Tori Stafford murder trial: Search for the little...
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Apr 04, 2012  |  Vote 0    0

Tori Stafford murder trial: Search for the little girl was the largest one in Ontario history

Our London

Warning: Disturbing Content

The search for Tori Stafford, the largest in the history of Ontario and maybe even the country, came within 6.8 kilometres of the site where her remains were eventually found.

Investigators covered more than 18,000 kilometres from April 18 to mid-July, Sgt. James Stirling, co-ordinator of OPP’s Emergency and Rescue Team, told the court on Wednesday.

“They went one and a half times around the moon,” he said. (The circumference of the moon is 10,800 kilometres, he pointed out.)

The ERT was called in to help with the case in Woodstock on April 18, 10 days after Tori was last seen. Over the next three months, investigators searched landfills, swamps, lakes and rural farmland.

At one point, Stirling admitted that by the time his team was called in, there was already little chance of finding Tori alive. He told the jury that research into 735 cases of random or unplanned abductions shows that only two per cent are found alive after that many days.

Initially they were searching for Tori, then for the site where her body had been left and for pieces of clothing that she was wearing when abducted.

They searched area north of Guelph, as far at Arthur Township, but never made it to Mount Forest where Tori’s body was found on July 19, 2009.

Tori, 8, was abducted on April 8, 2009 while walking home from school in Woodstock. Terri-Lynne McClintic and her then boyfriend, Michael Rafferty, were arrested a month later and charged with murder.

McClintic pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life. Rafferty’s trial began March 5.

On Wednesday morning, while testifying about the scope of search for the little girl, Stirling said members of the ERT were at the Salford Landfill site near Woodstock from April 20 to May 7. Every day, 14 officers searched through garbage, even using two excavators.

By the end, they had meticulously looked through 366 truckloads or 830 tonnes of garbage.

They were back at the landfill on May 28 and 29 and searched for the rear seat of a 2003 Honda. Stirling said several were located, but not the one that investigators were looking for. ERT members also visited the Waterloo landfill site, but assessed there was too much garbage to search through, he said.

Divers searched 11 waterways around Woodstock and Guelph. They searched at least 70 rock piles north of Guelph. They traversed almost 800 kilometres in a helicopter, Stirling said.

Members of ERT also walked 51 kilometres along the westbound lanes of Hwy. 401 to look for discarded clothing and pieces of foam that were thrown out of a moving car the day Tori was killed.

OPP’s Det-Sgt. Walter Lima then described how Rafferty was arrested in a parking lot of Woodstock’s Quality Inn hotel and Goodlife Fitness gym on May 19, 2009 while he was transferring some garbage bags from his car to another.

The arrest came soon after McClintic had confessed to her role in Tori’s abduction and murder to Smyth.

Lima said he was instructed to go to Tennyson St. in Woodstock where Rafferty lived. His Honda Civic was not in the driveway, but was soon spotted southbound on Cedar St. near Parkinson Rd.

Officers followed him to the hotel at Juliana Dr. where Rafferty parked in the northeast lot, got out of his car, took some plastic bags from the trunk and walked to a Honda Accord. He put the bags in the passenger side and also got in.

Lima said this is when he parked his vehicle behind the Accord, walked to the passenger side and told Rafferty that he was under arrest for the abduction and murder of Tori Stafford.

Tuesday was perhaps the grimmest day of the trial as the jury heard forensic testimony from Dr. Michael Pollanen, chief of the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service.

The jury heard that when Tori’s body was found, more than three months after she was murdered, the only piece of clothing she was wearing was a Hannah Montana hoodie with the words: “A Girl Can Dream.”

Pollanen, who performed the autopsy on Tori’s body in July 2009, outlined the extent of injuries on her body to the jury: 16 fractured ribs, a 6-inch cut to the liver, smashed cheekbones and nose, her head split at many places.

The blows to the head — at least four — were from a claw-hammer. The fractured ribs and the cut to the liver were from blunt force trauma like kicking and stomping.

Injuries to her head and torso were fatal but the little girl did not die immediately, Pollanen said.

But the lower part of her body was too decomposed to determine if she had been sexually assaulted.

McClintic, in her testimony earlier in the trial, has admitted to luring and killing Tori, but has maintained she did it at the behest of Rafferty who, she said, raped the little girl in a laneway near Mount Forest.

The crown’s theory is that after Tori was abducted, she was first raped, then kicked and stomped on and finally her face and head smashed with a hammer.

Toronto Star

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