Jury selection is scheduled to begin Thursday in the murder trial of Christopher Collings, 35, of Wheaton.
Collings stands charged with first degree murder, forcible rape and statutory rape for the Nov. 2, 2007, death of 9-year-old Rowan Ford, of Stella.
Collings' trial is being held at the Phelps County Courthouse in Rolla on a change of venue from Barry County. Judge Mary W. Sheffield will preside over the trial with three weeks set aside for the court proceedings.
The case is being prosecuted by Barry County Prosecuting Attorney Johnnie Cox and Elizabeth Bock, assistant attorney general for the state of Missouri. Collings is being represented by the State Public Defenders Office.
Collings has been in jail since his arrest 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 rape and murder of the young girl allegedly took place on the night of Nov. 2, 2007, in a trailer in Wheaton owned by Collings. Collings confessed to the crime, telling law enforcement officers 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.
David Spears, Ford's stepfather, was also arrested and charged with Ford's rape and murder. He confessed to arriving at Collings' home to find his friend 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.
Spears will be tried in Pulaski County in Waynesville on a change of venue. His trial is scheduled to begin in August.
The prosecution is seeking the death penalty against both Collings and Spears.