School employee charged with murder of 10-year-old Springfield girl

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by KMOV.com staff and Associated Press

KMOV.com

Posted on February 20, 2014 at 6:24 AM

10-year-old Hailey Ownes found dead at home in Springfield, Mo

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Springfield Public Schools employee was charged with murder in the death of a 10-year-old Springfield girl who was abducted Tuesday evening. 

According to police, the body of 10-year-old Hailey Owens was found inside the home of Craig Michael Wood, who is a coach and teacher's aide at a Springfield Public Schools elementary school. 

Wood, 45, was charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and child kidnapping, according to the Green County Prosecuting Attorney. The murder booking came just hours after police announced they had arrested Wood in the abduction of Hailey Owens.

Related: Photos of Craig Wood's home

According to the probable cause statement, a female witness saw Wood's Ford Ranger pull up to Owens and ask her where Springfield Street was. The witness said Hailey tried to walk away from the vehicle, but Wood opened the door of his truck and said "Hey, come here for a minute," extending his hand to her, and motioning for him to come to him.

"Our witnesses said it happened just that quick," Police Chief Paul Williams said.

Neighbor Carlos Edwards told the Springfield News-Leader he ran after the truck as his wife tried to get the license plate number after seeing the abduction. Police say another witness got into a car and tried to pursue Wood’s vehicle, but lost track of it.

Video: Charges issued by Greene County Prosecuting Attorney

Police say witness accounts helped them identify Wood as the suspect. Amber Alerts were issued in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. 

Related: 6 a.m. press conference on arrest in Hailey Owens case

Authorities say Wood pulled up in the truck, belonging to his father, around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday as officers were waiting for him at his home in the 1500 block of E. Stanford St.

The officers approached Wood as he got out of the truck, and noticed he had a roll of duct tape in his hand. When he saw the officers, he threw the duct tape into the bed of the truck.

Wood was taken into police custody and questioned by investigators. According to the charging documents, he changed his story about where he was during the kidnapping several times during the course of the investigation.

According to the charging documents, Springfield officers and the FBI later executed a search warrant at his home early Wedesday mornning.

Authorities say that’s when they found a body believed to be Owen's stuffed inside two garbage bags in a basement where the floor was still wet. Investigators also noted that empty bottles of bleach and the strong odor was apparent in the basement.

The Greene County Medical Examiner said Owens was killed by a single gunshot wound to the head. Spent .22 caliber shell casings were also found in the basement 

Authorities won't 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.

Authorities say more than 100 law enforcement officers from the Springfield Police Department, Missouri Highway Patrol and FBI were involved in the investigation.

Police say they investigated at several locations, including the Dutch Maid Laundromat, in hopes of finding more evidence.

According to police, Wood is not talking to investigators and a motive for the alleged killing is unknown.

On Wednesday, Springfield Public School Superintendent Norm Ridder said Wood has worked as a coach and teacher's aide in the district since Aug. 1998.

“He works as a paraprofessional and athletic coach at Pleasant View K-8 School,” Ridder said in a statement. “His employment has been suspended until this matter is resolved.

According to Ridder, Owens was a student at Westport Elementary School in Springfield. She attended Bowerman Elementary School last year.

Police say they do not believe Owens and Wood knew each other.

Court documents show Wood has a drug arrest on his record, but no violent crime convictions.

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