A Phelps County jury is now hearing why Christopher Collings should get the
death penalty or life sentence for the killing of 9-year-old Rowan Ford.
Shortly before 9:30 p.m. Tuesday in Rolla, the jury found Collings guilty of
the 2007 abduction, rape and murder of the Stella, Missouri girl.
The jury spent about 4 hours deliberating. Collings could now face the death
penalty or life in prison.
The sentencing process began Wednesday at 10 a.m.
Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bock opened the day by telling jurors to,
"Dig down deep, because your will have a very serious decision to make."
Jurors then heard from Rowan Ford's mother and several of her teachers.
"From all of these witnesses you will hear Rowan grew up in a home that was
very poor," said Bock. "But, Rowan flourished at school."
The defense showed a chart of Collings' birth family, foster family, and
adoptive family. It stated that Collings had a "attachment disorder." It
pointed out the Collings was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and was
diagnosed with explosive mood and major depression.
Ford's mother Colleen (Spears) Munson, while on the stand, said "Rowan loved
dolls. Loved her bike." She added Rowan and her sister went to church two or
three times a week. She also said Collings helped Rowan with school work.
"I've had to fight to get life back," she said, fighting back tears. When asked
by a prosecutor about life after Rowan's death, she responded, "Not much of a
Tammy Marshall, Rowan's fourth grade teacher, also took the stand. She said
Rowan waited at the door to get into school.
"Rowan was sweet," she recalled. "One of those students people take notice of."
Marshall says students planted a Dogwood tree in Rowan's honor outside their
"I miss seeing her smiling face," she said. Not a single day goes by I don't
think of Rowan."
Todd Holt, another teach of Rowan's, took the stand. "Rowan was quiet. She was
shy. She was a charismatic little girl. A girl every teacher would hope for."
The prosecution and defense rested their cases Tuesday morning, followed by
closing arguments that began just after 3 p.m.
The jury began deliberating just after 5 p.m.
In their closing arguments, prosecutors -- including Bock -- walked jurors back
through the first seven days of the case day by day.
The defense, on the other hand, spent a lot of time asking jurors to consider
Christopher Collings' state of mind in the moments before he killed Rowan Ford.
There are 2 phases to this trial: this 1st phase to determine guilt or
innocence, and then the 2nd phase, which is the penalty phase. What happens in
the second phase will be determined by what jurors decide in this 1st phase.
The case was moved to Rolla on a change of venue from Barry County. After the
prosecution rested its case, Collings' lawyers made a motion for acquittal. The
judge rejected the motion, at which point the defense rested.
Defense lawyers decided not to call Collings to the stand to testify in his own
Ford's stepfather, David Spears, is also charged with the girl's murder.
Spears' trial is scheduled for later this year.