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Tip from Tori's mother was the break police needed

Tara McDonald mother of slain Victoria (Tori) Stafford walks from court after completing her testimony in the Michael Rafferty murder trial in London, Ontario, Wednesday, March, 7, 2012.


It wasn't much to go on.

At 12:29 p.m. on Easter Sunday in 2009, Detective Constable Sean Kelly of the Woodstock police received a tip, one of hundreds that were beginning to pour in: A woman named Terri owned a puffy white jacket and walked with a gait similar to that of a person spotted on a surveillance video leading eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford away from her school four days earlier.

But the officer moved swiftly, the murder trial of Michael Rafferty heard Thursday.

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The tip came from Tori's mother, Tara McDonald, who had had dealings with the person she now suspected of abducting her daughter, although she did not say so at the time.

As Ms. McDonald described the rough location of Terri's house, Det. Constable Kelly sketched a map and figured out the address. From there, he learned the woman's full name: Terri-Lynne McClintic.

And a check with the CPIC police database showed that an arrest warrant was outstanding for Ms. McClintic, for breaching a court order.

Det. Constable Kelly went to her home on Wilson Street, told her he wanted to talk about Tori and she was taken to the Woodstock police detachment in a cruiser.

During the subsequent interrogation, Det. Constable Kelly told prosecutor Michael Carnegie, he coaxed a key detail out of Ms. McClintic: She had recently cut off her long, dark hair, which resembled that of the woman in the video clip.

From a garbage can in Ms. McClintic's bathroom, the officer retrieved the locks, tangled up with a wad of chewed gum.

He didn't know it at the time, but Det. Constable Kelly had arrested Tori's killer and his quick actions that day – April 12, 2009 – would be key to cracking the case six weeks later, when Ms. McClintic, still in custody on the court-order breach, admitted to killing the little girl.

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Her former boyfriend, Mr. Rafferty, is now on trial, accused of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering Tori. He has pleaded not guilty.

A moment of high emotion punctuated Det. Constable Kelly's testimony Thursday morning. As he described how the status of the investigation was upgraded from an abduction to a homicide, after the murder charge was laid, he choked up, wiped his eyes and had to pause.

The jury also saw a copy of Ms. McClintic's resumé, which Det. Constable Kelly seized from a Woodstock employment centre.

On it she listed a string of jobs she'd held: at a Tim Hortons outlet in Parry Sound, where she worked from 2003 to 2005; at the Bass Lake House Restaurant in Muskoka, where she had prepared food and cleared tables; at a cleaning company that washed industrial equipment at the Toyota factory in Cambridge.

Aged 18 at the time of her arrest, she had also been employed as a babysitter, her resumé stated.

"On the whole I am a very outgoing and energetic person. I am a quick learner," Ms. McClintic wrote at the top.

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Documents filed with the employment centre indicated she had been out of work for six months, had few job contacts and was working towards a GED. She checked off a box that read, "I tend to become easily angry."

Court also reviewed Facebook messages between Ms. McClintic and a friend. The two women discussed meeting for drinks.

"[Things have]been a lil krazy latley so i ahvent had a lotta time or money to put time on the cell and i moved," Ms. McClintic wrote.

Det. Constable Kelly's evidence underscored the lengths to which Woodstock's police force went in the days after Tori's abduction.

He searched the home she shared with Ms. McDonald and older brother Daryn, followed up on sightings of the girl around Woodstock and interviewed family members. He also became the liaison officer with Ms. McDonald.

"For the first week, we were overwhelmed," he testified. "The shifts were very long, 15 to 20 hours a day. We did the best that we could."

The trial resumes Tuesday, when it is expected that Ms. McClintic herself will testify.

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About the Authors
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

At The Globe and Mail since 1982, in assorted manifestations, chiefly crime reporter, foreign correspondent and member of the Editorial Board, Tim is now retired. More

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