Wednesday, September 26, 2012 ~ Updated 3:44 PM
By Lisa Schlichtman
Murder and rape charges have been dismissed against the stepfather of 9-year-old murder victim Rowan Ford.
On Sept. 26, David Spears, 29, of Stella, accepted the terms of a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child, a Class C felony, and hindering prosecution, a Class D felony, at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Waynesville.
Spears, who has been held in Barry County Jail since his arrest back in November of 2007, was sentenced to 11 years in state prison. He will receive credit for the four years and 10 months he has already spent behind bars.
Under the terms of the agreement, the charges of murder in the first degree, forcible rape and statutory rape were dismissed without prejudice, which means if new evidence against Spears surfaces, charges against him could be re-filed.
According to a three-page press release provided by Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox, the physical evidence collected and analyzed by three separate crime labs, including the FBI and Missouri State Highway Patrol crime labs, did not support Spears' confession that he participated in the rape and murder of Rowan.
The evidence was consistent with the confession of Christopher Collings, the 37-year-old man from Wheaton, who was sentenced to death for Rowan's murder following a jury trial in Rolla last spring.
"Over the course of time that this case has been pending, evidence other than his statement has been pursued to be used to prove David Spears was involved in the rape and murder of Rowan Ford," Cox stated. "During that time, no additional evidence implicating Mr. Spears has been developed. To the contrary, all of the physical evidence that has been analyzed and tested has either failed to implicate Mr. Spears or the results have been inconsistent with his initial statement."
According to testimony offered during his murder trial, Collings consistently and emphatically denied Spears' involvement in Rowan's murder. In his confession, Collings said he acted alone.
The physical evidence collected in the case supported Collings' story of what happened on the night of Nov. 2, 2007, when he took Rowan from her home in Stella, drove her to his trailer in Wheaton and then raped and murdered her before dumping her body in a cave near Powell.
Collings did not testify during his trial and did not recant his confession, which proved to be a crucial piece of evidence in the jury's guilty verdict. The state argued that Collings' statement was an accurate account of the events surrounding Rowan's murder even though Collings said Spears was not involved in the actual rape and murder.
"In David Spears' trial the state would be in a position to have to present David Spears' statement and argue its validity," explained Cox. "This would put the state in a position of arguing inconsistent theories of who actually strangled Rowan Ford."
This trial strategy would have put Spears' conviction at risk and could have created an argument for Collings' sentence to be overturned, according to Cox.
"This would be unacceptable to the state," said Cox. "Without physical evidence that is consistent with David Spears' statement, the state cannot and will not pursue a course of action that would put the Christopher Collings' conviction at risk."
In deciding not to pursue a murder conviction for Spears, Cox said he realizes the general public is convinced of Spears' guilt and is outraged at the vicious crime against a child.
"I am completely aware that the general public wants to see him (Spears) receive punishment for his alleged involvement," said Cox. "I am also aware that this is a horrific crime involving the most innocent of victims that any prosecutor will ever encounter.
"This type of crime should outrage everyone. I was outraged when I first heard about it. However, as a prosecutor, I am a minister of justice and must do what the law requires, what the facts require and what fairness and justice require. A prosecutor's duty is not to just seek convictions or win cases but to see that justice is done."
Cox said he does not know why Spears told law enforcement officers he was involved in Rowan's murder.
"I do know that there isn't any physical evidence to support David Spears' version of what happened," stated Cox.
Rowan's mother, Colleen Munson, was present in the courtroom during the sentencing of Spears, her ex-husband. Cox told Phelps County Circuit Judge Tracy L. Story that Munson was aware of the circumstances surrounding the plea agreement and was "agreeable" to it.
Spears appeared in the courtroom in street clothes with leg shackles. He was sworn in by the judge and answered questions about his understanding of the court proceedings from the witness stand.
In pleading guilty to the lesser charges, Spears admitted he endangered the welfare of Rowan by leaving his stepdaughter home alone to go drinking with his friends. He also confessed to asking Nathan Mahurin, a witness in the case, to lie about why he left Rowan alone.
When sentenced, Spears stood in front of the judge in the company of his two attorneys, Sharon Turlington and Cynthia Dryden from the State Public Defenders Office.
The state was represented by Cox and Elizabeth Bock with the State Attorney General's Office.
