The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

September 26, 2012

Updated: Prosecutor explains plea-bargain deal in case stemming from Rowan Ford’s death

WAYNESVILLE, Mo. — Johnny Cox, Barry County Prosecutor, in a statement this morning, explained why first-degree murder, forcible rape and statutory rape charges were dismissed against David Spears following the 2007 death of Rowan Ford, of Stella.

Cox said that in the nearly five years the case has been pending, there has been no evidence to support David Spears’ confession.

In fact, he said all physical evidence has either failed to implicate Spears or the results were inconsistent with statements Spears made to Newton and Barry county investigators.

Evidence from the rape kit also did not implicate Spears, and more recent testing indicated the rapist had  had a vasectomy, which did not fit Spears.

Chris Collings, who already is facing the death penalty for his earlier conviction in Ford’s rape and murder, had had a vasectomy.

Collings has maintained, from his first statement to his final statement, that he acted alone in raping and strangling Ford, Cox noted.

“In David Spears’ trial, the state would be in a position to have to present David Spears’ statement and argue its validity,” Cox said. “This would put the state in a position of arguing inconsistent theories of who actually strangled Rowan Ford. The state would have to argue that both versions were true even if both could not be true.”

Cox explained that that type of strategy is prohibited by Missouri and federal courts, and can cause convictions to be overturned because it violates due process rights of defendants.

As part of a plea bargain, Spears — Ford’s stepfather — will plead guilty to child endangerment and hindering prosecution charges. He will receive a seven-year sentence on the child endangerment charge and a four-year sentence on the hindering prosecution charge.

The sentences will run consecutively.

The news came this morning before the start of a pre-trial conference at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Waynesville, Mo.



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