It was 42 days before police sorted out the puzzle, an eternity during which a vicious war of words-cum-parallel investigation raged on the Internet and even among those who most loved the small blonde girl.
But for all that the abduction of Victoria (Tori) Stafford was the first of its kind in the Internet era, truly modern in all its garish details, it appears to have ended with the old-fashioned brutality and lightning speed of all such crimes.
Tori likely died the very day she disappeared, probably within an hour or so after she cheerfully walked off with a mysterious dark-haired woman in a white puffy coat.
The body of the sunny eight-year-old who vanished as if into the cool April air on her way home from school, blocks from safety and family in almost any direction, hasn't yet been found, but police yesterday arrested and charged two Woodstock residents in her abduction and murder.
The young woman captured on widely publicized surveillance video walking with the Grade 3 student is allegedly a teenager just a decade older than Tori, 18-year-old Terri-Lynne McClintic. She is charged in Tori's abduction and as an accessory after the fact to murder.
She is alleged to have led the little girl on the afternoon of April 8 to 28-year-old Michael Thomas Rafferty.
Mr. Rafferty, now accused of first-degree murder, was allegedly waiting nearby in a car as Ms. McClintic brought him his prize - the little girl wearing a Hannah Montana jacket and carrying a Bratz purse in her favourite colour, purple.
Although police officially won't comment upon the couple's alleged motive, The Globe and Mail has learned that they believe the crime was sexual in nature.
Given the alleged involvement of the young woman, and the fact that it happened near the Easter holiday, the case has echoes of the Karla Homolka/Paul Bernardo crimes, particularly the kidnapping of St. Catharines, Ont., teenager Kristen French, who, on her way home from school the day before Good Friday, was lured to Mr. Bernardo's car by Ms. Homolka, holding a map in her hand and acting as a dazed and confused tourist.
Like Ms. Homolka and Mr. Bernardo, Ms. McClintic and Mr. Rafferty were allegedly on the hunt that day, with Tori the profoundly unlucky first little girl they spotted.
But while, in some crucial ways, that fact alone makes the crime one of the rarest in Canada - a stranger or random abduction - Ms. McClintic and Tori's mother, Tara McDonald, apparently had some connection, and had met before, as Ontario Provincial Police Detective-Inspector Bill Renton confirmed yesterday at a news conference in this town of about 35,000 people 130 kilometres southwest of Toronto.
"I believe Ms. McClintic may be familiar to Tara," was all he said, but The Globe has learned the connection may be through the women's common drug use.
Ms. McDonald is a former Oxycontin addict who recently, after the daily press conference it had become her custom to hold during the long days of her daughter's disappearance, was asked about and confessed her drug problem to a reporter from the London Free Press.
Ms. McClintic, whose desperately troubled background renders Ms. McDonald's difficult life a picture of Beaver Cleaver-like bliss by comparison, is also believed to be an Oxycontin user.
Ms. McClintic is the child of a former stripper and a father she never knew. Another stripper, Carol McClintic, who danced at local Woodstock clubs under the name of "Virginia," decided to adopt her, her former husband Rob McClintic, a 42-year-old truck driver, told The Globe yesterday in a telephone interview.
Ms. McClintic went to the hospital when the other stripper gave birth to the little girl, brought her home within days, and the couple formally adopted the baby girl Carol McClintic named Terri-Lynne.
Mr. McClintic doesn't remember many details - "I was kind of young and stupid" - but said the couple split up when Terri-Lynne was not yet 3. Ms. McClintic would take off to work in other parts of the province, leaving him with a baby who wasn't his. After the breakup, Ms. McClintic sought full custody, but Mr. McClintic was ordered to pay about $400 in child support, although he hasn't seen his daughter for 15 years.
"I got screwed," he said yesterday.
But he was stunned by the allegations against his daughter and described her upbringing as "pretty rough. There wasn't anything I could do about it though."
A couple of years ago, when Terri-Lynne found herself in trouble in North Bay, he said he tried to help her, but gave up.
The McClintic women, mother and daughter, were living in a tiny, dilapidated house on Wilson Street, just blocks from the small but neat semi-detached home where Tori lived with her mom and her big brother Daryn, who turned 11 last month, and sometimes Ms. McDonald's boyfriend, James Garis.Report Typo/Error