Third grade, family, and Hannah Montana were blissfully ordinary parts of 8-year-old Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford’s life. However, when a rare solo walks home from school led to her disappearance, life went from ordinary to demented in a flash. The details that began to unravel as the police sought answers to Tori’s unjust end were straight out of a horror movie.
Childish innocence is something to be treasured. Yet, the corrosive and unjust filth in the world has the heart-shattering ability to snuff out even the purest of lights. Such was when two individuals with pasts heavily soiled by evil preyed on little Tori Stafford, a girl whose life had only just begun.
An Ordinary Afternoon Walk Tori Stafford Turned to Absolute Horror
In 2009, eight-year-old Tori Stafford lived happily in Woodstock, Ontario. She resided there with her parents, Tara and Rodney Stafford, and her older brother, Daryn. According to a 2012 CBC News article, Tori attended third grade at Oliver Stephens Public School, was her brother’s best friend, and was a source of laughter and love to those around her.
The conclusion of the school day on April 8, 2009, was just another carefree afternoon for little Tori. Global News records an emotional account from the child’s teacher that she departed a bit after the other students because she went back to retrieve a pair of butterfly earrings. The standout difference about the child’s walk home that day: she left school solo, whereas her brother generally accompanied her.
From the moment her family realized she was missing, life as the Staffords knew it began to fall to pieces horrifically rapidly.
The Global News’ timeline of Tori’s disappearance records that video footage was obtained from a local high school on April 9, the day after the child vanished. The surveillance gave the police a glimpse of Tori being escorted by a woman around five-foot-two. The woman had a black ponytail and appeared to be between 19 and 25 years old, providing important information for the investigation. Tori did not appear to be in any distress, but her family certainly was. As rescue boats scoured the water for any sign of the missing child, the search efforts intensified. Meanwhile, the devastated grandparents offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to their granddaughter’s safe return.
Hope that Tori Stafford is Found
Many of those looking on as the frightening search unfolded asked questions. One of the questions asked was why an Amber Alert was not issued when Tori disappeared. “At the time of the call coming in, we didn’t have what was required for an Amber alert – not even close,” Cst. Laurie-Anne Maitland of the Oxford Community Police is recorded by Global News to have said. Sufficient cause present or not, Tori Stafford was missing. An evening vigil consisting of hundreds gathered in Woodstock a couple of days later. They gathered to show support for Tori’s safe recovery. During the gathering, Tara Stafford pleaded for her daughter’s return. However, solid clues as to Tori’s whereabouts were distressingly absent. Const. Maitland echoed his hope that the child would be found alive and well. “I think the feeling among police is, yes, she is (alive), and I am happy to report that feeling.”
According to CBC News, Tara Stafford was distressed at being placed under suspicion in the investigation. The Global News timeline confirms that Tori’s parents were subjected to lie detector tests. Speculation about Tara Stafford’s past drug involvement proved to be unconvincing as a reason to suspect her of Tori’s abduction. Similarly, Rodney Stafford’s history as a largely absent father was also deemed unconvincing. Soon, a closer look at the surveillance footage drew attention away from the child’s kin. The focus shifted toward a young woman, 18-year-old Terri-Lynne McClintic.
As the police delved into Terri-Lynne McClintic’s involvement in little Tori’s disappearance, morbid clues began to surface. Raveena Aulakh of the Toronto Star records that McClintic’s early life did very little to set her up for future success. Terri-Lynne McClintic showed disturbing signs of callousness from a young age, listening to violent music. She even went so far as to microwave the family dog until it cried in distress.
Terri-Lynne McClinitic’s childhood was spent in multiple locations as she moved all over Ontario with Carol McClintic, the stripper to whom her birth mother, also a stripper, had given custody. At one time, McClintic got into an altercation with her adoptive mother, punching her in the eye so hard she nearly went blind.
She had her first direct drug experience at the ripe old age of eight. By the time she turned 18, she was a full-fledged addict. She was eventually removed from her adoptive mother’s custody and placed in two foster homes, but things didn’t improve. While in the youth detention center, McClintic was convicted of multiple misdemeanors and wrote disturbingly violent entries in her diary. Her writings threatened to slaughter those who did her wrong, indicating a disturbing propensity for violence.
A few months before Tori’s disappearance, McClintic, jacked up on antidepressants, OxyContin, ecstasy, and morphine met Michael Rafferty. Difficult as it would seem for her life to get worse, it did–drastically so.
From the outside, Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic’s chance meeting at New Orleans Pizza Outlet would appear akin to a Hallmark movie meet-cute. However, what started as pizza and an offer from Rafferty to give McClintic a ride home turned into far more. Instead of making the usual small talk, they discussed OxyContin and then proceeded to have sex. What followed were many evenings of drugs, sex, and movies. Thus began Rafferty and McClintic’s dating relationship. The contents of their interactions might seem toxic to those who know better, but Rafferty was the best McClinitic had ever experienced. The Toronto Star records her words about him: “He always said the right things…Compared to most men who have been a part of my life . . . it felt pretty good.”
