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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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Equindur February 21 2014 at 1:06 PM

Death penalty within three months if Haileys DNA found in his car or house.. !!

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john February 21 2014 at 10:57 AM

BULLET THROUGH HEAD..DISMEMBERMENT-BUT NO, MENTION OF RAPE..NO HISTORY OF PEDOPHILE ACTIVITY...45YEARS OLD-FOOTBALL COACH-({DISCIPLINE)-TEACHER OF SUSPENDED STUDENTS-(DISCIPLINE)-VICINITY OF SCHOOLS, NOT MENTIONED-POPULATION 162,000-SMALL TOWN--4TH GRADER WITH CELL PHONE IN HAND-DRIVER PRETENDING TO ASK QUESTION- NEIGHBORS LISTENING-DRAGGED IN VEHICLE-NEIGHBOR TRIED TO PULL HER AWAY-NO MENTION OF SCREAMING STRUGGLE FROM GIRL----SHOT HER IN HEAD-SEVERED HER BODY---THEN WAITED IN CAR FOR POLICE TO ARRIVE-----THIS GIRL WAS EXECUTED...THREATENING WITNESS SOLUTION--NOT RANDOM PEDOPHILE VICTIM---WAKE UP SPRINGFIELD, MO.

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tttttttt February 21 2014 at 6:57 AM

Food for thought. Noone starts a pedophile career at 45. In fact, the abrupt and risky way he grabbed her , in front of other people, indicates escalation and loss of control, otherwise he would have been caught before this. Unfortunately there are probably many more offenses in his background that have not been addressed or even caught. It is good that he is caught now. However the family will be devastated for years to come and that is no less than heart braking, to have your precious baby stolen and brutalized the way she was. We really need to understand how these sadistic predators are manufactured so they can stop being manufactured. But then, its the age old question of what makes a person, with an abused past walk a deviant path while another comes out of it walking a rightous path. It is hard to look at a monster like this and remember that they were once someones baby. Not that one would exactly care at this point, but what do you think might have happened to him that he could have commited such a horrific crime. Just sayin

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JIMMY February 21 2014 at 6:45 AM

I cannot understand what kind of screening is done before hiring these sick people in our education system?

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1 reply to JIMMY's comment
lmbates219 February 21 2014 at 10:32 AM

It makes no difference what kind of screening is done. The more deviant and cunning someone is, the more apt they are to be very skilled at deception also, which means they probably have never been suspected, much less caught, at wrongdoing. They aren't going to come right out and say "Well, I'm basically a good person and a great fit for this job, although I do have recurring desires to hunt children like prey and kill them in my basement". I mean, really? If it was that easy, this would be a non-discussion.

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Jeannie February 21 2014 at 6:18 AM

God Bless and give the family the strength they need.

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ebaldasaro February 21 2014 at 6:11 AM

Evil world...trust no one!!!

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pamiss45 February 21 2014 at 5:33 AM

Although this ended badly you have to admire all the witnesses who immediately did something.
I bet this man (Wood) has done this before. A first time murderer could not have done all he did in a 2 to 3 hour time frame.
The Amber Alert Law needs to be changed and quickly - the police knew she had been abducted/kidnapped yet it took them 2 hours to put out the alert. If it had been done immediately this child possibly may have been saved.
My condolences to this little girl's family - words I know do not help.

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Michele February 21 2014 at 4:49 AM

Sad very sad....God bless this child...Makes you know that no child is safe no matter what..

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dentiom03 February 21 2014 at 4:32 AM

death to the monster that killed that beautiful little girl. why spend money feeding tat beast in prison, kill it .

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pattifer February 21 2014 at 4:01 AM

And we can all hope that once he is in prison, the prisoners will take care of him. They may all be criminals, but they do NOT take kindly to those that hurt innocent children.

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