A 20-year-old Terri-Lynne McClintic is pleaded guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Grade 3 student Tori Stafford. Here I re-post excerpts from the statements of grief and loss from the Staffords. I admit that in such situation it is really hard to even think of forgiving the offender.
WOODSTOCK, ONT. - The emptiness is overwhelming and words do not suffice.
But those who knew Tori Stafford best, loved her most, did try to articulate their unbearable loss in victim impact statements read into the court record, prior to the conviction and mandatory life sentence for murder in the first degree imposed on Terri-Lynne McClintic. A temporary ban on the proceedings has now been partly lifted.
What follows are excerpts from the statements delivered by members of the 8-year-old’s grieving family.
Tara McDonald, Tori’s mother:
"It has been just over a year since the loss of my baby and I have tried many times to put to words how this has impacted on my life. My life will never be the same without Victoria. . . . The pain never gets easier to accept in my heart. I miss her so much that many times, if I didn’t have my son, I probably would of taken my own life because the agony of not having her here with me is so great.
"At night I cannot sleep and when I do, a lot of the time I have nightmares and I wake up and it feels like I’m still trapped in my nightmares. My heart, mind, body and soul feel like I will never, ever find peace or closure. A piece of me will be missing for the rest of my entire lifetime.
“I cry uncontrollably. . . . I don’t think that anyone can ever understand how the loss of a child impacts a person’s life."
Rodney Stafford, Tori’s father (court-edited statement):
"On April 8, 2009, I, my son Daryn, my ex-wife Tara, our family and friends, and much to our surprise, a nation, all became victims to a heinous crime, when one of our children was stolen in broad daylight. . . .
"It plays in my mind over and over again. Just what could have Victoria done so wrong in her eight years that she deserved to lose her little innocent life? Nothing at all!!! Victoria was only ever guilty of being a little girl.
"I now stand in front of the woman responsible for leading Victoria to her kidnapping, and eventually her final resting place. . . . I try to sit and think of reasons as to why?? Why my little girl??
"Months of drastically searching for Victoria, trying to hold out hope that one day soon, we can see my child’s face again. But what do I get? A grainy image of a video, of a woman walking away leading Victoria to her death, with Victoria walking and skipping alongside like any innocent child would. . . .
"Suddenly news of finding Victoria’s remains became a relief. What the hell??? Relief??? That they found my daughter’s remains? How messed up does that sound? Most definitely messed right up, but Victoria was able to come home and so many other children are still out there missing. . . .
"The hardest part of my last year has been watching my 12-year-old son try to continue through life trying to figure out why the pod now only has one pea. Who split the pod and why?
"It kills me inside to see him cry and for me to know that the one thing he wants now in life, that could make him happy, and put that smile back on his face, I can never give him. I can never bring Victoria home to see Daryn."
On McClintic: "Thank you for stepping up and accepting responsibility for your actions resulting in Victoria’s eventual death. I thank you for aiding in the search of Victoria’s remains and for all the information provided to help lead up to finding Victoria. It has been said that without you, we may never have found Victoria.
"I now believe in my heart that you were just a woman under the influence of a controlled substance, who took things too far. Still doesn’t make it right, but it happened and we can’t change the past.
"I hope that during your sentence, you find peace with yourself, and with God. And just maybe one day, I could learn to forgive you, but for now, excuse me if I don’t.
"My little girl is gone."
Daryn Stafford, Tori’s brother:
"I am supposed to describe my emotional losses, but it would take all the paper in the world to say how I feel and what I have lost. But the thing I lose the most, not only my sister, but my bestest friend. Tori was the most important person in the world to me. And the worst part about losing her . . . is I don’t ever get to see her again.
"I lost my only sibling. Me and Tori could barely be apart for a weekend let alone a lifetime. . . . We always did stuff together, taking turns on what we should (do) next, and usually we argued but we always made up.
"Just knowing that I never get to see her again makes me sad. I would have given anything and I still would give anything to get my baby sister back. I just love her more than anything.
"There’s nights I lie with my mom crying because I miss Tori. Also, I don’t like going places by myself or going into stores myself cause it scares me."
Graichen Doreen, Tori’s paternal grandmother:
"As I’ve watched my children and grandchildren over the past year try to come to an acceptance of what happened to their worlds, I’ve realized we have all become imprisoned for life. Our sentence will never end.
"From nightmares to the cruelties of other children’s hurtful words, all of my grandchildren have suffered. Knowing Victoria will never be coming home to visit or play or even argue with her cousins or brother again is so painful and heart-wrenching for all of us. . . .
"I have felt completely helpless because I can’t find a way to make the pain stop. I can’t comfort my son or Daryn or Tori’s cousins or aunts and uncles and make it better.
"My mind spins and I can’t stop wondering or coming up with my own ideas of what happened and why. I work six days a week and sometimes more if I can, just to keep myself from focusing on all of the horror we are living through. My heart aches and sometimes I can’t breathe. There’s an anxiousness in me now, feeling of anger, hatred and confusion.
"I’ve watched people whispering and nodding in our direction. I’ve seen people walk towards me and look up at me and then veer off. . . . I realize they just don’t know what to say . . . neither do I."
L. Winters, Tori’s maternal grandmother:
"I use the ‘m’ because to say it in its full expression hurts me deeper than I can handle. I pray constantly for all those involved in this great loss.
"Other than a couple of close friends, chosen family members, I am unable to trust, confide in, because of the questions, remarks, see if they are compassionate or just judgmental or hurtful. Even strangers ask questions about the future and I try to give answers that will stop the questions.
"I had a ADT system and new keyless entrance lock put in my home. Try not to go out alone at later hours. Making sure where Daryn is, picking up and taking to school.
"Sleeping habits, a few hours sleep here and there, waking to anxiety or tears for my greatest loss . . . taking stronger medications. Bereavement counselling has been ongoing. This grieving process may last my lifetime.
"My family has always meant the world to me. . . . I feel totally helpless as I witnessed my only child at the lowest point of her life . . . not being able to take the pain away."