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Neighbors unable to stop abduction of Hailey Owens, 10-year-old Missouri girl



By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - 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.

Witness Chased Hailey Owens' Kidnapper in Car

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 won't officially confirm that the body is Hailey's until after an autopsy, but Springfield Police Paul Williams said "we have a high degree of confidence" in the preliminary identification, which indicates that it is the girl.

According to the probable cause statement, resident Michelle Edwards told police she and her husband were in their garage when 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 was holding 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. The father, who lives in nearby Ash Grove, declined an interview request from The Associated Press.

Wood and the girl apparently didn't 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 later Wednesday. He has coached football at Pleasant View since 1998 and was also an assistant boys' basketball coach.

"He met all of our qualifications for employment," Bledsoe said, noting that the Springfield district has a more rigorous background check requirement than state law, with an additional screening designed to detect substantiated allegations of child abuse or neglect as well as any past criminal violations.

Online court records show Wood had little criminal history. He pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance in 1990 in Greene County and was fined $100. Wood also was convicted in 2001 for illegal taking of wildlife, a misdemeanor.

Williams said police have no idea of a motive for the killing. He said Wood has not talked to investigators since his arrest.

Joe Bridges, a local music promoter who was organizing a candlelight vigil for Hailey scheduled for Saturday, told The Associated Press that residents in the city of 162,000 are collectively mourning the child's abduction and death.

"The community is walking around right now with a very heavy heart," said Bridges, who described himself as a distant relative of Hailey but said he didn't know her well. "Everybody is just speechless."

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tirzah36 February 20 2014 at 4:45 PM

my heart aches for real....

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happymom9x February 20 2014 at 5:12 PM

this is so sad im in tears!!!THEY SAY Children our the future YEA RIGHT..YOU CRAZY PEOPLE R GUNNA KILL THEM ALL..i think about this everyday.. he deserves to DIE!!!

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Tom February 20 2014 at 5:13 PM

This just breaks my heart. I have a 10 year old daughter. This girl will not see her friends again, nor they her. She won't get to experience the fun of high school. She won't go to the prom or a football game. Won't experience the thrill of her first kiss with someone she thinks she loves. She won't go to college and make the friends she'll keep for a lifetime, or experience the thrill of a college football game experienced with friends. She won't meet the love of her life and marry and have kids of her own. She won't get to experience the joy and pride of watching her own kids grow up, nor know the joy a parent feels when they receive an impromptu hug and their child says "I love you". She won't grow old and watch the beautiful sunset or hear the ocean waves or smell wood burning on a fall day. She will miss out on all the things that make life beautiful. It is just terribly, terribly sad.

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1 reply
nancy Tom February 20 2014 at 5:29 PM

She won't miss any of these things, she is beyond this life. But her family and friends, and especially her parents, will miss every single instant of every one of those things. They have a hole in their lives and in their hearts.

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sunbronze2 February 20 2014 at 5:13 PM

Just have one thing - The punishment should equal the crime.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
stumpnocker1 February 20 2014 at 5:15 PM

Lets see, there is 162,000 residents in the City, maybe a couple hundred policemen, plenty of trees
and rope available I am sure. Get er done!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
novastien February 20 2014 at 5:18 PM

Make an example of him cut him uyp in pieces very very slowly so he stays alive for a long time!!!!!!
I don't give a crap about his rights, he has the right to die a slow painful death!!!!!!!!

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1 reply
Gayla novastien February 20 2014 at 5:43 PM

He does for sure, but this is America, won't happen, perhaps in Mexico.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
cjesmom3 February 20 2014 at 5:19 PM

Shocking. Thank god there were witness' to see the license plate and police to track down the murderer while evidence was still there.

I hope they give this guy a speedy trial and if he is found guilty, to process and execute him immediately.

This is absolutely horrific.

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1 reply
Gayla cjesmom3 February 20 2014 at 5:34 PM

He shouldn't even have the benefit of a trial, he should be strung up asap. He is not fit to live. I am truly sorry for the family and all the other families who have lost their children.

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Rick February 20 2014 at 5:20 PM

Our children should not be prey. There needs to be some severe punishment for the sub-humans that continue to do these things

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2 replies
tzulu11953 Rick February 20 2014 at 5:25 PM

Wish we knew what created this type of animal so it can develop a way to extinct them

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Gayla Rick February 20 2014 at 5:30 PM

As long as TV is allowed to continue to show shows that kill and maim women and children , I am afraid this will continue. It's bad enough on satellite , much worse on channels that nobody should watch, people feed on this along with all the other sick movies available, not to mention the pornography that is rampant, We should govern ourselves, but if we no longer have a conscience, we are fit for nothing, and our lives need to end.

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briangavan February 20 2014 at 5:20 PM

UPON CONVICTION , DEATH TO THIS ANIMAL . NOT INTERESTED IN HIS TOUGH CHILDHOOD OR HIS INABILITY TO FIND LOVE OR THE EVER POPULAR MENTAL ILLNESS PLOY . HE MUST BE DISPATCHED WITH GREAT PREJUDICE . CAN NOT BEGIN TO IMAGINE WHAT THE FAMILY OF THIS LITTLE GIRL IS GOING THROUGH . I HOPE THEY PUT HIM IN WITH THE GENERAL POPULATION SAVE THE FAMILY THE AGONY OF A TRIAL .

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1 reply
Gayla briangavan February 20 2014 at 5:24 PM

I agree Brian.

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marglindsey February 20 2014 at 5:22 PM

If I was in charge of hiring people to work with children I would NOT employ anyone with any type of criminal record, even traffic violations. Sorry, but if you work with children you are a role model whether you like it or not. Using drugs, speeding, whatever, you are not a good example. My heart breaks for this child's family. I do not understand what makes people want to kill children, abuse them, kidnap them. Children are our greatest resource and should be loved and treasured and nurtured. RIP

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2 replies
interaria102489 marglindsey February 20 2014 at 5:26 PM

Using drugs I get, but everyone gets traffic violations so get real

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Gayla marglindsey February 20 2014 at 6:19 PM

The society as a whole is sick......perverted......and love the filth that is on TV all the time, not to mention the dvd's etc, and the games that children play and grownups too, all killing , killing, killing and more killing. It is worse than pitiful, and thank God for the man who tried to chase the vehicle, at least he did what he could to help, most people turn the other check and do nothing.

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