"Ms. Bock has been a tireless advocate while assisting my office in this case and has provided the state, Rowan Ford and her family an invaluable service in the pursuit of justice," said Cox.
In the end, Cox believes Rowan received the justice she deserved.
"Christopher Collings is on death row," said Cox. "Rowan Ford's rapist and killer has been brought to justice."
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Saturday, January 28, 2017, 4:06 AM
It took city officials five months to confirm what neighbors suspected immediately: 3-year-old Caleb Rivera was a murder victim.
“I had an idea,” said Nikki Whatley, 39, who performed CPR on the gaunt little boy outside their East Harlem apartment building last August.
“I still see that boy’s eyes in my nightmare and in my dreams,” said Whatley, the mother of four. “That boy was lifeless when I got to him.”
Caleb’s death was declared a homicide Friday after the city medical examiner determined he was killed by multiple blows to the head and neck.
The boy’s mother, who was in their apartment with two men when Caleb was mortally injured, insisted she had no idea who was to blame for her son’s killing.
“I am not talking to anybody about anything,” mom Alexandra Guzman said from behind the door of her apartment on Friday. “I am not giving up anything. Why are you harassing me?”
Asked specifically who killed little Caleb Rivera, the mother answered, “Nobody. It was — have a good day. Nobody. That is the only answer you’ll get from me.”
Construction worker Adrian Rivera, 24, the child’s father, said he’s suspected for months that Guzman was hiding something.
“He was a happy healthy baby and I loved my baby,” he said. “They should both go to jail. I want to know: Did he do this and then she covered up? If the police won’t do something, I will.”
Rivera said after he and Guzman broke up, she barred him from seeing Caleb. He said he begged her to bring the baby to his mother’s house. “She wouldn’t. I texted her the week before (Caleb died): ‘Please bring me my baby.’ She said she was good where she was. She wouldn’t bring him to me, and then this happened.”
April, Child Abuse Awareness month, has passed. It went by without any comment from the Director of Social Services, Ted Myers (“…blood is thicker than water…”, or attorney Andrew Wolf, (“…we do the legally correct thing…”).
interviews with Santa Barbara’s KEYT-TV a few of years ago on the question
raised by a Ventura County Star editorial regarding the whereabouts of Mario,
these gentlemen, in making the above statements, attempted to explain why Social Service workers,
and an a child advocate attorney advocate and/or permit the re-unification of
an abused child with its abuser(s). Mario was a toddler beaten into a coma by his mother. Social workers reunified Mario with his mother even though he continued to be abused.
We have heard, and continue to hear, numerous times that Social Services’ purpose is to protect children from abuse. The child’s advocate in Court is supposed to also protect their right to freedom from abuse. Neither succeeds.
And the reason they do not is revealed by their statements. Their hands are tied. Mr. Wolf is correct, re-unification is the legally correct thing to do, never mind that questions of ethics and morality are raised by the re-unification of a person who lacks love and parenting skills with a child who is helpless to speak for or defend himself.
And, yes, though it is a convenient and telling euphemism, blood is thicker than water. It merely goes to prove the point that a tiny human feels a craving for and needs love from the only caregiver it has known from birth. Though the child bonds, the adult may not want to or cannot commit to a responsibility.
Congress, in its infinite wisdom, saw the tragedies brought about by the abuse of children. They saw not only the physical and emotional effects, but also acknowledged that deaths of children were sometimes the outcome of such conduct. They further saw the financial toll upon society, not only for the treatment of the physical and emotional injuries, but upon the fact that some of these children become a financial burden rather than positive contributors to society. As Congress does best they began the battle against child abuse by passing laws, in this case, Title 42 of the United States Code, Chapter 67, Section 5106a.
This released money to fund Social Services and created responsibilities to fund programs. It created a confidentiality clause to protect not only the child’s identity and reputation but also that of the abuser. It required every State to pass a law saying that re-unification of the abused with its abuser was not required. But it also stated that despite a parent or caregiver having killed or assaulted a child the State (read as Judge), could, on a case by case basis, reunify a child of the sibling with the killer or abuser. Congress sat back; it had passed a law to protect children.
words, blood is thicker than water and re-unification is the legally correct
thing to do, regardless of what further injuries the
child will suffer.
I recently attended a meeting where I listened to
gut-wrenching stories from adults who feared for the safety of their children
who were reporting sexual crimes against them by family members. As the founder of The Children’s Wall of
Tears™, these stories are not new to me as I hear hundreds of cases each year.
