Murder confessions allowed as evidence

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The judges who will be presiding over the murder trials of David Spears and Christopher Collings issued orders last week denying the defenses' motions to suppress the two men's confessions. Spears and Collings are accused of raping and murdering 9-year-old, Rowan Ford, in November 2007 at Collings' trailer in Wheaton.

A series of pre-trial hearings have been held in recent months to determine whether or not Spear's audiotaped statement and Collings' videotaped statements were admissable in court. Defense attorneys want the confessions thrown out, claiming the men were tricked or intimidated into confessing. The prosecution argued that the statements was given voluntarily and with a clear understanding of the defendants' Miranda rights.

According to Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox, Pulaski County Judge Tracy L. Story denied the defense's motion to suppress Spears' statement, and Phelps County Judge Mary W. Sheffield denied motions to suppress Collings' statement as well as to suppress searches of Collings' property.

"The court has ruled their statements to police are admissable and the search of Collings' property and the evidence found there during the search is also admissable," explained Cox. "This means we can introduce this evidence at trial."

In Judge Sheffield's order, she concluded that Collings was advised of his Miranda warnings prior to his videotapped interviews on Nov. 9, 2007, at the Barry County Sheriff's Department and that the interviews were "not coercive in nature." Judge Story came to a similar conclusion after reviewing Spears' audiotaped interview. In these interviews, both men confessed to raping and murdering Ford.

Judge Sheffield's order also upheld the process by which law enforcement officers searched Collings' property and obtained DNA swabs from the defendant. "The Court finds that the defendant freely, voluntarily and knowlingly granted consent to Deputy Evenson and the Barry County Sheriff's Department to conduct a search of the property that he (Collings) resided on Nov. 9," the order reads.0.

As a result of the prolonged court proceedings, Spears trial has been postponed until August.

Collings and Spears have both been charged with first degree murder, forcible rape and statutory rape in connection with Ford's death.

The men were arrested on 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 on the day they were arrested, 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.

Cox is seeking the death penalty against both Collings and Spears.

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