Rodney Stafford, holds a photo of his slain eight year old daughter Victoria Stafford, as he talks to the media in front of the courthouse in London, Ontario, May 11, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Geoff Robins
WOODSTOCK - It's time for the healing to begin, was the message Mayor Pat Sobeski and Police Service Chief Rod Freeman conveyed during a press conference Saturday, May 12.
Dozens of members of the media gathered at the front steps of Woodstock's City Hall listen to the two civic leaders just 13 hours after the jury found Michael Rafferty guilty in the kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford.
"How many times in the past have you heard a mayor say, ‘Oh, this could have happened anywhere,' and while that statement is true, it happened here in Woodstock and for the past three years this community has been living under a cloud," Sobseski said. "Ironically, this morning the sun is shining there are still clouds in the sky but our town will accept that as a symbol it's time to begin the healing process."
Sobeski went on to declare his support for the family of the slain girl. He also talked about his appreciation to the more than 1,000 police officers and support staff, the Crown Attorney's office, the jury and Judge Thomas Heeney and the role they all had in ensuring justice was served.
Freeman said Stafford's death "ripped the hearts out of many police officers."
"This is the first morning in just over three years that I've been able to wake up and have some sense of closure to this terrible, horrific investigation now that we've convicted the second of two child killers that traumatized our community back in April of 2009," he said. "My prayers and thoughts have been with Victoria and now that we have the conviction of both killers, my hope is that the conviction will bring some sense of peace to her so that now she can rest in peace and certainly rest in peace now with dignity," he said.
Freeman said both the Woodstock Police Force and the OPP worked together during the investigation with a sole goal of finding Tori.
He acknowledged the criticism the Woodstock police took during the early stages of the investigation, calling it predominantly "media generated."
"You were thirsting for information in the early stages that we just couldn't give you," he said.
Freeman said police hit the ground running at 6:04 p.m. April 8, 2009 the day little Tori went missing.
Off-duty officers came in to assist with work, the fire department was enlisted to do a ground search, officers followed up on more than 5,000 tips and in the later weeks wire taps and surveillance were all part of the investigation, he said.
"To come out here to the media and divulge our strategies would have just rendered them useless," he said.
Freeman expressed his appreciation to all the citizens of this city, its police service, and the media for bringing the killers of Tori to justice.
"I think we just move forward from here. Our community is a good community. It's a strong community and it's a resilient community. It's a community of families, a community of people who care. It's a community of people that are going to bounce back from this horrific incident and we're going to move forward into the future and we're going to become a better community," he said.