LONDON, Ont. — Tara McDonald says a huge weight has been lifted off her now that both of her daughter’s killers are behind bars.
"We finally have peace. We can finally rest. Until the verdict, Tori wasn’t able to rest in peace. She deserved this verdict," McDonald said early Saturday morning.
Her daughter, Victoria (Tori) Stafford, was kidnapped by Terri-Lynn McClintic, 21, and Michael Rafferty, 31, on April 8, 2009. During a 10-week trial, a jury heard how the then couple took Tori to a rural area near Mount Forest, Ont. It was there Rafferty raped the eight-year-old. She was killed with several blows from a hammer to the head, her body dumped into trash bags and left under a pile of rocks.
Her body was found July 19, 2009.
McClintic pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and testified for the Crown in Rafferty’s trial. Despite her changing her story from police interviews where she said Rafferty dealt the fatal blows, to saying she did it, the jury found Rafferty guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault causing bodily harm Friday night.
"It was the most relief I have ever felt in my life. It felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted off us," McDonald said hours after the verdict.
In the courtroom, she clutched her mother and sobbed, but she initially left the courtroom without speaking to reporters.
On Friday night, Rodney Stafford said the jury’s verdict was a win for every little girl in Canada.
"I wanted to scream, scream something in the courtroom … happy excitement. But at that same time there’s a sense of loss," Stafford said, his voice breaking, "cause Tori’s not coming home. But we got it. We got the justice."
Rafferty’s lawyer, Dirk Derstine, said it will be up to his client whether there will be an appeal.
McDonald said she will spend the next few days with family and preparing for Tuesday, when a sentencing hearing is planned. Rafferty will automatically get life in prison, but the hearing will give Tori’s family a chance to give victim impact statements.