Saturday, April 18, 2009

Family, public keep faith in Tori search

Sat, April 18, 2009

London Free Press

WOODSTOCK — At the same local high school where a surveillance camera caught the last known image of a missing girl, her family gathered yesterday in a public show of faith.

Dozens of people joined Victoria (Tori) Stafford’s loved ones yesterday afternoon in a symbolic walk along the track at College Avenue Secondary School — a stone’s throw from where the girl, 8, was seen walking with a mystery woman April 8.

“Tori was last seen, on surveillance, walking past (this school),” organizer Shanon Scurr, who doesn’t know Tori or her family, said in explaining the idea behind the event. “(So) let’s do a walk to walk her home safe.”

Though the turnout was nowhere near a rally that last weekend drew about 600, it was the gesture — not the crowd’s size — that mattered to Rodney Stafford, Tori’s dad.

“It could be me and two other people walking around the track. At least I would know there’s two other people out there with me,” he told reporters yesterday.

“That’s all the comfort I need.”

The effort was clearly appreciated — and the support no doubt needed, 11 days after the hunt for Tori began.

As if a nearly two-week investigation into her daughter’s abduction wasn’t stressful enough, Tara McDonald was already facing personal pain.

Her stepfather died suddenly little more than a month ago and it’s been only about nine months since her brother, Scott McDonald, died. He would have turned 44 yesterday.

“She’s unbelievably strong,” McDonald’s boyfriend, James Goris, said.

The police ground search for evidence, called off by Oxford police last Monday, resumed in earnest yesterday under the guidance of OPP Det.-Insp. Bill Renton, the new case manager. He joined the investigation Wednesday.

No progress was announced in the case yesterday, though the families remain unwavering in their belief they will see their little girl again.

“Hope will never fade for me,” her father said. “I’ll always be searching.”

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