School coach booked for murder in abduction of Hailey Owens

Kansas City Star – by ROBERT A. CRONKLETON

Police arrested a 45-year-old coach in the abduction of a 10-year-old girl and booked him into jail on suspicion of murder.

Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Norm Ridder said in a statement that the suspect, Craig Michael Wood of Springfield, was an employee and a coach.

“Last night we learned the terrible news that one of our students had been abducted near her home,” Ridder said. “This morning, our sadness is compounded by the recent developments in the case of Hailey Owens’ abduction.”  

Wood, the district said, has been employed by the district since August 1998. He is a paraprofessional and athletic coach at Pleasant View K-8 School.

He has been suspended until the investigation has been resolved, according to the release.

Hailey attended Westport Elementary this year and attended Bowerman Elementary School last year, the district said.

Police found the vehicle and Wood Tuesday night and took him into police headquarters for questioning in the abduction of Hailey, Springfield Police Chief Paul F. Williams said at a press conference at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Wood was booked into Greene County, Mo., jail on suspicion of first-degree murder but a prosecutor had not immediately filed charges.

Wood’s father, Jim Wood of Ash Grove, Mo., said he spoke with his son Tuesday night but would not say whether it was before the arrest or give details about their conversation.

“The only thing I can tell you is that Craig is my son,” Wood said. “I can tell you it is just a tragedy. We’re stunned, for everybody who knows him.”

Jim Wood said he and his family planned to speak with their attorney before making other statements.

“I am not fully aware of all of the charges,” he said. “I’m kind of a little bit out of the loop. The family and friends are trying to make some appropriate plan.”

The case began Tuesday night.

“At approximately at 8:30 p.m., investigators in the 1500 block of E. Stanford Street following up on a lead related to potential suspects did locate the vehicle and a suspect in the vehicle,” Williams said. “At that time the subject accompanied the investigators to headquarters about the potential crime.”

About 11:30 p.m., authorities searched the area around the a home on Stanford Street.

“That resulted in evidence to this case and evidence of foul play,” Williams said.

The investigation is ongoing, Williams said. Springfield had requested help from the Missouri Highway Patrol, the Greene County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI, which sent an evidence response team and was assisting in processing the crime scene.

“At this time, our efforts are focused on that location, as far as recovering evidence related to the potential crime,” Williams said.

Williams did not take questions at the press briefing. He expected an update at 11 a.m.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said Wednesday morning on its @MissingKids Twitter account that police have found Hailey’s body.

The message was deleted later in the morning, and police refused to say whether her body was found.

Hailey was abducted shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday in the 3200 block of West Lombard Street. Witnesses told investigators a man in a gold-colored 2008 Ford Ranger drove down the street several times before pulling the girl into his truck.

Police issued a news release and posted to social media information about abduction, including details about the victim, suspect and suspect’s vehicle, according to a police.

Police also submitted information to the Missouri Highway Patrol, following the Amber Alert protocol.

A Multi-state Amber Alert was issued at 7 p.m. in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.

The school district said it was offering its support to her family as well as the school community.

“Students and staff at three of our schools are coping with this situation,” Ridder said in the release. “To support these school communities directly impacted by this tragedy, I have assigned additional counseling staff and school police officers to be on hand until further notice.”

Glenn E. Rice contributed to this report. To reach Robert A. Cronkleton, call 816-234-4261 or send email to
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