Michael Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping in the April 2009 death of Tori. His trial started here Monday.
“It’s not about Rafferty. It’s about a little girl who lost her life,” Rodney Stafford said.
The father of the dead girl faces spending up to three months in a courtroom with the man accused of killing Tori. “It’s heartbreaking because there’s nothing you can do or say.”
He said his emotions have run the gamut over the past three years.
“Up down all over the place. It’s hard to explain. You can’t even put it into words. One song can change your total demeanour from being positive into being a whimpering fool.”
Stafford spoke to reporters after the trial was abruptly halted and both main and overflow courtrooms were cleared by security after Justice Thomas Heeney finished his initial address to the jury outlining their duties and the workings of the trial.
No reason was given for the clearing but it does not appear to be related to a security threat.
Several of Tori’s family members, including her father, grandmother and uncle, wore purple ribbons and purple clothing. The colour was Tori’s favourite. Her grandmother, Doreen Graichen, also wore a butterfly pendant, another Tori favourite.
Graichen said she’s been bracing herself for years to hear the evidence in court. “I don’t think I can ever say I’m prepared to hear it,” she said, but added, “Nothing can be any worse that what I imagined all along anyway.”
Through the morning proceedings, Rafferty remained mostly expressionless, dressed in a grey suit, light-coloured shirt and blue-striped tie.
The trial was expected to continue later Monday with a meeting behind closed doors, followed by opening statements by Crown attorney Kevin Gowdey and Rafferty’s lawyer, Dirk Derstine.
Media descended on the courthouse this morning. Reporters started lining up about 5:30 a.m. for the 10 a.m. start to ensure they would get a spot in the main courtroom on the 14th floor. An overflow room with video monitors is on the sixth floor.
The trial shows signs of attracting the same level of media and public interest Tori’s disappearance did three years ago.
She was seen on a surveillance video walking home after school April 8, 2009, with an unknown woman.
The existence of the video, criticism of the initial police investigation, and the pleas from her worried, estranged parents who daily painted a picture of a feisty and funny little girl sparked an explosion of interest in mainstream and social media.
The mystery woman in the video, Terri-Lynne McClintic, confessed to police in May 2009 that she was the woman in the video.
McClintic, 21, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in April 2010 and was sentenced to life in prison.
She is expected to be a key witness in Rafferty’s trial.
Tori Stafford murder trial gets underway | Ontario | News | Toronto Sun
I remember seeing that little girl's face on a missing poster on a telephone pole on my street. I was actually walking down the street with my own daughter at the time. It really hit home. I remember how the focus in the early days of her disappearance of both the police and the media was on the mother. I remember the day they found her remains.
I saw video earlier of her father speaking about how no one he spoke to in the past several days knew who is daughter was but they all knew the name of her killer. That was heartbreaking to watch. I will be making a very concerted effort to refer to this as the Victoria Stafford murder trial. I think everyone should.
It's a good thing I didn't get notice for jury duty. There's no way I could be impartial.
I hope beyond all hope that these animals that did this never again see the light of day.