November 16th, 2007
Colleen Spears told investigators that she last saw her daughter at 8:30 p.m. on November 2. Rowan, she said, was getting ready for bed as Colleen headed off to her night shift job at Walmart in Jane, MO, approximately 25 miles away.
Colleen, investigators report, returned home 12.5 hours later, at approximately 9:00 a.m. to discover Rowan missing. The Joplin Globe’s report on November 4th includes the following information from Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland:
The mother then woke up the stepfather, and he told her he did not know where the girl was, the sheriff said. The stepfather later told the mother that Rowan might have half-awakened him during the night and mentioned something about going to a friend’s place, but he could not be certain because he is a sound sleeper, the sheriff said.
Copeland said the house apparently was left unlocked throughout the night. He said the Spearses spent the better part of Saturday looking for Rowan at various acquaintances’ places in the Stella area before reporting her missing to the Sheriff’s Department at 6:50 p.m.
On November 5th, the Neosha Daily News reported:
Colleen started calling Rowan’s friends around 10 a.m. Colleen said Rowan likes to ride her bike, but the bike was still at the house. Not finding her daughter, Colleen started searching around 4:30 or 5 p.m. Saturday.
“I drove up here and then down, then I walked around to see if she was playing with anyone,” said Colleen. “I already had torn the house apart.”
Yet, somewhere between discovering that Rowan was missing, tearing “the house apart”, and finally calling police, Colleen Spears sat down at her computer and logged onto her MySpace page, where she listed her mood as “mellow”, complete with a happy, yawning smiley. She may have also written a post entitled “Daughters” on that day, although that can’t be verified because the post is set to private and its date is not listed.
What is not private are the friends on Colleen Spear’s MySpace page. Her oldest daughter Ariane is listed, Ariane’s half-sister *Brittany is not. There are several paranormal entities listed, such as the “Joplin Paranormal Research Society” and “Ghost Hunters of the Ozarks.” However, the first two friends occupying Spear’s list are none other than Chris Collings and husband David Spears** — the two men who have now admitted to the torture and killing of Spear’s nine year-old daughter Rowan Ford.
While David Spears MySpace page is not accessible to the public***, showing only that the 370 pound, 24-25 year old (Spears lists his age as 25; press reports say he’s 24), man last logged into his account on November 1, the 6′8″, 32 year-old Collings profile is available +, showing a proclivity towards pentagram-wearing demons, pornography, and drugs. Collings last logged into his account on November 2, the day before he brutally raped Rowan Ford. Disturbingly, Collings list his mood on that day as “horny.”
There are many rumors floating around the internet, some of them appearing to have started on a blog called The Dreamin’ Demon, by commenters who claim to have detailed knowledge of the family outside of what has been reported in the press. One of the most disturbing allegations being made is that Colleen Spear’s older daughter had previously informed her mother of being sexually abused by Collings, and left home when Spear’s did not believe her.
Whether that accusation is founded in fact remains to be seen as this tragic story unfolds, but it is clear through her listed Mississippi location and a message left by Ariane on her mother’s MySpace page that she did not live with Colleen. “hey mommy,” Ariane’s October 4, 2007 message says, “i love you and miss you soo much i tried to call but the phone is turned off i hope i can talk to u very soon give my love too u guys ttyl bye bye kiss kiss tell rowan i love her and i miss her very much as well”.
Ariane is, according to her MySpace page, an eighteen year-old high school student, with a (now seems to be ex) Mississippi boyfriend who goes by the screen name Kage, with whom she publicly shared a lover’s dialogue. Ariane lists her primary goal as “getting the fuck out” of her parent’s house, however that goal seemed to have been arrived at when she still lived in Stella, MO with her mother.
The comments section of Ariane’s page also contains a snarling wolf graphic left by Colleen on September 5, 2007 and a blatantly sexual message from her 17 year old sister Brittany left a couple of weeks earlier:
hey sexy thing, how is it going down there, between your legs.. uh oh I see cum…
Ariane logged into her MySpace page yesterday, dedicating her page to her deceased sister Rowan, and listing her mood, appropriately, as “crappy.” She also removed a previous message left for her by Chris Collings, which was a graphic of a skull with fire coming out of its eye sockets.