Recently Leo and I visited the great city of Oklahoma and toured the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial. Without a doubt, this memorial strengthened our faith in the American people, our patriotism and our feelings against terrorism. We could not help but walk away from this great monument with a passion that undoubtedly carved our futures. Throughout our tour of the memorial we could not help but think about the 168 lives lost in this horrific event. There was one particular photo on the wall of the daycare center showing children that were signed-in that fateful day. It haunts us. What madman would callously murder innocent children, let alone adults?
We read every sign and studied every photo in the museum. We were overwhelmed with sadness and rage at the very same time. We began to systematically think about terrorism and what it really means and how it affects our lives.
the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terroization.
a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.
Terrorism begins with creating a fear within the victim and escalates quickly to injury and in many cases death. Until September 11, 2001, few Americans were aware that terror existed beyond that seen on movies or on TV. After 911, we became aware of our vulnerability to suffering at the hands of people who find it acceptable to inflict pain on innocent people without blinking an eye. The bombing in Oklahoma City traumatized this great nation. We were forced to face the anxiety of knowing that at any time, in any place, violence can strike, and in that respect, we are now victims of terrorism.
While we feel a deep sadness for the victims of the attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., the plane crash in Pennsylvania and their families and the Oklahoma City Bombing and their families, who have lived to suffer the devastating pain of the loss of a loved one, we began to think about the children here in the United States who live under this anxiety every day. How did we overlook their terrorism? Most call it child abuse. We call it child cruelty.
In child’s world, violence comes not at the hands of politically motivated extremists, but from their parents or caregivers. Suffering comes not from weapons of mass destruction, but fists, belts, scalding water, locked in dark closets, and cruel words. Attacks are not a rare occurrence, but a daily reality. Knowing that it is coming is the epitome of terrorism especially since a child is incapable of defending himself and does not know where to turn to avoid the torture and pain of neglect or abuse.
We kept thinking about the fact that while we watched news coverage of buildings crumbling and thousands of terrified, innocent people running for their lives, young spirits are being crushed at the hands of heartless adults with no high-profile media coverage to spark a country to awareness and action. Yes, we occasionally see, hear and read of young victims being abused or killed, but, few people are moved to act. The usual response to such news is an “…Oh, no!...” statement, and then on to breaking news.
While troops of rescue workers sift through debris in a desperate attempt to recover victims, young children are cowering in corners after yet another merciless beating, wondering if anyone cares enough to rescue them. While an entire nation mourns for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and the Oklahoma City Bombing, abused children continue to suffer horrifically with no tears of sadness shed on their behalf. Is it apathy on the part of the general public? Apparently so. we don’t see any great rush of humanity at the breaking story of another child being beaten or killed. Nor do we see more than platitudes from public officials or legislators. Yes, you will hear comments that such and such should be investigated. You hear that so and so is understaffed, overworked, and over whelmed but you do not hear from the front line workers who deal with child abuse on a daily basis.
For the past 25 years, we have been working to increase America’s awareness to the horrors of child cruelty and to bring the reality of the unimaginable level of physical and mental suffering these children deal with to the forefront.
We have written numerous commentaries and letters to the editors of newspapers and given speeches and talks to various groups and organizations. We have spoken in Washington, D.C. before a distinguished group of professionals and even sponsored a law in the California Legislature to provide computerized criminal history to child protective service workers so that they do not reunify the child with criminals. Unfortunately, that law failed in the appropriations department. Apparently $50,000 for the entire State of California is not worth protecting children. We have spent anguished hours over the opposition we have received and welcomed the pats on the back. But, child cruelty continues and children continue to live the daily terror awaiting the next blow.
Statistics show that everyday, scores of children are terrorized by abusive parents and that list continues to grow each year. Every 10 seconds a child is abused. Every 5 hours a child is killed. In cold, hard terms that means that every day a small hand is held over a flame, an infant is dipped in scalding water, a child is forced to swallow household cleansers, an empty stomach grumbles while parents eat, a terrified toddler trembles in a dark, locked closet, a tiny arm is broken, a life comes to a premature end. The scenes of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were difficult to look at, but, they can’t compare to the scenes that flash in front of the small eyes of an abused child.
I leave it to you to decide if a child, under these circumstances, is experiencing not only terror but wondering when it all will end.
