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Woman accused in Tori disappearance now faces first-degree murder charge

WOODSTOCK, Ont. - An 18-year-old woman charged in the disappearance of eight-year-old Tori Stafford saw her charges upgraded to first-degree murder Thursday.

WOODSTOCK, Ont. - An 18-year-old woman charged in the disappearance of eight-year-old Tori Stafford saw her charges upgraded to first-degree murder Thursday.

An accessory charge against Terri-Lynne McClintic, 18, was upgraded to murder and an abduction charge became kidnapping with intent of unlawful confinement.

Michael Rafferty, 28, is charged with first-degree murder, and his abduction charge in Tori's April 8 disappearance has also become a kidnapping charge.

The original abduction charge against the two carried a maximum jail term of five years. Kidnapping carries a sentence of up to life in prison.

The Crown indicated it plans to try the two accused separately.

Rafferty's lawyer, Hal Mattson, said outside court that his client is still on suicide watch, but called it a procedural decision and expected the watch to end soon.

The developments came during a brief court appearance for the two in Woodstock, Ont., at which they were both remanded into custody.

McClintic had been assisting police in the search for Tori's remains, but a judicial order allowing her to do so expired on Sunday.

"She hasn't been asked of late to be physically present to help in the search, but her attitude has not changed in that regard," McClintic's lawyer, Jeanine LeRoy, said outside the court.

"When she was able to co-operate fully that was her goal... to help the police find Tori and to bring Tori home."

Mattson said outside court that he has advised Rafferty not to speak with police.

A ground search continues in Wellington County near Guelph, about an hour from Woodstock, as police examine a vast rural area.

An extensive search of the Highway 401 corridor between Woodstock and Guelph is also being launched, police said in a release Thursday.

Police have been asking for tips from anyone in Woodstock or Guelph who may have seen a blue 2003 four-door Honda with black spray paint over portions on April 8.

Investigators want residents to check their properties for the car's entire back seat, described as grey and made of cloth, and report it to police immediately.

On Tuesday, a police-led review of Ontario's Amber Alert system was announced following weeks of criticism directed at authorities for not activating the alert when they learned the Grade 3 student had vanished.

Tori left school around 3:30 p.m. and was reported missing to police at about 6 p.m. Police began investigating and sent a release to local media overnight and sent a broader release to more media outlets around 6 a.m. the next day.

It's now believed Tori likely died the same day she was taken, court documents suggest.

Police almost immediately faced a public backlash for not calling an Amber Alert, but said at the time, as they would come to repeat many more times in the ensuing weeks, that Tori's case did not fit the criteria.

 
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