Thursday, April 7, 2011
Community Remembers Rowan Ford on Eve of Murder Trial
Reported by: Jennifer Denman
Wednesday, April 06 2011
(Stella, MO) -- Nearly four years ago, a small southwest Missouri community was paralyzed by the murder of a little girl.
Nine-year-old Rowan Rord was raped and murdered in November 2007.
Her stepfather, David Spears, and his friend Chris Collings, are charged with her murder. Both men face the death penalty.
Jury selection for the trial of Chris Collings begins Thursday morning, causing horrific memories of that crime to flood back to the small village of Stella.
The winding roads of Newton County lead you to the small village. Fewer than 200 people live there.
The seasons change and the memories fade, but one will never leave.
"There is not a day that we don't have Rowan in our hearts," says Tracy Welch, principal of Triway Elementary School.
Welch remembers the 9-year-old well.
"She always had a smile. She was always happy."
For welch and others in Stella, just as easy as it is to remember her smile, their minds drift to the sorrow they experienced in November 2007.
"She's a little girl," adds Welch. "Bad things aren't supposed to happen to little girls."
"It was like it was yesterday," says Alicia Blevins, Rowan's neighbor. "To everyone else life goes on, but to us neighbors who look at the house -- my front door faces her front door -- you look at the house and remember and the pain and the things that child went through."
Blevins is talking about the home where Rowan lived. Now it has new owners. Of course, everyone remembers when it became the focus of Stella.
It was a Saturday, just after Halloween. Questions turned to panic after Rowan, who often toured the town on her bike, didn't come home.
"All the town came together," says Blevins. "We searched and searched."
Officers from across the region searched --even the FBI. Chris Collings and Rowan's stepfather David Spears joined in.
Spears gave a tear-filled interview with a plea for his stepdaughter's safe recovery.
But after a week of searching, a tip led a deputy to a hidden cave in a neighboring county. Inside, he found little Rowan dead, stuffed into the bottom.
Collings and Spears found themselves behind bars. Police say both offered up taped confessions. In just a week, Stella had lost its innocence.
"It's been real hard for Stella to comprehend that," says Blevins.
Many of the people who in Stella back in 2007 have since moved away, but there are little reminders of Rowan like a brick in the veterans memorial. Also, at her elementary school, where her classmates planted a tree in her memory and left a plaque.
"It was gut-wrenching thing back three-and-a-half, four years ago," says Bill Alsop, mayor of Stella. "It's just as bad standing here today."
You could say Alsop has helped to hold the community together while at the same time remembering his little friend.
"She'd come into the store every morning at six. She'd come up behind me and claw me"
And now with the trial of Chris Collings beginning, it's what they know that could make the difference on the stand.
"There's some people that I know have been subpoenaed that I don't want to go because they don't want to go through the memories and that's heartbreaking," adds Alsop.
"She has done more to pull this community together and to help everybody learn to appreciate each other," says Welch.
"She's there in the clouds," says Blevins. "Eagles fly by she's there. We remember Rowan."
A jury will take up to three weeks to recommend a verdict.
But beyond the gavel, there will always be a grave site. Standing beside it will always be those who loved that little girl.
As far as those taped confessions go, they've remained contentious points of pre-trial hearings. Ultimately, a judge is allowing that confession to be a part of his trial.
Before jury selection begins Thursday, the judge will rule on a recent motion filed by the defense to take the death penalty off the table.
KOLR/KSFX will be in the courtroom and we will be following this trial for the next three weeks.
Ford's mother could also be called to testify in this trial.
What a great tragedy...
Poor little angel...
I hope that these two bastards will receive a death sentence and will burn in Hell