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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Murder trial ends with a mistrial

Monday, April 25, 2011

ROLLA----The murder trial of Christopher Collings came to an unexpected end on Saturday when Phelps County Circuit Judge Mary Sheffield declared a mistrial after three and a half days of jury selection.

According to Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox, the mistrial occurred because there was not a large enough jury pool to select a jury.

Initially, around 300 people were called up for jury duty. When jury selection began last Wednesday after a two week delay, just over 175 people showed up to court. Of that number, over half were disqualified due to hardship or publicity (prior knowledge of the murder case), Cox said.

In the death qualification portion of the jury selection process, more jurors were disqualified until finally the judge was forced to declare a mistrial. Cox said a new trial date for Collings will be set in the coming weeks.

Collings, 35, of Wheaton, is charged with first degree murder, forcible rape and statutory rape in connection with the death of 9-year-old Rowan Ford, of Stella, in November 2007. Collings confessed to the crime on the day that Ford's body was found in a sinkhole near Powell in McDonald County. He said he took Ford from her home in Stella and then raped and strangled her in his trailer in Wheaton.

Ford's stepfather, David Spears, has also been charged with his stepdaughter's rape and murder. Spears' trial is scheduled to begin in August at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Waynesville on a change of venue.

Both Collings and Spears are facing the death penalty.

The case against both men is being prosecuted by Cox and Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bock. Spears and Collings are represented by the Missouri State Public Defenders Office.

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