(Warning: Disturbing Content) The heart-wrenching story of an eight-year-old girl who was abducted outside her school on 4-8-2009, raped and then brutally murdered occupied much media attention last month. The story of Victoria (Tori) Stafford would send shudders down the spine of every human being, especially parents, and make them wonder what kind of beasts would do such terrible things to an innocent child.
The heart-wrenching story of an eight-year-old girl who was abducted outside her school on 4-8-2009, raped and then brutally murdered occupied much media attention last month. The story of Victoria (Tori) Stafford would send shudders down the spine of every human being, especially parents, and make them wonder what kind of beasts would do such terrible things to an innocent child. But missing from the media narrative is any mention of the values, lifestyle and culture in which such horrible acts occur.
Terri-Lynne McClintic, now 21, had pleaded guilty in little Tori’s death and was sentenced to life in prison in April 2010. Her ex-boyfriend, Michael Rafferty, now 31, is charged with the first-degree murder, sexual assault and abduction of the little girl from Woodstock three years ago. His trial began on March 5 in London, Ontario, a city about 200km west of Toronto. McClintic is the Crown’s star witness.
On that fateful day, Tori’s mother, Tara McDonald, a drug addict and single mother living with her boyfriend, did not pick her daughter up from school nearly a kilometer away. Normally, the little girl’s brother, Daryn, 11, would walk her home but that day, the boy went to walk another child home before returning to school only to discover Tori was gone. Their grandmother had dropped them at school in the morning. On the stand, McDonald admitted it was her decision not to ask her mother to pick Tori up after school. Why she did that was not explained but her drug addiction may have had something to do with it.
On the witness stand, McClintic described how she lured Tori from school, got into Rafferty’s Honda Civic and then took her to Guelph, a nearby town. She said they made three stops: for coffee, and for a hammer and garbage bags. Equipped with these wares, they drove for about 45 minutes and then turned into a rural road. When Rafferty stopped the car, McClintic said she quickly got out because “I believed he was going to rape Tori.” She went on: “I knew it was going to happen. And I did not want to be there when it would happen.”
Continuing with her testimony, McClintic said at one point, she heard screams and turned to look and saw Tori in Rafferty’s lap “trying to molest her…” McClintic said after Rafferty had sexually assaulted Tori, the little kid, bleeding and crying, wanted to urinate. McClintic took her a few metres away from the car and Tori pleaded for help. “She said just don’t let him do it again,” McClintic told the court. Despite her pleas, McClintic took Tori back to Rafferty but Tori wouldn’t let go of her hand. “She asked me to stay with her. I tried to hold on to her hand but I couldn’t stay because I knew what was going to happen.” McClintic went on: “I couldn’t be there for that. I left.” The terrified little girl was left to a sexual predator and beast to assault her again.
A few minutes later, the little girl was screaming again and when McClintic went back to the car, she saw Tori on the ground, blood all over her groins. Amid sobs and after long pauses, McClintic said she then put a garbage bag on Tori’s head and started kicking her in the ribs. She went on: “Then I struck her with the hammer.” The garbage bag was put on Tori’s head so blood would not splatter all over.
When asked by Crown Attorney Kevin Gowdey “Who struck her with a hammer?” McClintic said she did. She also said Tori was struck repeatedly on the head. In a statement to police prior to her own trial two years ago, McClintic had said it was Rafferty who had kicked the child and hit her on the head with the hammer, killing her. During her March 13 testimony, McClintic changed her story and said she hit Tori and when Rafferty started putting Tori into garbage bags, she helped him. The little girl’s body was then dumped under a tree and covered with rocks.
Continuing with details of the crime, McClintic said Rafferty had blood on his genitals that he tried to wash using “a couple of bottles of water” and then wiped with the white jacket she was wearing that day. “He didn’t want to ruin his shirt.” Having abducted, raped and brutally murdered a child, Rafferty was still thinking about his own shirt! When they got back into the car, he asked McClintic if she was okay. When she nodded in the affirmative, Rafferty said he, too, was all right, considering. How surreal can this get? Rafferty appears in court dressed in a clean white shirt, grey suit and nicely clipped hair. And of course, he has pleaded not guilty to the murder, abduction and rape charges.
While the trial continues, we also need to glance at the characters in little Tori’s life, which was cut short in such a brutal and sadistic manner. The primary responsibility, apart from McClintic and Rafferty, must fall on the shoulders of Tori’s parents. Tara McDonald married Rodney Stafford at the age of 17. They had two children — Daryn and Tori. The husband was a high school dropout, a drifter and often wasn’t around for his children. In February 2009, he decided to clean up his act and moved back home to Ingersoll, Ontario but it was too late for little Tori.
Tara McDonald, Tori’s mother has been a drug-addict most of her life. While left with two little children — not uncommon in Western society — she often left them in the care of their grandmother while she went seeking boyfriends and drugs. Even on the day Tori was abducted and murdered, she waited for more than two hours before informing police. It was her mother who called the police. McDonald was perhaps worried that her drug addiction might be exposed because she had used drugs that afternoon.
In September 2011, McDonald and her boyfriend James Goris were arrested on drug and property-related charges after police raided a house and found $2,400 worth of crack cocaine, marijuana and money. She insists she has given up drugs but admits it is not easy. During her testimony in court, she did not break down once despite hearing harrowing details of her little daughter’s rape and murder. Whether this was poise, or lack of concern about her daughter’s fate, we will never know for sure but if Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star is to be believed, “Tara McDonald was not Mother of the Year to Tori Stafford. This makes her terrible loss no less anguishing. It should make us no less pitying, either,” (March 7). DiManno goes on wisely: “Bad things happen to the children of good parents, too.” Does that absolve bad parents of their responsibility?
