Disturbing new details have emerged in the abduction and murder of 10-year-old Hailey Owens, who was snatched off the street in Springfield, Missouri, as she walked home from a friend’s house Tuesday afternoon.
Craig Michael Wood, a 45-year-old middle school coach from Ash Grove, has been charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and child kidnapping. He could be eligible for the death penalty if convicted.
A probable cause statement released by Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson revealed horrifying new details about Owens’ last hours alive and the discovery of her remains.
Officials said they noticed a strong odor of bleach coming from Wood’s basement during a safety sweep of his residence Tuesday night for Owens. When police obtained a search warrant Wednesday, crime scene technicians began processing the suspect’s home for clues.
Two plastic storage totes stacked one on top of the other, covered with papers and documents, were subsequently found in the basement, police said.
“In the bottom tote was what appeared to be the body of a small child,” authorities said in the probable cause statement. “The body was concealed inside two trash bags.”
The child had a gunshot wound to the base of her skull as well as apparent ligature marks on her arms, the Green County Medical Examiner’s Office said, according to police.
A spent .22 caliber shell casing was found in the basement, investigators said.
Authorities are waiting for an autopsy to officially confirm the body is Owens’, 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.
The 10-year-old girl was abducted Tuesday just before 5:00 p.m. as she was walking home from a friend's house.
Two eye-witnesses told police they saw a man in a gold-colored 2008 Ford Ranger driving down the street several times before approaching the girl and pulling her into his truck.
One witness told police “the male then lunged out of the vehicle, grabbed the girl with his left hand, and threw her into the truck ‘like a rag doll,’” according to the probable cause statement. The suspect then fled the area at a high rate of speed.
The witnesses provided a detailed description of the suspect, the car he was driving, and the license plate number, which led authorities to Wood.
Police said when they arrived at Wood’s residence Tuesday, he had a roll of duct tape in his hand which he threw into the bed of his truck after spotting police.
While at police headquarters for an interview, authorities say Wood initially told them he got off of work around 3:15 p.m. Tuesday and went straight home.
“He later changed his story and said he went driving around for a while,” police said. Wood denied having any contact with Owens.
Wood has worked for the Springfield school district since August 1998 as a paraprofessional and athletic coach at Pleasant View K-8 School
“His employment has been suspended until this matter is resolved,” the school district superintendent said in a statement.
Wood is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Friday for his arraignment.
HLN has been unable to locate the name of an attorney representing him.
Meanwhile, a candlelight march and vigil for Owens will take place from 8-9 p.m. Saturday in Springfield.
Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson expressed his condolences to Owens’ family in a news release and said he’s firmly committed to seeking justice for the slain girl.
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