Wed, April 15, 2009
A week after Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford disappeared, the case took a dark twist today as her mother's boyfriend lashed out at rumours the girl was snatched as part of a $20,000 drug debt.
Standing on the back porch of the Frances Street home he shares with eight-year-old Tori’s mother, Tara MacDonald, James Goris sought to dispel ugly stories filtering back to the couple.
"It is all lies — we do not owe anyone money. We hear a lot of stuff, it is all hearsay. This is a nightmare for us," he said. “We do not owe money. There is no reason for anyone to steal our little girl."
Goris, 31, appeared in court in Woodstock this week on a charge of possession of stolen property valued under $5,000.
It wasn’t Goris’s first experience with the justice system: He has a criminal record that stretches back to 2002, and has been convicted of drug possession and theft under $5,000.
Goris was also one of 16 men charged in connection with 2004 drug raids conducted by the OPP after a nine-month undercover investigation in Elgin and Oxford counties.
But Tara McDonald, Tori's mother, spoke out in defence of her boyfriend.
"I know my partner. I have been with him three years and I would not allow him around my child if he was a negative influence," said McDonald.
The mother said she’s convinced her daughter — the subject of an intense police and volunteer search, before authorities called off the ground search Monday — is no longer in Woodstock.
"The police have looked everywhere here. They have looked in homes," she said adding whomever took her "is not stupid enough to stay in her town."
Still, she insisted her daughter is safe, saying she "feels" it.
"We are confident of her return. I feel she is safe. I am the closest person to her and I feel she is safe somewhere.”
McDonald said the police have no new leads in the investigation, sparked last Wednesday when Victoria failed to return home from school.
So far, the only lead police have publicly revealed is a security video from a nearby high school, showing the little girl walking with an unidentified woman after she left her elementary school last Wednesday.
McDonald dismissed rumours her daughter has been in foster care. When she moved to her Frances Street home, Tori lived part time with McDonald's mother so she could stay at her school, but she was never in foster care, the mother said.
"People have to start concentrating on my daughter, not on my parenting skills. The message here is find my kid, don't worry about what my boyfriend was doing," said McDonald.
“This is not fair to us or Victoria — that is the bottom line. We are looking for Victoria."
Goris appeared in court Tuesday with co-accused, Kevin Pommer and Bill Serediak, on charges relating to a snowblower reported missing.
The trio are to return to court Monday.