained face, pleading to just go home. McClintic reassuring the girl to quiet her.

Tori died shortly after that, leaving the mystery of who really killed her. Crushing her skull with a claw hammer and breaking 16 of her ribs, one of them brutally murdered Tori. Only three people know the truth about that moment: Rafferty, McClintic and Tori. No matter who delivered the devastating blows, one could argue the other facilitated these events. One killed Tori and the other helped kill Tori with their inaction. Then they worked together to bury Tori in garbage bags, under a pile of rocks.

The Coroner Dr. Pollanen testified to Tori’s injuries, supporting McClintic’s account of events, but could not offer proof of the sexual assault. Tori’s body was found with no pants, clad only in her Hannah Montana shirt.  Her body was already in an advanced state of decomposition when she was found and that area of her body had already deteriorated completely, thus eliminating any trace of the alleged assault.

She had been murdered the day she was abducted her body left under a pile of rocks.

OPP Det.-Staff Sgt. Jim Smyth, also took the stand, as the officer that found Tori’s body. He testified to the nature in which Tori was found and corroborated McClintic’s testimony of how she & Rafferty disposed of the body.  Smyth had used information regarding Rafferty’s cell phone usage in the area, and acting on a hunch went for a drive to check out the area. After noting similarities to McClintic’s confession he continued to investigate until he found a rock pile,…and Tori.

Rafferty’s behavior after the crime was also presented to the court. Rafferty was portrayed as a womanizer, frequently juggling women. They attempted to show how he manipulated them, specifically talking one, a mother of four, into prostitution and channeling the proceeds directly to him.  After eight  weeks of testimony, the prosecution rested.

The media waited with baited breath- would Rafferty take the stand to refute the testimony of his ex-girlfriend?  Maintaining his silence it was announced Rafferty would not be taking the stand in his own defense. Instead the Defence’s response was short and simple. They called one witness, previously unknown to anyone. This witness, a grandmother of another student at Oliver Stephens, testified that she saw Terri-Lynn inside Oliver Stevens. She claimed she saw McClintic walk away with Tori, looking very determined and on a mission. Rafferty’s attorney, Dirk Derstine, was trying to inject reasonable doubt into McClintic’ s testimony. Implying she forged the plot to abduct Tori as a means of enforcing a drug debt. He connected the dots between Tara buying drug’s from McClintic’ s mother Carol and showing they had previous knowledge of each other. Mr. Derstine was not trying to prove his client innocent, but merely to cast a broad enough shadow of doubt.

 

Rafferty in a police car. He chose not to take the witness stand. Was there enough evidence to convict?

And then unceremoniously, the Defence rested.

That brings us to today. Wrapping up it’s closing arguments, the defence went through its alternate theory once more and pointed out what was circumstantial. Almost wagging a finger at the jury and reminding them that they cannot convict if there is a reasonable doubt.

And in a day or two, Ontario Superior Court Justice Thomas Heeney will charge the jury with determining the fate of Michael Rafferty. The decision to convict or acquit will be their’ s, and their’ s alone. All we can do is have faith and wait, hoping they make the best choice with the information presented to them.

 

Tori Stafford. We lost her - too soon. Woodstock needed a conviction.

It’s no secret that Tori’s family and the community of Woodstock are praying for a conviction in this case. Closure is desperately needed. Tori left our world just over three years ago, her last hours on this planet the most horrible a child could suffer. Tori was not allowed to die in peace, but perhaps with the end of the trial looming near, she will soon get to rest in peace.

Part 6

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We didn’t know it at the time but there was a break developing in the case. The police had a suspect.

This series is a first person account, told by a parent who has lived through the fear and pain that rocked Woodstock when an eight year old girl was abducted on her way home from school and subsequently murdered.  Elizabeth  Maloney takes us through each step of the ordeal and starts with: A girl the same age as my daughter – is missing, she didn’t get home after school. The worry sets in. No longer can a parent feel reassured by the spotlight of safety once provided by broad daylight. Things are different now.  It can happen anytime, anywhere, and the most gut-wrenching of all; to anyone.

