MOUNT FOREST – The remains of Victoria (Tori) Stafford, who would have been 9 last week, were found by an OPP officer in a wooded area southeast of here on Sunday.
Members of the Stafford Homicide Investigative team, assisted by the OPP Forensic Identification Unit, were at the scene near the intersection of Concession 6 North and Sideroad 2 of Arthur township on Monday and carried out her remains.
Police located the remains just after noon on Sunday, after following up on new information. A member of the investigative team discovered what appeared to be human remains near a rock pile.
The area was cordoned off by the OPP and access to the site restricted to police personnel. Forensic experts were on the scene gathering additional information for the next few days.
Police, working with the Ontario Chief Coroner’s Office and the Centre of Forensic Sciences, announced on Tuesday the remains were indeed those of Stafford.
Wellington County OPP media relations officer Constable Mark Cloes said in an interview the body was found in “a heavily wooded area,” and he expected it would “take a while to cover the entire area.”
OPP Criminal Investigation Branch Detective Inspector Bill Renton said, “We are hopeful that we will be able to honour the life of Victoria Stafford by reuniting her with her loved ones in Woodstock.” Stafford disappeared on April 8 while on her way home from school.
Until Sunday, a massive search effort throughout southwestern Ontario and Wellington County had failed to find a trace of the girl, even after two people were charged with kidnapping and first-degree murder in the case. Police officers on the investigative team walked hundreds of miles of ditches looking for signs of Stafford. At one point, they were aided in their search by one of the accused killers, but were unable to find Stafford’s body.
That work involved extensive searches throughout Wellington County, and police had suggested that anywhere within a 45 minute drive from Guelph might be where her body was located.
The discovery, however, was not entirely a hunch. Police said new information led them to the site in a search area on the concession road.
A tip involved the location being near a property with a dirt road, across from a house on a rural road.
Former Fergus Police Chief Rod Freedman, now chief of the of the Oxford Community Police Service, called it “satisfying to some extent” to be able to bring Victoria to her community and, to provide some closure for her family.
Police used dental records to identify Stafford. Freeman added that the discover of the body will also help in the prosecution of the case.
Michael Rafferty, 28, and Terri-Lynne McClintic, 18, are charged with first-degree murder and abduction. McClintic earlier helped police in the search. They remain in police custody and their trials are expected to begin next year.
Police are continuing their search for the missing cloth covered rear seat of a 2003 Honda Civic. Anyone with knowledge on the whereabouts of the seat is asked to contact the Victoria Stafford “Tip Line” at 1-866-825-4222 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).