ROLLA, Mo. -- Now the long appeals process starts. A circuit judge followed the recommendation of a jury and sentenced Christopher Collings of Washburn to death for the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in Barry County more than four years ago.
Collings killed Rowan Ford, the stepdaughter of a friend, at Collings' home in November 2007. Rowan disappeared from her home in Stella in McDonald County. Her body turned up a week later in a cave or sinkhole in McDonald County.
Collings and David Spears, Rowan's stepfather, were charged with taking her from her home to Collings' home, raping her, and strangling her so she wouldn't tell anyone about the rape. Collings told detectives twice that he alone killed Rowan, although Spears was there.
Because of extensive publicity, the trials of both men were moved out of Barry County. Collings first trial in Rolla was a mistrial because the judge and the attorneys couldn't find enough potential jurors who hadn't formed an opinion about the case. That's why a jury for the second trial was selected in Platte County, north of Kansas City, and brought to Rolla, where it was sequestered during the two-week trial in July.
Despite Collings' confessions, his attorneys tried to avoid the death penalty by arguing Collings was guilty of second-degree murder, not first-degree murder. Their arguments were that the murder was done on the spur of the moment, not premeditated.
After hearing arguments on motions for a new trial from defense attorneys, Circuit Judge Mary Sheffield followed the jury's recommendation and handed down a death penalty. Collings remained unemotional during the hearing. Unlike in the trial when he wore a beard and street clothes, he was clean shaven and in a jail uniform on Friday.
Spears is scheduled to be tried in November in Waynesville, with jury selection starting in late October in the Kansas City area.