The father of Tori Stafford is asking residents in southwestern Ontario and beyond to honour the life and memory of his daughter and mark what would have been her 20th birthday on Wednesday by being kind toward others.
“Just reach out and do some random acts of kindness,” said Rodney Stafford in an interview Tuesday with 980 CFPL’s Craig Needles.
“Just try to go out of your way to help a neighbour, walk a friends dog, spend some time with somebody who’s alone.”
“Especially with COVID-19 right now, there’s so many people that are unable to do things for themselves, and that would be a good time to reach out to help.”
Stafford says he plans to spend Wednesday spending time with his youngest son and visiting the cemetery where Tori was laid to rest.
“The 20-year mark is a huge milestone for anybody,” Stafford said. “There’s so much that’s already been missed up till this 20-year mark. And I just can’t ever let it go,” Stafford said.
It has been 11 years since 8-year-old Victoria “Tori” Stafford was abducted while walking home from school in Woodstock, Ont., on April 8, 2009.
Her body was found three months later on July 19 in a farmer’s field near Mount Forest. Investigators determined she had been raped, tortured, and bludgeoned to death.
Michael Rafferty and his girlfriend, Terri-Lynn McClintic, are both serving life sentences with no chance of parole for 25 years for first-degree murder in her death.
Asked what he tells people about Tori, Stafford replied, “just about how loving and caring she was and the sweet and pure innocence of being a child.”
“Tori would have been 20 this year, and there’s so many people around her age group when she was in Grade 3… some of them are having children now and they’re starting to see the importance of being a parent,” he added.
“And I just want to express it and just keep it going, and keeping our children safe.”
Since Tori’s murder, Stafford has found a voice as a child safety advocate, and in late 2018 joined the families of other victims of crime in calling for longer, stricter prison sentences for violent offenders.
That came after it was revealed that Rafferty had been transferred to a medium-security prison and McClintic was moved to a minimum-security healing lodge in Saskatchewan.
WATCH: May 2019: Rodney Stafford says he’s frustrated with government
Following an outcry, McClintic was moved to the Edmonton Institution for Women, and then transferred to Grand Valley Institution for Women, a minimum-medium security facility near Kitchener, Ont.
After McClintic’s transfer to the healing lodge, the federal government announced changes to make it more difficult for prisoners serving long sentences to be moved to such facilities.
Rafferty was still serving his sentence in medium security as of last spring.
Stafford says he is continuing to advocate for victims and their families in honour of Tori, but notes things have been on hold since the fall — a pause that has been extended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“But we’ve been reaching out with a lot more victims’ families, a lot more people that can help us out step further with where we want to go with Justice for Tori,” he said.
“It’s slowly coming along, but we’re getting there.”
— With files from The Canadian Press