Christopher Collings was sentenced to death this morning for the November 2007 murder of 9-year-old Rowan Ford. Phelps County Circuit Court Judge Mary Sheffield pronounced Collings' sentence, marking the end of a four and a half year legal battle.
In March, a jury from Platte County found Collings, 37, of Wheaton, guilty of murder in the first degree. The jury members recommended Collings receive the death penalty for his crimes after hearing victim impact testimony during the penalty phase of the 11-day trial, which was held in Rolla on a change of venue from Barry County. The case was prosecuted by Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox and Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bock.
Key testimony for the prosecution included Collings' videotaped testimony. During the interview, Collings confessed that he kidnapped a sleeping Rowan Ford from her home in Stella and drove her to his trailer in Wheaton. There, Collings said he raped the 9-year-old stepdaughter of his friend, David Spears, and then strangled her with a rope after fearing Rowan could identify him.
Collings then told officers he dumped Rowan's dead body in Fox Cave near Powell and returned to his trailer where he proceeded to burn items of evidence, including his clothes and a mattress, which he said both had blood on them.
Spears was also charged with the rape and murder of Rowan after he confessed to McDonald County officers on the same night Collings was admitting to the crime in Barry County.
Collings has staunchly denied that Spears was involved in the crime.
Spears is scheduled to stand trial for capital murder in Pulaski County in November. Cox and Bock will also be prosecuting that case.