10-year-old Hailey Ownes found dead at home in Springfield, Mo
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Springfield Public Schools employee was faces murder charges after he allegedly abducted and killed a 10-year-old Springfield girl Tuesday evening.
Craig Michael Wood, 45, was charged Wednesday night with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and child kidnapping, according to the Green County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
According to police, the body of 10-year-old Hailey Owens was found inside the home of Wood, who is a coach and teacher’s aide at a Springfield Public Schools elementary school.
Authorities say Owens’ body was stuffed inside two garbage bags in a basement. According to court documents, the garbage bags were found inside the bottom of two totes stacked on top of each other.
“The crime scene technicians removed the trash bags and confirmed it was the body of Owens,” according to the charging document.
Authorities determined Owens appeared to have a single gunshot wound to the head and a spent .22-caliber casing was found in the basement. There were also apparent ligature marks on her arms.
According to the probable cause statement, a woman was in her garage around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday when she 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, motioning for her to come over.
The witness says Wood lunged out of the vehicle and grabbed Owens with his left hand and threw her into the truck “like a rag doll.” He then drove away from the scene at a high rate of speed. According to court documents, it’s believed Owens was walking home from a friend’s house.
“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.
Police say witness accounts helped them identify Wood as the suspect. Amber Alerts were issued in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.
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 questioning.
According to the charging documents, Springfield officers and the FBI later executed a search warrant at his home early Wednesday morning after smelling a strong stench of bleach and finding a wet floor in the basement.
The charging documents say crime scene technicians responded to the scene and found Owens’ body.
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 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.