 

By Elizabeth Maloney

WOODSTOCK, ON  May 5, 2012  The trial trying Michael Rafferty for the murder of Tori Stafford is in its final stages.  The prosecution made its case with close to a score of witnesses; the defence called just the one witness who with her testimony shed some serious light on the relation between Terri-Lynne McClintic and eight year old Tori.  It would appear from that testimony that the child knew McClintic who earlier plead guilty to the murder of the child.

Now it was all coming to a close – the jury would hear closing arguments from the prosecution and the defence and the judge would then instruct the jury and they would then deliberate and come back with a verdict.  In less than ten days the decision would be known.  Would Woodstock feel any sense of relief?  The city was feeling very anxious, worried and afraid three years earlier when we didn’t know enough.

In the weeks following Tori’s abduction, Woodstock had weathered a roller coaster of events. The parents were investigated, searches were conducted and the police scandalized over the Amber Alert. A reward for Tori’s safe return was offered by a mysterious unnamed benefactor and the child’s story was highlighted on America’s Most Wanted. The drama had played on and on and the emotion of it all was wearing on the community. We didn’t seem to be any further ahead than we were 41 days ago when it all started. Hope was dwindling. People began to vocally speculate Tori had met an unfortunate end. No trace, no signs – what other answer could there be?

Even Tara McDonald and Rodney Stafford, Tori’s parents, were reaching their limit. For the most part they had respected each other’s boundaries, not treading on each other in the public eye. But by May 15th,  2009,  something snapped and they were caught publicly bickering at each other during a news conference. The fact that they made it this far without something happening sooner was laudable. But the emotional toll of constant interviews and media conferences seemed to finally get to them. They made up a few days later when they jointly announced they had accepted the help of a private investigator and apologized to the media for their previous behavior. They wanted the focus to remain on Tori.

While being held on an unrelated charge Terri-Lynne McClintic was questioned about the murder of Tori Stafford.

Unbeknownst to Tara & Rodney, as they were representing their unified front, police were working on a break in the case.  A young woman named Terri-Lynn McClintic was in police custody and had been since April 12th on an unrelated charge. She had been placed in Genst Youth Detention Centre in London, and during her time there, had agreed to a polygraph test regarding that other charge. In order to prepare for administering the polygraph, police interviewed several of Terri-Lynn’s acquaintances, including Michael Rafferty, who had made two visits to see McClintic during her stay at Genst. On May 19th police administered the polygraph to McClintic with surprising results.

On the same day police arrested McClintic and later her friend Rafferty. During that polygraph on the unrelated charge, Terri-Lynn confessed to the abduction of Tori Stafford and implicated her friend Michael as her co-conspirator and identified him as Tori’s rapist and murderer. Rafferty was charged with first degree murder and abduction of someone under the age of 16. McClinitc was booked on abducting someone under the age of 16 and accessory to murder.

So there it was. Six weeks of mystery concluded with an answer no one wanted- Tori was dead. There was no body, so some in the community refused to give up hope. Most others accepted what they already felt all along. Tori’s young bright light had been snuffed out in a twisted reality that seemed more like an episode of Law & Order SVU than real life. It was a relief in some ways. It was over and the parties presumed responsible were in police custody.

It was also a  frustrating end to a very painful six weeks. Woodstock had invested a lot of time into Tori and finding her. The community involvement in the case was overwhelming, with many people actively volunteering. The last thing we had was hope- waning hope, but still hope. And now that too was taken from us. The fear of the unknown was gone and we were faced with the stark reality.

While the details were not fully known - there were now two people that were identified as being somehow involved with the murder of Tori Stafford. Michael Rafferty was the second suspect.

The attention in the community now shifted from Tori to these two suspects. Who were they? Where in the city did they live?  Had we been interacting with these people and not know what they really were? To many of us it was hard to comprehend that the people charged with this heinous set of crimes had been living amongst us all along. I found myself wondering if I had passed one or both in the local Wal-Mart or one of the grocery stores. It’s one thing to suspect there is a predator on the loose, it’s another to realize you may have been standing next to one of them in a line somewhere.

