Christopher l. "Chris" Collings (mug shot BCSO)

Jury selection is scheduled to begin tomorrow for a man accused of raping and killing nine year-old Rowan Ford in November of 2007.

Barry County prosecutor Johnnie Cox says Christopher Leroy Collings, 35, kidnapped the girl from her bedroom in Newton County and took her to his trailer in Barry County where he and Rowan's stepfather, David Spears, raped and killed the child.

[rowanford.jpg]
Rowan Ford was just 9 years-old when she was murdered
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Spears told investigators that when he left his home on November 3, 2007, the little girl was asleep in her bed. Spears' mother, who was "babysitting" the little girl, told authorities she didn't check on Rowan at all during the seven hours she was at the house.

David Spears (mug shot BCSO)

Several days after Rowan went missing her body was found in a sinkhole in rural McDonald County by a sheriff's deputy who followed a hunch on his way to work.  Before the little girl's body was found, Spears tearfully appealed for the return of his stepdaughter to several news outlets.

In the probable cause statements filed against Spears and Collings, each of them claimed responsibility for Rowan Fords murder. One of them said that the little girl was killed inside of Collings trailer --the other said Ford was tied to a fence that held goats outside the trailer and murdered there.

Collings trailer where Rowan Ford was allegedly murdered

In the nearly three and a half years since Ford's murder there have been numerous motion hearings and changes of venue for each of the suspected killers.

Collings underwent a mental evaluation in 2010 and lawyers for both men say their clients rights were violated when private phone calls between them and their clients were taped while they were being held in the Barry County jail.  Lawyers also wanted taped confessions from the men thrown out.

Before jury selection begins tomorrow in Phelps County (where Collings' trial was moved,) Judge Mary Sheffield will rule on a motion by defense attorney's to either continue the trial or take the death penalty off the table.  It also appears that defense attorney's have requested that another jury decide the punishment for Collings.

Cox says he it will take at least a week to seat a jury and believes jurors will begin to hear testimony on April 17th.

Spears' trial is scheduled to be held in Pulaski County later this year.

UPDATE--

Judge Sheffield has denied the defense's request that separate juries.  Defense attorney's wanted one jury to hear trial testimony and another to render punishment.

Judge Sheffield also granted a continuance.  The trial is now scheduled to begin on April 20th.

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