Missouri coach accused of kidnapping, killing 10-year-old girl
Southwest Missouri was in shock Wednesday after a coach at a Springfield school was accused of kidnapping a 10-year-old girl off the street and then killing her.
Hailey Owens, 10, was near her home late Tuesday afternoon when neighbors saw a gold Ford Ranger pull up and a man start talking to the girl, Springfield Police Chief Paul F. Williams said at a televised news conference.
Hailey initially ignored the driver before coming back to speak to him again, which is when the man snatched her into the truck and sped away, Williams said.
Some neighbors saw the abduction and gave chase on foot, with one even jumping into a car to follow the abductor and give the license plate to 911 before losing the truck, Williams said. Officials issued a multi-state Amber Alert.
Investigators traced the license plate to the vehicle’s owner, who directed police to Craig Michael Wood, a 45-year-old paraprofessional and athletic coach at Pleasant View K-8 School. Wood had borrowed the truck.
When Wood pulled up at his house, 3-1/2 hours later Tuesday, police were waiting and took him into custody without a fight, Williams said.
Later, when police executed a search warrant on the home, a young girl’s body was discovered inside.
The body has not been identified, but police believe it to be Hailey’s.
Investigators are puzzled by the abduction -- not only because such crimes are rare in southwestern Missouri, but also because police have yet to find any link between Wood and Hailey. The girl did not attend the school where Wood worked.
Williams said there was “no indication at this point that they knew each other at all.”
Springfield schools Supt. Dr. Norm Ridder said in a statement that Wood had been working for the district since Aug. 18, 1998. He said counselors and additional police officers would be “on hand until further notice.”
Wood has a limited criminal history, including “some drug charges,” but “nothing related to something like this at all,” Williams said.
Digital court records show a Craig Michael Wood pleading guilty to a criminal charge in the Springfield area in 1990, but the records don’t specify what the charge or the penalty was.
“I have no idea regarding motivation and what would cause somebody to do something like this,” Williams said of the case, adding that Wood has declined to speak with investigators and has requested an attorney.
The case has not yet been referred to the county prosecutor to bring charges.
Mugshot: Craig Wood. Booked on a complaint of first degree murder in connection with the abduction of Hailey Owens. pic.twitter.com/4UBEk1Bmle— FOX23 (@FOX23) February 19, 2014
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