And my daughter- she was with me in those stores. Did they look at her? Did they think about taking another child?…. maybe even my own? It was a horrid thought but a realization I could not help but come to. How close did we come to these two suspects? Too close for me. I later found out both McClintic and Rafferty lived within less than a 2 km radius of my home.

The following weeks and months would be a continuous leak of new information about these two individuals. What they posted on Facebook, the things they said, the people they knew. What was once a lack of information had become an almost overwhelming wave of detail and minutia. Did I want to know this much about the alleged murderers of our beloved Tori? No, but I needed to know. I needed to face it out of respect for Tori.

The pictures of Tori Stafford were now harder to look at because we knew now we would never see her again.

The end of May brought the announcement that McClintic and Rafferty would be tried separately. Rafferty’s newly hired counsel speculated publicly that there was no need for it unless there was a deal in the works, a very bold jab at McClintic’ s camp. The pieces were starting to fall into place, with everyone beginning their preparations for the eventual trial. The roller coaster of information would take another dive as each camp begun to hold their cards closer to their chest, not wanting to tip their hand before their day in court. It would be the start of a 3 year battle to bring the accused killers to justice.

And what of Tori’s family? Now having to face the idea that they will never see their precious little girl again. Never again to hold her hand when crossing the street or feel the brush of her cheek as she kisses them goodnight. No prom, no graduation, no wedding or grandchildren. It was more than the loss of a life, it was the loss of a future. There is no charge for that, although there should be.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

 

 

 

 

 

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Community begins to question how police are handling the search. Why no amber alert? OPP take over the case.

Part 5

This series is a first person account, told by a parent who has lived through the fear and pain that rocked Woodstock when an eight year old girl was abducted on her way home from school and subsequently murdered.  Elizabeth  Maloney takes us through each step of the ordeal and starts with: A girl the same age as my daughter – is missing, she didn’t get home after school. The worry sets in. No longer can a parent feel reassured by the spotlight of safety once provided by broad daylight. Things are different now.  It can happen anytime, anywhere, and the most gut-wrenching of all; to anyone.

  By Elizabeth Maloney

WOODSTCOK, Ontario May 6, 2012    The presentation of evidence in the trial is over.  Lawyers for each side in the murder trial of eight year old Tori Stafford prepare to make their submissions to a jury after which a judge will charge that jury and they will decide if there is any guilt.

The decision on the part of the defence lawyer to call just the one witness, did manage to raise some doubt as to just how young Tori Stafford came to walk out of her school with someone that was not her Mother.

The first degree murder trial of Michael Rafferty, boyfriend of Terri-Lynne McClintic who had already pled guilty of murdering the child, had been moved to London, Ontario.  McClintic had already plead guilty to the murder of Tori Stafford and was serving a life sentence.   The prosecution had made their case against Rafferty – his defence counsel said Rafferty will not testify and that they will call just the one witness.

The missing child case was still in the hands of the local police - the Provincial Police had not yet been called in. The community was not happy.

Throughout the duration of Tori’s disappearance, many questions had been raised. Why was Tori taken? Who was the woman in the video? Was she involved? Did the parents have something to do with her abduction? The list goes on. But no one question caused as much controversy, contention and anger than why didn’t the Oxford Community Police Services (OCPS) issue an Amber Alert?

Welcome to Woodstock, the “Friendly City”. A typical quiet community of 40,000 and the epicentre of a county servicing approximately 150,000 people. Woodstock at one time had its own police force. But several years back the county amalgamated the police force into one big happy Oxford Community Police Services. This spread 84 police officers over the county to service those 150,000 people.

Now I know what a lot of you might silently be thinking. Little backwards town, the police probably don’t get much experience with this type of situation. And you would be right- we don’t. But don’t mistake that for ineptness. They aren’t perfect, but neither is any other police force.

