Stepfather and Friend Charged in Death of 9-Year Old Missouri Girl

CASSVILLE, Mo. (AP) _ A Missouri man and his friend have been
charged with rape and murder in the death of the man's
nine-year-old stepdaughter.

Rowan Ford's body was found in a cave Friday, nearly a week
after she was reported missing.

Authorities say the stepfather's friend confessed to the
slaying. They say an affidavit alleges that the men took Rowan from
her home to a camping trailer, where they both raped her.
Authorities say one of the men strangled the child with a cord,
although they're not sure which of them did it.

Officials say they expect prosecutors to file a kidnapping
charge against the friend, but not against stepfather David Spears,
because he was a legal guardian.

Spears' mother says he has admitted taking part in the crime.

The mayor of the village of Stella, Missouri, says the girl's
mother is ``numb'' and too upset to speak with reporters.

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