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Hailey Owens case: Murdered child found in two trash bags, storage container

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On Feb. 19, 2014, authorities with the Springfield Police Department provided gruesome details regarding the abduction and murder of 10-year-old, Missouri 4th grader, Hailey Owens. Authorities have arrested and charged 45-year-old, football coach and substitute teacher Craig Michael Wood with kidnapping, first-degree murder and armed criminal intent, after they say they executed a search warrant at his home several hours after Owens was abducted. In charging documents, police stated they detected the smell of bleach when they entered Wood’s basement and discovered a storage container that contained a child’s deceased body. The report says that Hailey Owens was found in two trash bags and had been shot in the back of her head. The medical examiner reported ligature marks on her arms, indicating she had been restrained. It is unclear at this point, whether Craig Wood sexually assaulted the little girl before allegedly shooting her.

The following is from Wood’s probable cause statement.

"Officers did a safety sweep at Craig's residence to check for Owens. When the officers got to the basement steps, they could smell a strong odor of bleach. The odor continued as they entered the basement. The officers informed me the basement floor was wet. They also said they saw bottles of bleach in the basement.

On 2-19-14 at 0128, Detective Barb obtained a signed search warrant to search Craig's residence. Several crime scene technicians responded to the scene. In the basement, the crime scene technicians located two plastic storage totes. They were stacked one on top of the other. There were papers and documents in the top tote. In the bottom tote was what appeared to be the body of a small child. The body was concealed inside two trash bags. The crime scene technicians removed the trash bags and confirmed it was the body of Owens.

Tom Van De Berg, the chief investigator for the Greene County Medical Examiner's office responded to the scene. I contacted Van De Berg at that location. He informed me Owens had what appeared to be a gunshot wound at the base of her skull. He said there were also apparent ligature marks on Owens' arms.

The crime scene investigator continued to process the crime scene. They located a spent .22 caliber shell casing in the basement.”

The news of Hailey Owens’ death has sent shock waves nationwide. It might be the fact that this terrible tragedy fits the classic abduction “stranger danger” scenario. According to eyewitness reports, Wood drove through a neighborhood then asked Hailey Owens for directions. He then reached out and pulled her into his truck before speeding away, while onlookers screamed for him to let her go.

Though neighbors had an accurate description of the suspect, vehicle, and had accurately recorded his license plate number; and though one neighbor, Ricky Riggins, jumped in his car and tried desperately to track down the perpetrator, Hailey Owens was not saved. While stranger abductions continue, Hailey Owens’ abduction and murder reminds us not only how vulnerable our children are, but also how those who interact with children on a daily basis may be capable of committing similar heinous acts.

Craig Wood has worked in the public school system for 16 years. He has been surrounded by children yet is not married and has no children of his own. Is this the first time he has abducted and murdered a child? At this moment, reports indicate that Wood had no previous connection to Hailey and taught in a different school. Does Craig Wood have a trail of victims from his years of public school work? As this investigation continues, one must ask what insight into Wood’s murderous mind will be revealed.

The reality that there are monsters capable of grabbing children off the street, bringing them home and within hours, shooting them in the head and that these monsters are working in public schools and having daily interaction with countless children is appalling.

Craig Wood has his first court appearance scheduled for Friday, February 21, 2014.

Charisse Van Horn is the owner of the Amber Alerts and Missing Children Cases blog. You may see updated information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, including links to missing children’s posters by state, there. You may also follow on Facebook at Amber Alerts and Missing Children Cases: Facebook on Twitter and on Google Plus.

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