A 45-year-old elementary school coach is being held on suspicion of first degree murder after police in Missouri confirmed Wednesday they discovered a young female body believed to be that of missing 10-year-old Hailey Owens.
The 10-year-old was reported missing Tuesday evening after witnesses told police they saw a man in a gold-colored 2008 Ford Ranger driving down the street several times before approaching Hailey and pulling her into his truck just before 5:00 p.m.
An Amber Alert was subsequently issued in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma around 7:00 p.m. Tuesday.
Based off of information from witnesses, including a vehicle description and license plate number, authorities were led to the suspect, 45-year-old Craig Michael Wood.
Authorities say they discovered the female body inside Wood’s home, along with signs of foul play and evidence related to Hailey’s abduction.
An official identification of the body and cause of death won’t be determined until an autopsy is complete, police said at a news conference.
“The Springfield Police Department and FBI investigators are continuing to process multiple scenes related to this crime, including the suspect’s residence,” Chief Paul Williams said at a news conference Wednesday.
At this time, investigators said they have not been able to determine a connection between Wood and the missing girl.
However, the superintendent of Springfield Public Schools told HLN Wednesday that Wood has worked for the school district since August 1998.
“He works as a paraprofessional and athletic coach at Pleasant View K-8 School,” the statement read. “His employment has been suspended until this matter is resolved.”
According to the school district, Hailey was a student at Westport Elementary and attended Bowerman Elementary last year.
“I offer my support to Hailey’s family and to our SPS community,” the superintendent said. “Students and staff at three of our schools are coping with this situation. 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.”
Police said Wood refused to speak to them and asked for an attorney at the police station. HLN was unable to determine the name of an attorney representing Wood as of Wednesday afternoon.
Online records show Wood has a previous criminal history. He pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance in 1990 and was given a suspended execution of his sentence after completing a court-ordered drug counseling program.
“Bad things do happen,” Chief Williams told the media. “The fact that people saw something and tried to help is commendable.”