However, the road that Rafferty and McClintic went down together was anything but good and led straight to the tragedy of Tori Stafford. McClintic assumed a somewhat distant approach to the tragedy of little Tori’s disappearance. Though she initially blamed Rafferty for everything that happened to the child, she eventually admitted her involvement. She said she wasn’t entirely sure about what happened on April 8th, and drugs were thought to be responsible for her lack of clarity.
Relationship Between Two Killers
McClintic explained that she’d previously told Rafferty that if the police caught onto them, she’d take responsibility for what happened to Tori Stafford. “I’m just an 18-year-old junkie anyway,” she’s recorded by the Toronto Sun to have stated. “I’ll just take the fall for everything.” According to McClintic, Rafferty dared to laugh before offering a sarcastic response of his own: “You’ll do anything for a little bit of love, eh?’” At first glance, McClintic appears to be a misguided and unfortunate teenager, desperate for acceptance, and Rafferty a cruel manipulator.
Rafferty was undoubtedly cruel and manipulative. But McClintic was far from a victim in the crime. At one point, she admitted to sadness over Tori’s violent death but only felt remorse because Tori was a child. She told her godmother that she felt capable of repeating the atrocious act.
Global News reports that Tori’s remains were found outside Mount Forest three months after Tori’s disappearance. Sgt. Jim Smyth discovered the child’s body while driving through the rural countryside. The eerie alignment of his surroundings with the scenery McClintic had described confirmed by the stench of decaying flesh. Everything, including Tori’s rock-covered body, was as she had said.
As if Rafferty hadn’t devastated Tori’s family enough. He wore purple, his victim’s favorite color, on the day this evidence was presented. Rodney Stafford left the courtroom, thoroughly overcome.
Despite McClintic’s full admission of guilt for involvement in the crime, Rafferty would not be spared in any way. The pair had dug their grave, one much deeper than they’d made for Tori. It was time for the 31-year-old killer to face judgment.
According to CBC News, Rafferty’s reaction to his March 5, 2012 trial ranged from emotional, exhibiting tears upon hearing Daryn’s emotional statement about his sorrow over losing his sister and best friend, to quiet calm. The Toronto Star records that he leaned back and even closed his eyes at times during his hearing. Could a man be capable of such cruelty? The stunning brutality unveiled during the trial begged this question. During the trial, it was relatively easy for the jury to determine Rafferty’s guilt. Only when additional details about the killer’s habits were discovered was further insight into the twisted mind behind the diabolical crime made possible.
A Morbid Interest Rafferty in Underage Rape
The Toronto Star reports Rafferty’s incriminating history of sexual violence. Thirteen women confirmed that he participated in sexual choking, consensual or not. A morbid interest in underage rape, evidenced by his computer and phone internet history, added another condemnation to the puzzle. His searches were littered with chilling terms like “real underage rape,” “necrophilia videos,” and “naked girls seizing.” A forensic search also uncovered child porn on his devices. Also found downloaded copy of Gardens of the Night, a film about a blonde girl’s abduction. Rafferty obtained the latter mere days before kidnapping Tori.
Even before discovering these disturbing elements of Rafferty’s private life, the judge and jury were able to quickly determine his guilt. Despite his deep denial of what happened, he was found responsible for the crime. According to CBC News video footage, the killer did admit to knowing more than what had been presented and offered to tell Tara Stafford everything if she should ask. She didn’t. “He’s wasted enough of our lives, and he’s not going to waste anymore,” she firmly told inquisitive reporters.
CBC News quotes Justice Thomas Heeney’s righteously angry statement to Rafferty: “You have snuffed out the life of a beautiful, talented, vivacious little girl.…And for what? So that you could gratify your twisted and deviant desire to have sex with a child. Only a monster could commit an act of such pure evil. You sir are a monster.”
Memories of Tori Stafford: Butterflies, Purple Ribbon and Hannah Montana
Nothing could undo the twisted violence wrought against Tori Stafford by these two sick individuals. The truth was, apart from Rafferty’s offer to give Tara Stafford the rest of the information, neither Rafferty nor McClintic sought to undo anything. The cold callousness of the killers was appalling to both the Staffords and onlookers alike. During the trial, attendees reportedly cheered openly in agreement when Tori’s father referred to Rafferty as “a piece of shit.”
CBC News video footage captures Rodney Stafford saying the following in an interview with reporters: “You cannot imagine the painful sorrow it feels standing at your eight year old child’s gravesite in order to say hi instead of just being able to just hold her in your arms and hold her tight.”
Tara Stafford echoed her husband’s pain with this heart-wrenching statement: “Every time I see a butterfly or a purple ribbon or Hannah Montana, we will forever be reminded of our little princess.”
The twosome who committed atrocities against Tori were behind bars. However, the sweet child was gone, leaving a hole where there had once been light and innocence.