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Collings' family members testify as part of sentencing phase of trial

Collings showed emotion for the first time in the trial, crying after his biological father finished testifying.

March 22, 2012|by Emily Rittman and Chris Brewer

ROLLA, Mo. - Members of Christopher Collings' family testified Thursday morning as part of a list of people the defense planned to call as part of the penalty phase in Collings' murder trial.

Having been convicted of first-degree murder in the Nov. 2007 death of Rowan Ford by a Platte County jury Tuesday evening, Collings sat and even showed emotion as people ranging from his brother to his biological father testified.

Before the family testified, David Spears' mother briefly took the stand to say she loaned her Chevrolet Suburban to her son the night Rowan disappeared, from midnight until roughly 7 a.m. Spears was wearing jeans, a jacket and no coat, his mother said; she said it wasn't unusual although it was November.

The defense also interviewed a certified canine search and rescue member. Alicia Brown's two trained dogs had two hits for the scent of human remains in the front seat of Spears' Suburban, as well as the back cargo area. Prosecutors questioned the science of canine searches for human remains.

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Then Collings' family members took the stand, one by one.

Dale Pickett, Collings' biological father, testified he was an alcoholic, saying he was "drunk seven days a week." He went to prison for shooting a man in the 1970s and missed a large portion of Collings' life. Collings went into foster care, then was adopted by his foster family.

"I know my son made a serious mistake. Mistakes are something everyone makes," Pickett said. "Regardless what happens, I love my son. I know people can change; I have."

Collings was seen crying after Pickett finished testifying.

Prosecutors questioned Pickett as to whether or not he believed in the death penalty. Pickett said he did not, then he admitted he wanted to kill his own brother's killer. When Pickett's brother was killed, he said, he did want the death penalty then quickly added he wanted to kill the killer himself.

Greg Horton, Collings' brother, testified as well, saying his mother beat him with "whatever she could get a hold of." Collings was only seven months old during these beatings and was not abused, Horton said.

Horton testified that he was bounced from home to home in foster care; when prosecutors asked if he had ever been to prison, or raped or murdered anyone, Horton said no.

The court then recessed for lunch.

The defense continues to call witnesses at this hour; KSPR News will have a live report from the Phelps County Courthouse at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

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