For Wheaton Police Chief Clint Clark, Thursday was a long and emotional day on the witness stand. Clark told jurors about the day a man he knew for 17 years confessed to the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl. When Ford went missing in November of 2007, Clark says Collings had sought him out on numerous occasions. Each time Clark met with him, he said Collings acted different -- like he had something he needed to get off his chest. After the two men agreed to talk near a bridge known as the Muncie bridge, Clark says Collings began to reveal details about the murder. “He said he pulled the blanket off of her and picked her up,” Clark said.
Clark testified that Collings told him he was drinking and smoking pot with Ford’s step-dad, David Spears, and another man the night she disappeared. Clark says Collings separated from the other men late that night. He says Collings purposefully sped to Spear’s home to take the girl while no one was there. Her mother was working an overnight shift stocking shelves at a nearby Wal-Mart.
The sleeping little girl was unaware of what would happen next. Clark says he asked Collings if Ford woke up when he brought her outside her home and into the cooler air. ‘He said ‘no I laid her in the front seat of my pickup and drove back over to my farm,’” Clark said. “He said he carried her in the trailer, didn't turn on the light and laid her on the bed. He said ‘then I had sex with her.’”
Clark testified after the rape Collings walked behind the girl to take her outside of his home. At that point in time, Collings reportedly thought Ford did not know the identity of her rapist. “He said Rowan looked up and back,” Clark said. “He said ‘she looked back at me and I thought she recognized me.’” That’s when Clark says Collings told him he grabbed a piece of “chicken house cord” and strangled Ford. “He made a motion like this and said ‘I pulled it tight,’” Clark said. “He went to the ground with her and pulled it tight. Then he said ‘I knew I had to get rid of her.’”
Investigators seized burned debris from two separate burn piles from Collings’ property. Clark says Collings admitted he burned some of Ford’s clothes, his bloody clothing and his mattress. Then Clark says Collings chose a McDonald County cave to hide her body. “He walked over to the cave and threw her in,” Clark said. “He motioned like this.” Clark says Collings then went back to his home. “He said he just starred at the ceiling until dawn,” Clark said.
Twelve jurors are still waiting to see a videotaped confession from Collings. On Thursday, prosecutors planned to show at least one of two taped confessions. Collings defense attorneys cross examined Clark for almost four and a half hours. They questioned how the men knew each other, details of the room Collings was interviewed in and Clark's previous depositions. Around 5:15 Thursday evening, the judge called a recess. Collings attorneys will continue their questioning of Clark Friday morning.
On Thursday afternoon, Collings attorneys did ask for a mistrial. They told the judge some of Clark’s testimony may have changed from previous depositions. After listening to about 45 minutes of arguments from both sides, the judge did not grant a mistrial.
If Collings is convicted of first degree murder, he could receive the death penalty. Collings attorneys want jurors to convict him of second degree murder which would remove the possibility of the death penalty. Court resumes at 8:30 Friday morning.