Missouri court rejects appeal in killing of 9-year-old girl

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The Missouri Supreme Court has upheld the conviction and death sentence for a southwest Missouri man who admitted raping and killing a 9-year-old girl.

Judges ruled unanimously Tuesday to reject arguments that Christopher Collings’ previous attorneys were not effective in defending him over the November 2007 death of Rowan Ford.

The girl was taken from her Stella home and found a week later in a sinkhole. Her stepfather, David Spears, was also charged with murder and rape but pleaded guilty to reduced charges of child endangerment and hindering prosecution.

Collings’ new lawyers argued that his previous attorneys didn’t call enough expert witnesses and didn’t challenge DNA evidence, among other things. But judges ruled the trial attorneys made reasonable decisions and that Collings’ didn’t prove the case would have ended differently.

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