DiManno is a well-known Islamophobe who misses no opportunity to denigrate Muslims whenever someone with a Muslim name is involved in crime. One can recall her racist rantings when the Shafia family (from Afghanistan) was convicted of murdering their three daughters. This was all part of the Muslims’ culture of “honour killings,” she informed readers. In Tori’s case, religion or cultural values have not been mentioned or put on trial. We are required to show understanding and, yes, have pity!
Terri-Lynne McClintic lived with her mother, Carol, barely four blocks from Tori’s house. Her mother was a stripper. This needs elaboration. A stripper is a person who takes her clothes off and dances in front of strange men. She gets paid for doing this. Naturally, in such an environment, stripping can lead to selling her body, that is, prostitution. Born to a stripper, Terri-Lynne McClintic was adopted when she was 9 months old. She had a troubled life. This is not surprising. She lived in at least two foster homes, and was in and out of detention centres for fighting and stabbing. Such people also develop a very low self-esteem.
When she met Rafferty in February 2009 at a New Orleans Pizza in Woodstock, McClintic was already willing to be picked up. They struck a conversation and she eagerly accepted Rafferty’s offer to drive her home. He took her home but instead of McClintic going inside the house, they started chatting and when asked if she wanted to go for a drive, she immediately accepted. McClintic was already on drugs. Following the ride, they had sex in the car.
The McClintics — Terri-Lynne and mother Carol — met Tara McDonald and her boyfriend James Goris when the couple visited their home to purchase illegal drugs, especially Oxycontin. Their paths crossed several times, all related to drug purchases. Had Tori become familiar with the McClintics during this time? Why the little girl was picked up from school that day and what McClintic said to her to lure her into the car leading to her rape and brutal murder has not been revealed. One can only speculate: perhaps she wanted to please Rafferty by offering him a little girl. The plan to rape and murder Tori was already evident from the purchase of a hammer and garbage bags. Why a grown up brute would want to sexually assault a child is beyond comprehension. Once the demonic act of rape was performed, the murder of little Tori was virtually a forgone conclusion because they wanted to hide the evidence.
Tori’s is not an isolated case. There are even more heart-wrenching cases of mothers killing their own children because their boyfriends do not want them around. Penny Boudreau of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, strangled 12-year-old daughter Karissa in February 2008 after her boyfriend, Vernon MacCumber threatened to end their affair because he did not get on with the girl. The mother drove her daughter to a river and pinning her down, wrapped a rope around her neck. As the mother was strangling her, the daughter’s last words were: “Mummy, don’t!” But her pleas went unheeded because the heartless mother was too obsessed with her own sex life. She was charged and convicted 16 months later after a sting operation by the police.
There is also the case of Robert Pickton, the British Columbia pig farmer, who was charged and convicted with the second degree murder of six women and 20 other women, most of them prostitutes or drug addicts, between 1983 and 2002. On the first day of his trial in January 2007, the Crown mentioned in court that Pickton had admitted to killing 49 women to an undercover police officer. He regretted not completing 50 because he was “sloppy.” Pickton was given a life sentence in December 2007 with no parole for 25 years.
Canada’s most notorious rapist and killer couple title, however, must go to Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo. The serial rapist stories emerged in 1987. Bernardo had completed studies in Economics at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UoT). He planned to become an accountant. He raped at least two dozen girls between 1987 and 1993. He and his wife Homolka also raped, videotaped and murdered three teenage girls, one of them Karla’s 15-year-old sister Tammy. She was offered as gift to Bernardo who was upset because Karla was not a virgin when he met her. Tammy and two other girls — Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, both 15 — were not only sexually assaulted but also lost their lives after being drugged by Homolka and raped by Bernardo.
The pair was not caught until some friends of Bernardo’s notified the police that he matched the description of the serial killer. Further information emerged after a particularly vicious beating of Homolka by Bernardo in 1993 when they split up and Homolka, afraid that the police were closing in on them, went to see a lawyer. Both were convicted in 1995. Homolka served a 12-year jail sentence and is already out. Bernardo must serve 25 years without parole. He is currently serving time in Kingston’s Penitentiary.
There is one other point worth mentioning. Bernardo was a friend of Colonel Russell Williams, Base Commander of CFB Trenton, the largest air force base in Canada, who was arrested and charged with murdering two women, and raping many others. He was convicted in October 2010. Williams and Bernardo were friends when they studied at the UoT Scarborough campus.
Tragic as these cases are and even as the police arrested and secured conviction of the rapist-murderers, the question we need to ask is: why are such cases so prevalent in Western societies? Why are there so many men abducting and raping women and girls when there are no restrictions — legal, moral or other — on sex between consenting adults? Even parents do not mind their daughters having affairs with multiple partners. And why are men going after young girls, even children when adult girls are freely available?
It is time to look at the values that spawn such behaviour. It is not enough to prosecute the offenders that get caught. There are many more cases of men raping women and getting away with it because they go unreported. This is especially true on university campuses where girls are expected to conform to certain norms. Unfortunately, the problem has seeped into high schools as well. According to some estimates, at least 38% of students have had sexual encounters by the time they graduate from high school, that is by age 18. This is deeply troubling and needs serious attention.