Rowan’s body was discovered just after daybreak on November 9th in a sink hole, estimated to be about forty feet deep. It took rescuers approximately seven hours to extricate her tiny 3′11″ body.
Sometime during the same day Rowan’s body was discovered, her sister * Brittany logged onto her almost empty, pink MySpace page decorated with black skulls, listing her mood as “happy.” There are only two comments on Brittany’s blog, both from her sister Ariane. The latest one, in September, reads: “hey my sexy thing how r ya well i will see u and talk to you tommorrow at school love ya sis”.
Many teenagers, especially on the internet, play with sexuality and innuendo. At least, it’s not uncommon. However, the comments left by Brittany and Ariane seem to stretch even the wide boundaries afforded to teenagers on the internet, and further begs the question of past sexual abuse. Promiscuity, lack of boundaries, and inappropriate sexuality are listed as among the symptoms some victims of childhood molestation and rape may carry.
Other questions that linger in the aftermath of young Rowan’s murder include the time frame that Colleen Spear’s gave investigators. How long was her shift at Walmart? How involved was her search for Rowan, when after she discovered her child missing she jumped online to post on MySpace? Why did it take Colleen nine hours after she arrived home to report Rowan missing? Why was it not until “4:30 or 5 p.m.” that Colleen initiated a search outside the home?
As for David Spears, I would like to ask why his mother agreed, at 1:00 a.m., to drive over to Spear’s residence and hand her supposedly drunk son the keys to her SUV. I would like to ask why, not even once, she didn’t peak into Rowan’s room.
I would also like to ask whether other rumors coming out of Stella, MO are true. Did Rowan often go to sleep in the back of her mother’s car instead of in her bed? Did she arrive at church and school early to avoid Spears in the morning, as some are claiming? What is the story behind Colleen saying Rowan often slept on the floor with a heating pad because her “knees hurt”, as an explanation for the fact that Rowan’s bed did not look slept in? Was Rowan sexually abused by Spears, Collings, and others prior to the night of her murder? Collings is divorced and has two daughters living in another state. Did Collings abuse them?
In a chilling probable cause affadivit, Chief Deputy Chris Jennings, after interviewing David Spears, states:
David Spears provided that he arrived at the above-listed location and observed Collings sexually assaulting the child in the home. Spears decribed how he pulled his pants down, got on top of Rowan Ford, and sexually penetrated the child. David Spears continued to state that after he sexually assaulted Rowan Ford, he took a cord and wrapped it around the child’s neck. David Spears provided that he stood directly over the child, facing her, and wrapped the curtain cord around her neck, choking her.
David Spears, according to reports, was introduced into Rowan’s life when she was six years old. Twenty years younger than Colleen, he is reported to have a biological daughter from a previous relationship. It is not known at this time whether he had contact with that child.
The full probable cause affadavit can be read here, at the Joplin Globe.
I am confident that the Missouri justice system will ensure that neither Spears nor Collings see freedom again. Even though a lifetime spent behind bars or a decade or more on death row is a justice that seems to fall short, I have no doubt that these two confessed child rapists and killers will never be given the opportunity to end the life of another child.
The larger question now is what can we, as a society and as individuals, learn from this tragedy? And if there are lessons, have we learned them before? Are acts as depraved as those perpetrated against Rowan Ford preventable? If they are, how and why did the concept of prevention fail? Who, besides the perpetrators, failed to protect Rowan Ford’s life, and why?
As more details about this family and the crime against Rowan become known, I hope that society will not only lament the tragic loss of an innocent child, but also make further attempts, with strengthened resolved, to find methods and solutions to prevent crimes like this in the future.
Beyond mourning and outrage, the greatest gift we can give in honor of Rowan Ford, and other child victims, is our active and steadfast interest in education and prevention, no matter what it costs or what it takes.
Social Services reports on Rowan Ford Family
*While Ariane and Brittany appear to be sisters, Brittany is not listed as a relative in Rowan Ford’s obituary, and is therefore probably not blood-related to Colleen.
**Colleen Spears logged into MySpace again on 11/19, and removed both Collings and Spears from her page.
***Although David Spears is in jail, someone has deleted his MySpace account since this article was originally written.
+ The MySpace page for Chris Collings has now been deleted.