Man bound over for trial in SW Missouri girl's slaying, rape

Sunday, December 23, 2007

CASSVILLE, Mo. -- One of the men accused of raping and killing a 9-year-old southwest Missouri girl last month has been bound over for trial.

Chris Collings, 32, of Wheaton, was bound over for trial Friday after waiving his right to a preliminary hearing. He is charged with first-degree murder, forcible rape and statutory rape in the slaying of Rowan Ford of Stella.

His arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 22, according to electronic court records. He is being held without bond.

Rowan's stepfather, David Spears, 25, also is charged with first-degree murder, forcible rape and statutory rape in her death.

Collings waived his preliminary hearing after appearing before Judge Victor Head with his public defender, Clate Baker, said Barry County prosecutor Johnnie Cox. Collings' court appearance Friday was his first since his initial appearance Nov. 13, during which a judge entered not-guilty pleas for Collings and Spears.

Cox said Spears' case remains in Barry County Associate Court and his next hearing date has not yet been set.

If convicted of first-degree murder, the men could face death or life in prison, although prosecutors have not yet said if they will seek the death penalty.

Investigators think Rowan was abducted early Nov. 3 from her home in Stella in Newton County, murdered in Barry County, and her body disposed of in McDonald County. Her body was found in a hillside cave after a nearly weeklong search that involved the Newton County Sheriff's Department, the McDonald County Sheriff's Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the FBI.

Both Spears and Collings reportedly have confessed to rape and murder.

Rowan's mother, Colleen Spears, filed for divorce from David Spears on Nov. 27.

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