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Rowan Ford
Born in California
9 years
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Life story
April 11, 1998
Born in California San Diego on April 11, 1998.
November 9, 2007
Passed away on November 9, 2007.
November 14, 2007
Obituaries   Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rowan Damia Ford

 


Published: Sunday, November 11, 2007 1:08 AM CST
 

Rowan Damia Ford, 9, was pronounced dead Friday, Nov. 9, 2007.

She was born April 11, 1998 in San Diego, Calif. Rowan was a fourth grade student at Triway Elementary. She attended Stella Baptist Church, where she was active in Sunday School, Wednesday night Team Kid and Angel Food Ministries.

Rowan is survived by her mother, Colleen; two brothers, James McLeod, of the state of Illinois. and Robert McLeod, of the state of Washington.; two sisters, Janice Shaffer and husband, Adam, of the state of Florida, and Ariane Parsons, of the state of Mississippi.; five aunts, Barbara Colligan, of the state of Florida., Joyce Durbin, of the state of Michigan., Donna Pullen, of the state of Michigan., Alisha Kelly, of Missouri., and Carletta Letts, of Missouri.; one uncle, Harvey Pullen, of the state of Michigan; a niece, Mackenzie, and a nephew, Shaun.

She was preceded in death by her maternal grandparents, Robert and Grace Munson.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m., Wednesday, at Gospel Lighthouse Church, Neosho, with Rev. Glenn Ennis and Steve Moser officiating. Burial will follow at Macedonia Cemetery, Stella.

Serving as pallbearers will be Robert McLeod, James McLeod, Adam Shaffer, Carson Beets, Gerald Counts, and Ralph Jennings. Bill Alsop and Robert McLeod will serve as honorary pallbearers.

 
 

Friends mall call at the funeral home from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday, where the family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Rowan Ford Memorial Fund, c/o Hometown Bank; or the Lafayette House, c/o Clark Funeral Home, P.O. Box 66, Neosho, 64850

Online condolences may be posted at www.clarkfuneralhomes.com.

 
 

Services are under direction of Clark Funeral Home, Neosho.

November 17, 2007

But Rev. Ennis said he believes that while Ford’s body may have been abandoned, the girl who was always on the move, always waiting outside the church door, had already ascended into heaven.

He spoke of a verse from John 1:5. It is the verse he said was found on the bookmark Ford used in her Bible.

“The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

 

 

Hannah fan

According to friends and family, Rowan Ford loved to watch “Hannah Montana,” the Disney television show about a teenager who is a normal girl named Miley Stewart by day and a glamorous singer named Hannah Montana by night.

November 17, 2007
 

Murder, rape victim remembered by friends, pastor

 

Myrna Spears said she is at a loss with regard to the allegations against her son.

“What happened is nothing like what my son is,” she said. “This isn’t him.”

Asked whether her son suffered from a form of mental illness, she spoke about the effects of alcohol. She said he had allegedly struggled with it in the past.

Besides the felony charges brought against him for Ford’s murder, Spears also has a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated.

“I don’t know, I am befuddled,” she said before she told a reporter she could not comment any more and hung up the phone.

Robert Evenson, a detective from the Barry County Sheriff’s Department, said local authorities only had “minor dealings” with Collings until he was arrested for Ford’s rape and murder.

Even Wheaton police Chief Clint Clark, who said he has known Collings for almost 16 years and to whom Collings eventually allegedly confessed to the killing, said he doesn’t understand why it happened.

“His criminal record was minor up to that point,” Clark said of Collings.

Clark said Collings allegedly confessed to him after the search for Ford, who was reported missing the evening of Nov. 3, had been under way for days.

The two men fenced a bit during their talk, as Clark kept asking Collings why he allegedly raped and killed Ford, while Collings kept saying he did not know.

“He couldn’t tell me why,” Clark said. “He said, ‘It just happened. I didn’t plan it out.’

“I still don’t know because he wouldn’t tell me,” Clark said.

‘Light shines’

It would have been dark when Ford’s killer or killers, took her body into the remote reaches of McDonald County on Nov. 3. The journey took her down gravel roads overarched with trees as they twisted through wooded valleys.

Sparsely populated, the area would have been blanketed with darkness as her body was left in the sinkhole. There, her killer or killers perhaps hoped she would remain.

November 17, 2007

Four nights a week, Ford would go to Triway’s “21st Century” program offered after school, Holt said.

She loved to learn, and although only 9, she proved herself “an incredibly hard worker” who was not afraid to ask questions if she did not understand something.

She moved easily from the world of books into the world of people.

“Rowan was everybody’s friend,” Holt said.

Judy Ennis, who taught Ford on Wednesday nights at Stella Baptist Church, said the girl was quiet but had a way of charming people.

“She would take your heart right after she met you,” she said.

