High profile murder case moved to Pulaski County

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The fate of accused murderer David Wesley Spears will not be decided by a Barry County jury. On Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Robert Wiley granted the defense's motion for a change of venue.

Judge Wiley ruled that Spears' trial would be moved 150 miles away to the Pulaski County Courthouse in Waynesville. Spears' motion was presented to the judge by Cynthia Bryden and Sharon Terlington with the Missouri State Public Defenders Office, who are now representing the 25-year-old man from Stella.

Both attorneys for the defense and the prosecution agreed to the change of venue request. Spears was not present in the courtroom on Tuesday.

Spears is charged with raping and murdering his 9-year-old stepdaughter, Rowan Ford, at a trailer house in Wheaton owned by his friend, Christopher Collings, 32, who also stands charged with first degree murder, forcible rape and statutory sodomy.

Collings' attorneys were unable to appear in court on Tuesday due to a conflicting trial, and Collings' case was set for reappearance on Aug. 18.

In May, Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox announced his intention to seek the death penalty against Spears and Collings. Cox is being assisted in the prosecution of the case by Elizabeth Bock with the State Attorney General's Office.

Both Spears and Collings continue to be held in the Barry County Jail without bond. The two men have been behind bars since their arrest on Nov. 9, 2007.

Initially, Rowan Ford was reported missing and area law enforcement officers and FBI officers searched areas of Newton, Barry and McDonald counties for seven days before discovering her dead and half-naked body in a sink hole near Powell.

Soon after, Spears and Collings both confessed to raping and strangling the little girl in a mobile home near Wheaton. Their confessions contain conflicting stories about the details of Rowan's death and disposal of her body that will remain unanswered until the cases go to trial.

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