Murder, Rape Charges in Mo. Girl's Death

Prosecutors in Missouri filed rape and murder charges against two suspects in the disappearance and death of a 9-year-old girl -- including the child's stepfather.

Authorities in Barry County, Mo., charged Rowan Ford's stepfather, David Spears, 24, and his 32-year-old friend Chris Collings each with a single county of first-degree murder, forcible rape and statutory rape.

An affidavit alleges that both men raped the girl and one of the two strangled her with a cord.

Both were arrested Friday, the same day the body of Rowan Ford was found by a sheriff's deputy in a cave about 10 miles from her Stella, Mo., home. She had been missing for a week.

Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland told ABC News earlier in the week that Ford was last seen by David Spears, who told authorities that he saw the girl at 10:45 p.m. the previous Friday.

Spears then left the house with two friends until around midnight, during which time the fourth-grade girl was left alone in their unlocked Stella, Mo., home. Spears told investigators that he did not check on the girl before going to bed.

Investigators also learned -- and Spears acknowledged -- that he'd left the house for a second time early Saturday morning and was not there between 1:30 a.m. and about 7 a.m. During that time, Copeland said, Spears' mother was at the house while her son used her car. The woman told investigators that she did not check on her stepgranddaughter while her son was away from the house.

Where Spears was for more than five hours remains unknown. "We don't know," Copeland said. "We know where he said he went."

Spears has publicly maintained his innocence, but told ABC News' affiliate KSPR Thursday night that he had been brought into the Newton County sheriff's office for additional questioning.

Copeland described Ford's mother, Colleen Spears, as "very upset" and cooperative with the investigation. He also said that co-workers confirmed that she was at her job at Wal-Mart.

David Spears, he said, took a much different tack.

"The stepfather was uncooperative with us," Copeland said, adding that Spears has refused to speak with police any further until he consults with an attorney.

Jeff Lanza, a spokesman for the FBI's Kansas City field office, confirmed to ABC News that Ford's body was discovered around eight o'clock Friday morning.

The determination was made based on the girl's clothing, Lanza said, adding that authorities had been planning to search the area where the body was found today.

"I was told it was a cave," Lanza said, describing the area where the deputy found the body, private land about 10 miles south of the girl's hometown of Stella.

Earlier in the day, Janice Shaffer, Ford's older sister and a spokesman for the family, told ABC News that authorities had contacted them about the body.

"They just said a little girl was found," Shaffer said.

Colleen Spears had left for her night job at Wal-Mart about two hours earlier. When she arrived home from work Saturday morning, her daughter was not there to greet her, Copeland said.

"The mother worked nights, the dad worked days," Copeland said. "So he was home and he decides to go out drinking with the boys."

David Spears initially told his wife that he did not know where the girl was, the sheriff said. He later told her that Rowan may have woken him up during the night and said something about going to a friend's house, but he could not be sure, Copeland said.

There was no evidence of a crime scene at the home, Copeland said. Still, authorities said from the outset that they believed foul play was involved in the girl's disappearance.

"There's nothing natural or common about this 9-year-old female getting up from bed and leaving the house at night by herself," Copeland said. "There's no doubt in our mind that she was taken from the residence."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...