The unified resolve shown by the American people following the recent terrorist attacks is impressively powerful and elicits confidence that swift, sure action will be taken to punish and prevent terrorist acts. If only that same level of mass resolve were focused on saving abused children. If only our country stood unified in the defense of these helpless children, how many young victims of daily terrorism could be saved? How many small spirits could be recovered? How many terrorists could be stopped?
We wonder what horrendous atrocity must occur to a child before every American resolves to put an end to child cruelty in every home in which it occurs.We have stated before, in print and speeches, that there is a pandemic of child cruelty throughout the world. Now, with the advent of the bird flu, mad cow disease, tainted spinach, Aids and other “epidemics”, the word pandemic has become as familiar to us as the word terrorism and, unfortunately, we must now state that a pandemic of child cruelty now exists on this Planet.
Simply put in perspective, if a
disease were killing hundreds of children in America each year, the Center for Disease
Control would mobilize everything it could to find the cause. Federal and State governments would spend
millions on treatment and trying to find a cure. No stone would be left un-turned and no sum of
money would be too great in an effort to end the pandemic. Over 3,000 children are kiled through abuse and neglect each year. Is that not an epidemic in your eyes?
Yes, our lives were forever changed by our visit to the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial
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Body of Missing 5-Year-Old Boy Found Near Lake Cachuma as His Father Is Accused of His Murder
The body of a missing 5-year-old California boy last seen in late April has been found near a Santa Barbara County lake, homicide detectives confirmed to PEOPLE Saturday.
Aramazd Andressian Jr. was found near Lake Cachuma on Friday, after additional leads brought homicide detectives back to the area searching for additional evidence.
The discovery came hours after the boy’s father, Aramazd Andressian Sr., was extradited to Los Angeles where he has been charged with the 5-year-old’s murder. The 35-year-old man was detained on June 23 in Las Vegas in connection with his son’s death, and is being held on $10 million bail on a single murder count.
The boy was last seen on April 20, when he and his father visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California. They left the theme park around midnight.
Within a week of the boy’s disappearance, police arrested his dad on suspicion of one count of child endangerment and one count of child abduction. But they released him days later , citing “insufficient evidence.” It was not immediately clear what prompted his re-arrest.
Officials confirm that Andressian, Sr. and his wife, Ana Estevez, are embroiled in a bitter divorce, but they shared custody of their son.
Andressian, Jr. was supposed to be dropped off by his father in San Marino, California, on April 22 — but the elder Andressian failed to show. Instead, he was found passed out near his car in a nearby park. Police have alleged that the inside of his car was doused with gasoline and there were matches in his vehicle.
Andressian, Sr. told investigators he believed he was attacked, but he had no memory of the assault. He also told police he had taken some prescription medication that morning before falling unconscious, CNN reported .
“There has been a great deal of speculation regarding the timeline around his disappearance,” Andressian, Sr. wrote in a statement issued nearly a week after his son vanished. “The last time I saw my son was on Saturday morning, the 22nd, at Arroyo Park near my home in South Pasadena. After breakfast Aramazd Jr. wanted to go to the park before we were to meet his mother for a custody exchange at 9:00 a.m.”
“In one moment, I was at the park with my son, and then I found myself waking up in Huntington Memorial Hospital hours later,” he continued. “I was told that a good Samaritan found me unconscious on the ground near my car, with young Aramazd nowhere in sight. I can only speculate that I must have been attacked in the park, given my unresponsive state and subsequent physical condition.”
“My family and I are heartbroken and grief-stricken that Aramazd Jr. is missing and may be in harm’s way,” he continued. “I am pleading with the public to come forward with any knowledge of Aramazd Jr.’s whereabouts or information regarding the circumstances leading up to his disappearance.”
Estevez has also spoken publicly , pleading for the public’s help at a May news conference with law enforcement.
“There are no words to describe how devastated and heartbroken I am,” Estevez said through tears, before speaking directly to her son. “This message is for you my love: Be brave, honey. Don’t ever forget that mama loves you to the moon and the stars. I am counting the days until I see you honey, and I will never stop looking for you.”
“To those who are concealing my son, I pray every day that God will touch your heart and guide you to do the right thing and return my son,” she said.
Anyone with any information about this ongoing case can call the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department at 323-890-5500 or police in South Pasadena, California, at 626-403-7297.