When the pastor or other churchgoers arrived at Stella Baptist Church, she would be waiting, wearing her usual smile as she bounded down the stairs to greet them.

Ford, said Rev. Glenn Ennis, the pastor of the church, cared little for material things or the rat race. He described her as selfless. When she was at the church, she loved to sing, to color, to draw, to worship and, above all, to help, he said.

She set an example that others could follow, he said.

“How often do we overlook the example of a child?” he asked.

‘It happened’

Why the girl described as “everybody’s friend” and “an angel” was subjected to the torture of rape and strangulation with a cord is unknown.

Neither of her alleged killers — Spears and Collings — is listed as a registered sex offender. Both men also reportedly have children of their own.

Myrna Spears, David Spears’ mother, said Collings has an estranged wife and two children, both younger than age 10, in Arkansas.

David Spears was ordered to pay child support in the amount of $209 a month to Niccole Smith, of Fairview, for a minor child in early 2005, according to court records.

November 17, 2007
 

Murder, rape victim remembered by friends, pastor

 

Colleen told investigators that she was a refugee of several past abusive relationships, according to hot-line reports from March 2000.

Ford’s biological father — whose name has not been publicly disclosed — was not involved in Ford’s life, financially or emotionally, according to the reports.

At the time of the report, Colleen was married to Adam Chichanowski. Colleen worked in Neosho. Chichanowski was unemployed, his efforts to find work hampered by his lack of a valid driver’s license, according to state reports.

For a period after they first arrived in the area, neither Colleen nor Chichanowski owned a running car. Chichanowski told a state investigator at the time that he planned to adopt both Ford and her older sister.

About three years ago, Colleen remarried, this time to Spears. Both Colleen and David worked at the Wal-Mart store in Jane for a time.

The family encountered financial difficulties, Colleen said during the week when authorities were searching for her daughter. She was worried that the family might lose their house, she said.

The night Ford was abducted, Colleen Spears was the family’s provider, according to Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland. Colleen said she worked about 40 hours a week at the Wal-Mart in Jane, and sometimes took overtime shifts.

David Spears was no longer at Wal-Mart. In recent months, he did part-time work as a mechanic, Colleen said.

‘She was perfect’

Ford’s family and friends during the week she was missing and at the funeral painted a portrait of her as a bookish girl with a personality that easily won friends; a girl with a robust work ethic and a love for singing, drawing, reading and playing.

She read voraciously, worked hard and was well-behaved, but could — and did — laugh and shout and play on the monkey bars with the other children at recess. She loved cats, loved to read about them and to talk about them.

Todd Holt had known Rowan Ford since she was in second grade. Triway Elementary School is small, he said, and teachers get to know most of the students.

Holt was Ford’s homeroom teacher.

“She was a beautiful student,” Holt said. “She was an angel. She was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better student.

“She knew when it was time to be 9 and to be silly, and when it was time to work.”

November 17, 2007

Murder, rape victim remembered by friends, pastor

Published November 17, 2007 08:52 pm - STELLA, Mo. — Her bike was her steadfast companion and she knew the roads well. Friends and others in the community of Stella would see her — a slender, brown-haired 9-year-old girl gliding along on her blue-tinted Blossom Quest bicycle.

By Derek Spellman

dspellman@joplinglobe.com

STELLA, Mo. — Her bike was her steadfast companion and she knew the roads well.

Friends and others in the community of Stella would see her — a slender, brown-haired 9-year-old girl gliding along on her blue-tinted Blossom Quest bicycle.

Rowan Ford was careful to steer clear of heavy traffic, preferring quieter side streets that took her around the town’s tree-clad slopes and to the home of her best friend, Tyler, who happened to live across the street from Ford’s second home: the Stella Baptist Church.

A friend recalled at her funeral last week that Ford “just kept going and going and going.”

There’s speculation in hindsight now, speculation after Ford went missing nearly two weeks ago, speculation that intensified after Ford’s body was found, that the Stella girl spent so much time riding around town because she was keeping away from something.

Her stepfather, David Spears, 25, and Spears’ friend, Chris Collings, 32, have each been charged with first-degree murder, forcible rape and statutory rape in connection with Ford’s death.

When she wasn’t on her bicycle, Ford could be found in the after-school program at Triway Elementary School four nights a week. She was often at school early. She also was early for church on Wednesdays and Sundays. And then there was, of course, the bicycle, and all the riding around town.

But that’s hindsight, speculation after the brutal facts.

There’s little in the record that hints at trouble.

The only hot-line calls ever placed about Ford and her family were about head lice, according to the Missouri Department of Social Services. Those cases did not warrant further action because investigators said Ford’s family addressed the issue.

And local authorities, including those who knew Collings long before Ford vanished, said neither he nor Spears had much of a criminal record to speak of until they were arrested Nov. 9.

Family background

Ford came to Southwest Missouri from California, along with her mother, Colleen Spears, whose road had not been easy.