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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