'I believe Victoria was targeted': Stafford's father
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, May 25, 2009 9:43PM EDT
WOODSTOCK, Ont. - Victoria Stafford's father struggled Monday to accept that his daughter will not be found alive, but said he has come to the firm conclusion his little girl was targeted by her abductors and went willingly because she knew one of them.
Tori went missing on April 8, the day she was captured on surveillance video leaving her school with a woman who police now allege is 18-year-old Terri-Lynne McClintic. She is charged with abduction and being an accessory.
Her boyfriend Michael Rafferty, 28, is charged with first-degree murder and abduction.
Police have said McClintic may have been familiar with Tori's mother Tara McDonald, who has said she met McClintic two or three times.
Rodney Stafford said Monday he believes Tori's abduction was not random.
"I strongly believe Victoria was targeted for some reason," he said. "There's too many coincidences for it to be random."
April 8 was the only day Tori had walked home alone without her doting brother Daryn, who turned 11 less than three weeks later, Stafford said.
It's possible his daughter's abduction was a horrible, random act and that her captors took the first child they saw, Stafford said. But the thought that someone knew her habits and had been watching her is gnawing at him as the search for her remains enters a full week Tuesday.
Stafford said he is frustrated by a lack of information from police about the search, though he said they have made it clear to him there is no point in holding onto any hope Tori will be found alive.
"I seriously don't know how I'm not supposed to hold out hope," he said. If they truly know she is dead, "prove it. Show me how you think she's gone."
"Let my head rest."
In addition to the connection police have made between McClintic and McDonald, the latter has said she discussed breeding dogs with McClintic's mother and offered to give them a couch because they had no furniture.
A source told The Canadian Press that McClintic sold OxyContin to McDonald, who has admitted to battling an addiction to the painkiller but denies buying it from the woman facing charges in Tori's abduction and murder.
McDonald said she has heard suggestions the woman in the video may have been carrying a puppy in a bag or was leading Tori to a puppy, saying it is believable that her daughter would go with someone if an animal was involved.
According to a published newspaper report, Tori was chosen at random, for no other reason than she was the first girl her alleged abductors saw.
Stafford said he believes that Tori -- and not just McDonald -- was familiar with McClintic.
"I honestly believe Tori knew her and has talked and met with her," he said.
McDonald and her boyfriend James Goris suspected McClintic after seeing the surveillance video of Tori and a woman with long dark hair walking away from her school, and again after a composite sketch was released, McDonald has said.
Goris told police shortly after the video was released that McClintic had cut her hair and that the couple thought she looked like the woman in the video, she said.
McClintic helped police search the Guelph, Ont., area for Tori's body for five days, but after a judicial order allowing her to do so expired Sunday night, her lawyer said in an email to The Canadian Press that she did not expect McClintic to have any more "direct participation in the search."
Jeanine LeRoy said her client is being held at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre in London, Ont.
She had no comment about competing suggestions as to whether Tori's abduction was random or targeted.
But earlier she said she did not have permission to address the allegations against her client.
McClintic and Rafferty are scheduled to appear in court again on Thursday.
Ontario Provincial Police shifted the focus of their search for Tori's remains Monday to a pair of lakes in southern Ontario. Police diving teams were brought in to the Guelph area east of Stafford's hometown of Woodstock, Ont., to scour Belwood and Guelph lakes.
Police say the vehicle Tori was abducted in was likely a 2003 blue Honda Civic that had been partially spray-painted black. Police have the car, but are now looking for its grey rear seat, which had been removed and may contain valuable evidence.
Police were examining a car seat found in the nearby Kitchener, Ont., area, according to media reports, but it was unclear if it was the seat they were seeking in this investigation.
More than 16,000 signatures have been gathered on an online petition calling for changes to the Amber Alert system. Police have said they did not issue the alert because Tori's case -- which police were still calling a missing person case and not an abduction more than a week after she disappeared -- because it did not meet the criteria.
People who have signed the petition have also called for harsher penalties for people convicted of crimes against children and updating the technology the Amber Alert system uses to include text messages and other emerging technologies.
One person proposed a "Tori Alert," which would notify the public when a young child may be in trouble, with the option of upgrading it to an Amber Alert when danger is confirmed.
Tori left school on April 8 around 3:30 p.m. and was reported missing around 6 p.m. Police issued a notice to local media overnight and a broader release the morning of April 9.