Rafferty had already violated the little girl once, in his car, down a lonely rural road. Tori — as she was known to friends and family — needed to urinate. It was McClintic who led her a few metres away.
“I told her she was a very strong girl. She said, like you? I said, you are much stronger.”
That was McClintic, speaking from the witness box, at Rafferty’s first-degree murder trial in 2012.
She took Tori back to her boyfriend. Tori didn’t want to let go of McClintic’s 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. I couldn’t be there for that. I left.”
McClintic, as the star witness against Rafferty, told court how she heard screams and, when she went back, saw Tori on the ground.
Put a garbage bag over the youngster’s head. Kicked her. Struck her over the head with a hammer.
Helped bury her under a nearby pile of rocks.
At her own half-day trial, two years earlier — most of the proceedings kept out of the media for seven months because of a publication ban — McClintic pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
“You are admitting you’re guilty of murdering Victoria Stafford?” Justice Dougald McDermid asked.
“You understand that I will have no choice but to sentence you to life?”
“Have you been threatened or coerced in any way to plead guilty?”
“And why are you entering a guilty plea today?”
McClintic: “Because I feel it’s the right thing to do. A little girl lost her life. I need to give something back.”
Ninety-seven days passed before Tori’s remains were found.
Eight years into a mandatory life sentence with no chance for parole until the quarter-century mark, McClintic is doing cushy time at an Aboriginal healing lodge in Maple Leaf, Saskatchewan, although it’s unclear whether she has a drop of Indigenous blood in her.
The graphic details of Tori’s suffering during her last years on earth, well, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t want to hear them. “Ambulance-chasing politicians,” Trudeau called Conservative MPs, who hammered away at the Liberals this week in the House of Commons, decrying the child-killer’s transfer from the high-security Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener.
A Tory motion on Wednesday to reverse the transfer was easily defeated. Trudeau didn’t even stay for the vote. He bailed.
In all likelihood, the opposition was indeed milking the gruesome details of abduction, rape and murder for political ends, jabbing the Liberals in their vulnerable wheelhouse underbelly as soft on crime. So what? There is no high road in covering one’s ears to the brutality Tori endured. Those of us who were in court, heard it from McClintic, were sickened too. But bearing witness is the least we can do for Tori. Trudeau must be made of daintier stuff.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale had already countered, limply, by punting the controversy to Correctional Services Canada, for a review of whether the move to the lodge was in accordance with the law. Correctional Services Canada, via commissioner Anne Kelly, is “comfortable” with the relocation. A relocation that took place last December, although McClintic had earlier been transferred to medium security on the Tory government watch.
Tori’s dad, Rodney Stafford, only learned of it a few weeks ago, when told by his mother she’d been contacted by Corrections, trying to reach him, because McClintic had applied for day passes. First he knew the murderess was at an Aboriginal healing lodge — a place without fences, with both single and family residential units so that children can stay with offenders. The emphasis is on reintegration, restorative justice, following Aboriginal practices and spirituality.
Rodney Stafford has been on a mission ever since, one he doesn’t consider political. He is imploring as a father, even posting a message to Trudeau on Facebook: “From father to father, can you kneel before your child’s headstone knowing they spent the last three hours of their life begging and pleading for mommy and daddy to come save them, alone, 8, scared, can you sleep soundly knowing there’s more injustice unfolding before you.”
This is not an indictment of healing lodges — nine of them across the country — which serve a useful purpose, created by 1992 national legislation to allow Aboriginal communities to provide correctional services, part of a larger undertaking to address overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the prison system.
The minimum security Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, where McClintic now resides in apartment-like units that include kitchenette, eating area and living room, is on land that belongs to Nekaneet First Nation. In has emerged that the band wasn’t happy about getting McClintic dumped on them either but had no choice; they lost having any input on prisoner selection six years ago.
“We have no say in who goes where,” Band Chief Alvin Francis told the CBC. “My heart goes out to the Stafford family because it’s a horrible crime.
“I can’t say it’s acceptable. (Elders) are concerned about who comes there. Because with no fence there, she can walk off, right?”
Band member Cherish Francis told CKOM News Talk Radio this week: “When you have cases like this that are horrendous it is a safety concern for everybody because we have children in our community and I know there are mothers out there in our community that are absolutely concerned for their children.”
McClintic had a crummy life, born to a stripper mother who gave her up to another stripper to raise, shuffled among foster homes, in trouble with the law from a young age, with booze and drugs persistent themes in her chaotic life. Only 18 herself on the day, April 8, 2009, when Tori was abducted and slain.
She is deeply, perhaps irreversibly damaged. But even the most bleeding heart among us grasp that she is also guilty of a ghastly crime, fully deserving of a life sentence. More worrisomely, there’s been little indication that McClintic has changed her violent ways at all since incarceration.
In 2012, she was back in court, pleading guilty — “yeah” — to a frenzied assault against another inmate at Grand Valley. Had planned to plead innocent on that charge until a damning letter, seized by a guard, surfaced during disclosure.
“I got in a couple shots, good ones, like one or two decent face shots, but the f—-n b—- totally threw me for a spin,” McClintic wrote to another incarcerated friend. “She pretty well curled up in the f—-n fetal position on the floor, arms over her face, legs curled, sometimes kicking. I was standing over her tryin to get some shots through her arms, finally I brought my foot up, tried stompin on her face a couple times … threw a couple kicks in the whole time. She’s like, what the f— Terri, what the f—, just saying it over and over …”
Head-stomping is what an enraged Terri-Lynne McClintic does.
Something she might want to ponder during “nature walks” at unfenced Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge.
Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno