Collings' murder trial delayed again

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The trial of a Wheaton man accused of raping and murdering 9-year-old Rowan Ford has been delayed for a second time following hearings on Monday and Tuesday in Rolla.

Circuit Judge Mary Sheffield announced Tuesday that she was postponing the trial of Christopher Collings, 35, until April 2011. Collings' trial was scheduled to begin on Jan. 13, 2011.

Collings and David Spears, Ford's stepfather, are both charged with murder, forcible rape and statutory rape in connection with Ford's death in November 2007. Spears is scheduled to be tried in August by a jury in Waynesville. Both Spears and Collings were charged in Barry County but their trials were moved to different counties on a change of venue.

Collings' trial was delayed due to ongoing arguments made by defense attorneys that Collings' confession is not admissable in court. A hearing on that issue was held Monday, and Judge Sheffield took the matter under advisement.

Collings and Spears have been jailed since Nov. 9, 2007, one week after Ford was first reported missing and the day Ford's body was discovered in a sinkhole near Powell in McDonald County.

The actual rape and murder allegedly took place on the night of Nov. 2, 2007, in a trailer in Wheaton owned by Collings. Both Collings and Spears confessed to the crime, but there are conflicting statements in their confessions.

Collings said he took Ford from her home in Stella and brought her to his trailer in Wheaton where he raped her and then strangled her. He also admitted to disposing of Ford's body in a sinkhole.

Spears said he arrived at Collings' home to find Collings' raping his stepdaughter. Spears said he participated in the sexual assault and then strangled Ford. According to Spears' confession, he and Collings transported Ford's body to a cave.

Collings and Spears are being represented by the Missouri State Public Defenders Office. Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox will be assisted in the prosecution of the case by Elizabeth Bock, assistant attorney general for the state of Missouri.

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