The murder trial of their daughter ready to go to a jury; Tori’s Mother and Father struggle to cope. They succeed.

Part 8

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 9, 2012   Imagine with me for a moment. I am going to ask you to imagine something horrible, but bear with me. Imagine one day after school, only one of your two children comes home- the other is missing. Twelve hours pass, then twenty-four,…still no sign of your baby. Another day goes by, and then another.

She just didn't come home. Her brother did, Tori didn't and she was never seen alive again.

Each day waking with renewed hope that today will bring answers, each night going to bed just as lost as the night before. The ache, the emptiness inside. The media surrounding your home, pointing a camera in your direction each time you emerge, wanting a sound bite on “how do you feel”. How would you feel? Being the spectacle of a nation; your every comment, tear and irrational reaction recorded for the masses to see? And later, for those eyes to turn their suspicious gaze on you, and you know they are thinking “maybe the mom or dad had something to do with this”.

That was life for Tara McDonald and Rodney Stafford. Treated to revolving bouts of sympathy, pity and suspicion. Knowing the entire country was watching them suffer, and not being able to deal with the darkest moment of their life in private. Something like this is difficult enough. Think about it. If it was your child, how rational would you be? Would you be worrying about what you wore to a news conference, or if what you were doing made you look suspicious. No, you wouldn’t- your mind would be where it should be- on your missing child.

But despite how awful the public ordeal of Tori’s abduction and subsequent murder may have been, I would think it would pale in comparison to having to deal with the trial, and being in the same room as her alleged murderers. For the past ten weeks, Tara and Rodney have sat in the same courtroom as Tori’s accused killers, Michael Rafferty and at times Terri-Lynn McClintic, with only several yards separating them. As a mother myself, I have no idea how Tara and Rodney have maintained enough composure to be able to be in the same room as Rafferty and McClintic without rushing the prisoner’s box.

 

The not knowing when on for day after day. The eyes of the public were on them every minute. An ordeal they did not need - but Tara McDonald managed to keep it together.

Yet somehow that is what they did. They endured the testimony of Terri-Lynn McClintic, who spared no detail in her narrative of the horror that Tori faced. Six long days of what was labelled the most disturbing testimony of the trial, and they were there every day. Sitting through the excruciating details compelled to bear witness to the crimes against their daughter- in the  only way they can  be there for her, this one last time.

And if the wound wasn’t raw enough, there were pictures; unrecognizable, horrific pictures of their once beautiful little girl. Identified only by her dental records and the Hannah Montana shirt she was wearing when she disappeared. The pictures were more than Rodney could handle and he left the courtroom- it was the only time he left the proceedings. Tara stayed behind crying as the images flashed by. The Coroner explained the state of Tori’s body, every gruesome piece of evidence laid out before the court. Every word another reminder that Tori will never come home.

Of all the proceedings there was one single thing I found more appalling than anything else. On the day of the Coroner’s testimony, some of the most sensitive testimony of the trial, Michael Rafferty wore a deep purple shirt and purple striped tie. It was the same shade of purple that had become synonymous with Tori, and the colour of the ribbons her family wore in her memory. The audacity of his wardrobe choice left me fuming. For the accused to come to court in a show of solidarity to the victim’s family was a huge slap in the face to Rodney, Tara, their families and the community as a whole. And I was not alone in this opinion, with other members of the community taking note of it as well. Whether that was Rafferty’s idea or that of his defence council, Dirk Derstine it was in poor taste.

In spite of all these painful obstacles, Tara and Rodney have fared reasonably well through the trial. Tara was more outspoken during Tori’s disappearance, holding daily media conferences on her front lawn. During the trial she has become a little quieter, taking a bit of a backseat in the media eye. She has kicked the drugs and has been clean for six months now. After a brief move to Brantford, she came back to Woodstock and has been at nearly every session of the McClintic and Rafferty trials.

No longer with the Mother of his daughter Rodney Stafford handled his grief in his own way; resolved to be in the court room every day with a picture of his daughter in his hand.

Rodney on the other hand is determined to build a legacy for his daughter. He has made numerous appearances over the last three years. Showing up on Charles Adler’s program, raising money for ChildFind and speaking to the media at every opportunity. Even pushing a bill proposal loosely named Tori’s law that calls for capital punishment for child killers. He has kept the promise he made at the beginning of the trial to be there and look his daughter’s accused killers in the eye.

It seems that despite their tragic loss one silver lining has come from this horrible event- both Tara and Rodney seem to be stronger people for it. Both of them have come a long way in the last three years. More action, more attention to the family and more cooperation with each other. If Tori were here she would be proud of both of them.

With the prosecution finishing their closing remarks today, the case will soon be in the jury’s hands. Tori’s family will not likely have to wait long now for the final resolution in this case. The last shred of justice to be served in Tori’s name. After that, the media will subside and Tori will become a memory for most of us. But for her family it will be just another day of trying to live without their beloved little girl.

So now, we await the verdict.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

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