Top court allows media to reveal Stafford case plea
Published Thursday, December 9, 2010 11:06AM EST
A decision by Canada's top court has lifted a sweeping publication ban that prevented media organizations from revealing that an Ontario woman pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Tori Stafford earlier this year.
Terri-Lynne McClintic pleaded guilty to first-degree murder when she appeared in an Ontario court in April, just over a year after the eight-year-old Stafford first disappeared.
Details about Stafford's disappearance were revealed in that hearing.
McClintic admitted that she struck up a conversation with Stafford the day she disappeared after leaving her school in Woodstock, Ont., in April 2009.
Stafford was the first child McClintic saw when she approached Oliver Stephens Public School that day.
The two talked about dogs and Stafford agreed to come see a shih tzu that McClintic said she owned.
A few hours later, McClintic went to a local Home Depot to buy garbage bags and a hammer.
Police have never revealed how Stafford died, but the court revealed that her death was caused by multiple blunt force impacts.
Stafford's body was found three months after she disappeared, in a field north of Guelph, Ont., more than 100 kilometres away from where she lived with her family in Woodstock, Ont.
Prior to Thursday, a publication ban prevented the media from reporting details on McClintic's case.
But when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the matter, those details could be publicized.
When McClintic entered her plea to the court in April, she entered a statement about her actions.
"I didn't wake up that morning thinking I would take a child," McClintic said.
"I can't explain my thought process that day... Every day I ask myself, `Why? Why did I tell myself that everything would be OK?' "
McClintic said that she had been "dealt pretty low cards in life" and was using drugs and dealing with unspecified problems.
Of Stafford, McClintic said she was "honoured to have been able to spend even a brief amount of time with such an amazing person, and it pains me to think about how many people won't get to see what a beautiful and brilliant woman I just know she would have grown up to be."
McClintic said that "Tori will never leave my heart. She'll hold my heart in her hands until the day I die."
The court also heard victim impact statements from Stafford's family, including from her brother Daryn -- who normally walked his sister home from school, but didn't on the day she went missing.
"She was the closest person to me. Me and Tori could barely be apart for a weekend, let alone a lifetime," he wrote. "Knowing that I'll never get the chance to see her again makes me sad."
Stafford's father, Rodney said he felt a hate for McClintic unlike any emotion he had felt before. But he also thanked her for leading police to his slain daughter's body.
"Maybe one day I can learn to forgive you, but for now excuse me if I don't," Stafford said. "My little girl is gone."
The girl's mother, Tara McDonald, said she has suffered recurring nightmares in the aftermath of her daughter's disappearance and death.
"I miss her so much that many times if I didn't have my son I probably would have taken my own life," McDonald said.
Tori Stafford's paternal grandmother, Doreen Graichen, said the family will never stop thinking about what happened to her.
"We've all become imprisoned for life," she said. "Our sentence will never end."
McClintic's first-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence.
Michael Rafferty, 30, is charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping in the same case. He has been committed to trial on those charges.
With files from The Canadian Press