WOODSTOCK, Ont. - The family of little Tori Stafford expressed a sense of relief Monday that the remains of the eight-year-old girl abducted 3 1/2 months ago have most likely been found by police.
The girl's aunt told a news conference Monday that the discovery of a child's decomposed remains in Mount Forest, a 90-minute drive from Tori's Woodstock, Ont., home would prevent a lifetime of wondering if she was still alive.
Rebecca Stafford says hope for the safe return of the girl she called their "sweetheart" has finally dissolved.
She said the family girded for the worst when they were called by police Sunday night, but tried to take solace in resolution if they were told her body had been found.
"Our mentality going in was regardless of what they had to share, it would be positive because even though it's not the ending we were hoping for, we're not going to be spending a lifetime wondering," Stafford said.
"We're not going to be looking in every car, in every backseat that we drive by, in every window of every house we drive by, we're not going to be wondering if Victoria is in there. So, yes, there is a sense of relief."
She said the family hadn't given up hope even after two people were charged.
"We've said all along until we had her physical being we would not speculate on her spirtual being," she said.
Tori's father, Rodney, said news that the extensive police search of the fields, rivers and woods of rural Ontario had finally yielded a body was not what the family was hoping to hear.
"Out of the scenarios we came up with, it was the worst of the possibilities," he said.
He said if the remains are confirmed to be those of Tori following examination at Toronto's Centre of Forensic Sciences there will be a private family funeral, and that will give him peace.
He said he will say his own personal goodbye at the top of an Alberta mountain after a bike ride across Canada in honour of his slain daughter.
He will delay his Aug. 2 departure date for the 3,400-kilometre ride if the funeral has not been held by that date.
The ride is intended to raise money for Child Find Ontario, a group that works to find and protect missing children.
Rodney Stafford said he hopes he can help other families in similar circumstances through his fundraising.
Acting Oxford Community police Chief Rod Freeman said evidence at the scene showed the remains had been exposed to the elements for many weeks.
Freeman said the remains were found at about noon on Sunday by a member of the police team searching for the girl's body.
"One of the investigators tied in with the Stafford case checked an area southeast of Mount Forest and located what they found to be possible human remains," said Const. Mark Cloes.
Tori was last seen leaving her school with a woman in the southwestern Ontario community of Woodstock on April 8.
The girl's disappearance captured the attention of Canadians coast to coast.
Hearts went out to the parents, who often appeared on television appealing for their young daughter's safe return.