WOODSTOCK, Ont. - After six weeks of restless nights and days consumed by the search for his "baby girl," tears streamed down Rodney Stafford's face as police announced Wednesday that the effort to bring eight-year-old Victoria home safely had become a grim search for her body.
Stafford stared at the television set in his sister Randi Millen's home, almost in disbelief that tireless efforts to keep Victoria's disappearance in the news had come to such a tragic end - abduction and murder charges laid against two people.
Court documents suggest that even before the massive volunteer searches and candlelight vigils, and before her smiling, innocent face was beamed into homes nationwide, the Grade 3 student, known as Tori to friends and family, was already dead.
Tori's 11-year-old brother, Daryn, was taking the news particularly hard, Stafford said.
"His first reaction was: 'So does this mean that I do not get to hang out with my sister anymore? I don't get to see her anymore?"' Stafford said.
Emotions were raw at the courthouse were Michael Thomas C. S. Rafferty, 28, was arraigned on a first-degree murder charge and abducting a child under 16.
One of Tori's uncles lunged at Rafferty and spat out an expletive as the accused was led out by police.
Also arraigned before the court was Terri-Lynne McClintic, 18, who is charged with abduction, and being an accessory for allegedly helping Rafferty elude authorities.
Rafferty and McClintic next appear in court May 28.
The charge sheet alleges the girl was killed on or around April 8, the day she went missing outside her school.
Ontario Provincial Police Det.-Insp. William Renton said McClintic "may be familiar" with Tori's mother, Tara McDonald, but he wouldn't say how the two know each other.
Stafford said he believed the two, who lived only blocks apart, were acquainted through wanting to breed dogs.
"It's my understanding Tara was wanting to breed her dog with Terri-Lynne's mom's dog, something like that," he said.
A source told The Canadian Press that McDonald used to buy Oxycontin from McClintic.
McDonald has admitted to using the narcotic in the past, but has said that she had recently stopped.
A grainy surveillance tape released by police early in the investigation showed Tori being led away by a woman in a white puffy coat the day she went missing.
Community and volunteer efforts to find the girl were extensive. The small community of about 35,000 was plastered with flyers, thousands attended the first of many candlelight vigils and kept hope alive that Tori would soon return home safe and sound.
Oxford Community Police Chief Ron Fraser said Wednesday he had no words of comfort.
"This is certainly not the end that anyone was hoping for," he said.
"There are no consoling words to offer or profound words of wisdom that can make this news easy for anyone to accept."
Fraser said he hoped the courts would be able to answer the hundreds of questions still remaining, including "why someone would take the life of a beautiful young lady."
Police will work tirelessly until they locate Victoria's "resting place," Renton said.
Although Renton would not say where police search efforts would lead them, recovery efforts were apparently underway in a rural area outside of Guelph, known as Rockwood, about an hour east of Woodstock.
As a police helicopter spent the afternoon criss-crossing a region marked with farmers' fields, ponds and wooded areas for Tori's body, her accused abductors appeared in court.
Rafferty cried during the proceeding, while McClintic, a stocky brunette whose hair was tied in cornrows for her court appearance, was more stoic.
Reached at a home in Woodstock, a woman who identified herself as McClintic's grandmother sobbed as she said she was estranged from the woman's mother Carol and her grandchildren.
"(Carol) was a stripper and she knew the wrong people and she wasn't treating Terri-Lynne right."
Rafferty's neighbours said he either lived with his mother or his parents. People in the surrounding houses didn't know them well, with most saying they kept to themselves.
Aaron Mabey, 20, lives next door and said he saw several police officers outside the house Tuesday night around 11 p.m.
He helped search for Tori in the early days of her disappearance, and said it makes him feel physically ill to know the suspect lived right next door.
Jen Burchat who lives a few doors down from the Rafferty house said she's shaken because she let her children play outside the home.
"(I'm) shocked that it could happen so close to home," said Burchat, a mother of four who runs a daycare out of her home.
A profile on an online dating website bearing Rafferty's name and photo also included a posting under a section entitled "about me."
"I am one of the good guys," the posting reads. "I want someone to spend the rest of my life with and someone who I can make happier then they have ever been."
When she was in her early teens, McClintic lived in Parry Sound, Ont., and played on a girl's hockey team.
"She was a good hockey player and she always seemed really nice and easy going," said Brittany Trudeau, who was assistant coach for the Phantom Bantam hockey team in 2005.
In his sister's home, Stafford watched in anger as police mentioned the names of the suspects, but his anger turned to grief when his daughter's picture flashed on the screen and he couldn't hold back his tears any longer.
Stafford said the family is helping Daryn cope by keeping him occupied with activities such as paintballing.
After her daughter had been missing for some time, McDonald began holding daily news conferences to keep the story in the media spotlight and, on a number of occasions, vigorously denied rumours swirling in the community, including one that her daughter was kidnapped over a drug debt.
At one point McDonald was confronted with the allegation that she looked like the woman in a composite sketch released by police - a suggestion she called laughable.
On Wednesday she largely kept to the home she shares with her boyfriend James Goris and Daryn and where Tori lived as well. Her mother was briefly outside the home, carrying a puppy she said she had bought for Tori. But now that she knows her granddaughter won't be coming home to greet the puppy, she said she has named it Victoria.
Tori's paternal grandmother, Doreen Graichen, watched the police news conference with Rodney Stafford, her son, and her jaw dropped open in shock as police talked of an acquaintance between McClintic and McDonald and buried her head in her hands.
"For the past 40 days you feel like you die inside every day," she said later. "Now it's just heartwrenching, hurtful, nauseating and I just don't want to believe any of it."
Although her granddaughter was likely already dead when she attended candlelight vigils and balloon launches, Graichen is still grateful for the community support.
She also said she is glad about the arrests, but "it doesn't bring my granddaughter back."
When Rafferty was led out of the courthouse in handcuffs, his shirt pulled over his head, Tori's uncle Rob Stafford broke through the waiting media, took a step toward Rafferty and shouted the expletive at him. Stafford was held back by police.
Later he said all the emotions of the past six weeks just came to a head when he saw Rafferty.
His younger brother Rodney Stafford said on one hand he's glad his brother's outburst didn't go any further, but on the other hand he wishes his brother had gotten a crack at the man accused of killing Tori.
The relationship between the two accused was unclear, and police would not elaborate.
For the past six weeks, police remained tight-lipped about the investigation, but McDonald's daily briefings revealed a number of strange twists in the case. McDonald accepted a ride in a limousine to meet a mysterious benefactor in a Toronto hotel who offered to pay any ransom demand. The family also sought the help of a psychic.
Family members, including McDonald and Stafford, also spoke openly about having taken lie-detector tests.
The principal and a team of traumatic events counsellors delivered the tragic news to students class by class Wednesday morning at Oliver Stephens Public School, where Tori was a student.
A letter was also sent home to parents and they were invited to take their children home if they desired.
"Everyone's very upset," said Bill Tucker, director of education for the Thames Valley District School Board, adding counsellors will remain at the school as long as necessary.
"As a school, both staff and students, we've just been rocked to the core of our very being with this."