The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 12, 2012

Rowan Ford murder trial underway

ROLLA, Mo. — Opening arguments in the Chris Collings trial began this morning after jury selection was completed.

Johnnie Cox, Barry County prosecutor, told jurors that Collings, 37, abducted Rowan Ford, 9, from her home in Stella on Nov. 2, 2007, drove her to his home east of Wheaton in Barry County and sexually assaulted her there.

Cox said Collings, who had lived at the girl’s home for a period that year and was familiar to her, was concerned that she not be able to recognize him as her assailant.

Cox said the girl had been asleep on the drive to Collings’ home and did not wake up until she had clothing removed from the lower half of her body and he began sexually assaulting her. The assault took place in the dark inside his trailer home, said the prosecutor. Cox told jurors that when Collings had finished assaulting her, he took the girl and started guiding her out of the house ahead of him so she could not see his face. But Collings told investigators in a series of confessions on Nov. 9, 2007, that the girl caught a glimpse of him while they were leaving and he decided that he would have to kill her. Cox told jurors that Collings then grabbed a piece of cord and put it around her neck and began strangling her.

 He said Collings told investigators that he then took the girl, drove about with her body in his truck before finally taking her to a sink hole in McDonald County known as Fox Cave and leaving her body there.

Janice Zembles, an attorney with the capital murder team with the state public defender’s office, told jurors that the issue at this trial will not be who killed Rowan Ford, that is not what is in question. She acknowledged that her client made four separate statements to investigators acknowledging his involvement with the crime, “We’re arguing about what his state of mind was. She said the defense is seeking a verdict of second-degree murder for Collings.

The panel of 16 jurors consists of 11 women and five men all from Platte County. Four are alternate jurors.

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