Neighbors describe abduction of girl, 10, who was killed

Hailey Owens, 10, was fatally shot. Craig  Michael Wood, 45, was charged.
Hailey Owens, 10, was fatally shot. Craig Michael Wood, 45, was charged.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Neighbors watched in horror as a 10-year-old southwest Missouri girl was snatched off the street just blocks from her home.

Some had spotted a man in a gold Ford Ranger pickup truck driving down the road in Springfield several times before the driver took off with the girl, investigators said. The residents even called 911 to report the truck’s license number.

But the vehicle moved too quickly. And Hailey Owens was gone.


Now prosecutors have charged Craig Michael Wood with first-degree murder, kidnapping, and armed criminal action. In filing the charges Wednesday, they alleged that the 45-year-old middle school football coach and teacher’s aide abducted Hailey as she walked home from a friend’s house Tuesday.

Greene County Sheriff’s Office via AP
Craig Michael Wood, 45, was charged.
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A probable cause statement said the fourth-grader’s body was found stuffed in two trash bags inside plastic storage containers in the basement of Wood’s Springfield home. She had been shot in the head, according to Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson.

The basement floor was still damp from bleach, according to the probable cause statement.

Authorities will not officially confirm that the body is Hailey’s until after an autopsy, but Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said ‘‘we have a high degree of confidence’’ in the preliminary identification, which indicates that it is the girl.

In the probable cause statement, resident Michelle Edwards told police she and her husband were in their garage when they saw a pickup truck approach the girl, who was holding a cellphone. She said the driver asked the girl for directions before he grabbed her with one hand and threw her into the truck ‘‘like a rag doll.’’


Another resident, Ricky Riggins, told the Springfield News-Leader that he chased the fleeing pickup in his car after a neighbor tried to pull the girl away.

‘‘I couldn’t keep up,’’ Riggins said. ‘‘He was probably five to six cars ahead of me. . . . It was so fast.’’

Wood was inside a truck parked outside his home when police arrested him Tuesday night. The probable cause statement said he held a roll of duct tape when officers arrived.

The truck is registered to Wood’s father, Jim Wood, who told police he loaned the vehicle to his son. Wood and the girl apparently did not know each other. Hailey attended Westport Elementary School; Wood worked at Pleasant View School.

‘‘There’s no connection that we’ve been able to determine at this time between the victim and the suspect,’’ Williams said.


Springfield school officials said Wood is a seventh-grade football coach and teacher’s aide who supervises in-school suspensions at Pleasant View, which has students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Norm Ridder, the Springfield district’s superintendent, said in a statement Wednesday that Wood began working for the district in August 1998. He said Wood has been suspended since his arrest.

Wood was initially hired as a temporary employee who worked as a substitute teacher before he was hired full time in 2006, school district spokeswoman Teresa Bledsoe said Wednesday. He has coached football at Pleasant View since 1998 and was also an assistant boys’ basketball coach.

Williams said police have no motive for the killing. He said Wood has not talked to investigators since his arrest. His first court appearance, scheduled for Thursday, was postponed to Friday. Wood was in Greene County Jail, held without bond.