The imperfection of the OCPS was put under the spotlight when Tori was abducted. But can we really call it an imperfection? The OCPS consulted the Amber Alert guidelines shortly after Tori disappeared, but the case did not meet them. Quoting from the RCMP web page “Amber Alert is intended only for the most serious, time critical abduction cases.” With such a grave disclaimer, one would think those guidelines should be met fully and without question before raising the alarm. And this is what OCPS was looking at when the Alert was being considered.

Days passed and the residents of Woodstock became more and more agitated with the situation. Local blogs carried comments on the police force, some particularly aimed at the Chief of Police, Ron Fraser. Many weren’t specifically aware of the Amber Alert criteria and only saw black and white: missing child = issue Amber Alert. Some demanded he step down, some called him incompetent. Jokes were made about cops eating donuts instead of doing their job.

All the community had were pictures of an innocent child - not a single solid lead. She was just gone.

Realizing they were being demonized in the public eye for their course of action, OCPS put forth their spokesperson, Constable Laurie-Anne Maitland who handles public communications for the OCPS and often fields media enquiries. Defending the collective efforts of the OCPS she spoke to the media on April 13th advising the search “has not located something that would lead us to believe foul play may be a factor. “The news was not well-received and tensions grew.

But OCPS wasn’t the only game in town. On the day Const. Maitland, of the OCPS spoke and five days into Tori’s disappearance, a unit of the Ontario Provincial Police joined the case. It was given the special task of compiling a profile of Tori’s abductor(s). This single action almost confirmed the legitimacy of questioning OCPS’ actions and undermined their place in the case in one swoop. The OPP came in to “save the day”, and OCPS was left with egg on its face.

Const. Maitland was dispatched once again offering a defense for the handling of the case. She emphasized that they did not have the criteria to issue the Amber Alert, but reiterated the case was being treated as an absolute priority. While the explanation may have been legit, the public wasn’t willing to buy it this late in the game. The reasoning was offered too late. Had this been stated in the beginning, it may have been ok. Their cards would have been on the table and we wouldn’t have had to spend so much time guessing. After all, how do you convince the public that a child is not in imminent danger when she has been missing for days?

A day after vehemently defending their actions, the police were announcing that many tips have been received but none have been compelling enough to move the investigation forward. Feeling stalemated, the community rallied once more around Tori. On April 15th, they assembled to release purple balloons skyward, carrying Tori’s picture. It was a small gesture, but it was also action, something we the community had been craving.

All the community knew was that Tori was seen with a woman in a white puffy coat that no one knew.

For many, permanent relief came a mere two days later, when the OPP announced they were taking the lead in the investigation. Inspector Bill Renton was placed in charge. His first order of business was to announce Tori’s case, moving forward, would be treated as abduction. Finally! Many of us were stunned, probably because we weren’t sure we were ever going to hear those words. We had been waiting so long for someone to admit one of our children had been snatched from the safety of our streets. It was vindication. We knew it and now so did everyone else!

With the simple acknowledgement of what we as a community already knew, hope was almost instantly renewed. But truth be told, that is the only thing the OPP were able to give us over OCPS. All future evidence and endeavours into the investigation were a joint effort of the two police forces, although the OPP retains most of the credit.

OCPS stained by a lack of communication early in the case doomed themselves to lack of recognition for the actual hard work they put into the case. Many of the police officers at OCPS worked long hours, in the search for Tori. Once the dust had settled, many of us in Woodstock were able to acknowledge the contributions they made to the case, and how it took a toll on many of them. We could finally appreciate what they did and how they contributed to the search for Tori.

With some resolution to the animosity for the handling of case out of the way, Woodstock was left with only one concern: Where was Tori? Now the focus was back where it belonged all along. On our missing little girl and why hadn’t she come home. The investigation was about to turn. Fears of what happened to Tori would begin to be played out in the media as theories. No longer would they be in our head, but in black and white and in a manner we could not hide from.

A multi part series on the murder of Tori Stafford

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

 

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