Hometown vigil planned for Tori Stafford

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WOODSTOCK, Ont. — Hundreds are expected to attend a candlelight vigil in honour of Victoria (Tori) Safford’s memory in her hometown next weekend.

“This will be a final goodbye ceremony for Tori Stafford. Now that justice has been served. I think we should all get together and say our final goodbye,” Brittany Lynn Vincent Davis wrote when setting up the event’s Facebook page Saturday.

It will take place Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and people are being encouraged to bring their own candles and wear something purple — Tori’s favourite colour.

A similar vigil was held in the same parking lot in 2009 just days after Tori went missing.

There has been discussion on the event’s wall of a similar vigil to be held in London on the same day and time. Details have not been confirmed.

Those who won’t be able to attend wrote on the event’s Facebook wall.

“My candles will be lit in Calgary,” Sheena Dickson wrote.

Woodstock’s Mayor Pat Sobeski said now is the time for the healing to begin for this southwestern Ontario city.

“How many times in the past have you heard a mayor say, ‘Oh, this could have happened anywhere,’ and while that statement is true, it happened here in Woodstock, and for the past three years this community has been living under a cloud,” Sobseski said during a press conference Saturday morning. “Ironically, this morning the sun is shining, there are still clouds in the sky, but our town will accept that as a symbol it’s time to begin the healing process.”

Woodstock police chief Rod Freeman said Tori’s death “ripped the hearts out of many police officers.”

“This is the first morning in just over three years that I’ve been able to wake up and have some sense of closure to this terrible, horrific investigation now that we’ve convicted the second of two child killers that traumatized our community back in April of 2009,” he said.

“My prayers and thoughts have been with Victoria and now that we have the conviction of both killers, my hope is that the conviction will bring some sense of peace to her so that now she can rest in peace and certainly rest in peace now with dignity.”

He acknowledged the criticism the Woodstock police took during the early stages of the investigation, calling it predominantly “media generated.”

“You were thirsting for information in the early stages that we just couldn’t give you,” he told reporters during the Saturday morning press conference.

Freeman said police hit the ground running at 6:04 p.m. April 8, 2009 — the day Tori went missing.

Off-duty officers came in to assist with work, the fire department was enlisted to do a ground search, officers followed up on more than 5,000 tips and in the later weeks wire taps and surveillance were all part of the investigation, he said.

“To come out here to the media and divulge our strategies would have just rendered them useless,” he said.

Freeman expressed his appreciation to all the citizens of this city, its police service, and the media for bringing Tori’s killers to justice.

“I think we just move forward from here. Our community is a good community. It’s a strong community and it’s a resilient community. It’s a community of families, a community of people who care. It’s a community of people that are going to bounce back from this horrific incident and we’re going to move forward into the future and we’re going to become a better community,” he said.