A body believed to be that of the missing school girl Hailey Owens has been found in Springfield, Missouri. The body has not been positively identified, but local authorities are convinced that it is indeed the victim. The prime suspect in the murder, Craig Michael Wood, has been apprehended till further evidence can be collected.
Owens was abducted Tuesday afternoon after witnesses reported that a man driving a gold-colored Ford Ranger drove by and pulled her into the truck. According to sources, the driver stopped besides Owens and called her, and as soon as she was in arm’s reach, he pulled her in and drove away. Amber alerts were issued and a search to locate her was carried out. A dead body, however, was discovered in a house owned by Wood. He was hence considered a prime suspect in the abduction and was apprehended.
Wood has worked as a coach in Springfield public schools since 1998. He was also an athletic and paraprofessional coach at Pleasant View K-8 School. It is yet to be confirmed if he indeed abducted and murdered Owens but he is under police custody on charges of murder and first degree murder. Possible motive behind the crime is of yet unknown. Wood has been suspended from his job and will remain under custody till further information about the body discovered is available. Springfield authorities are still searching the area where Owens went missing to determine if any link between the body believed to be the missing girl and Wood can be established.
Upon further investigation, authorities found that Wood did not have any previous serious criminal history. He was fined for substance abuse in 1990 and convicted of taking wildlife through illegal means but did not have anything else besides these charges. Springfield Public Schools District spokesperson Teresa Bledsoe said that Wood cleared all the background checks before his acceptance for employment. According to her, there was no evidence hinting at his actions as screenings of past criminal violations came back empty. Hailey Owens’ mother said she did not know who the man who allegedly abducted her daughter was. Hence, the possible link between suspect and victim remains unclear. Wood has not spoken to anyone since his arrest and continues to avoid conversation regarding the topic. Police has refrained from making any statements before an autopsy report could be obtained which would better explain the situation.
Police are still not sure whether or not to issue further Amber Alerts. Until it can be made certain that the body found indeed belongs to 10-year-old Hailey Owens, police are urging everyone to report sightings or news related to the case. Hailey is 5 feet, 2 inches tall with blonde hair and pierced ears.
The entire case is still missing key details, and so, it is unclear how it will progress. It has still not been confirmed if Wood committed the crime, but he could be facing serious punishment for child abduction and murder if convicted. The missing girl incident in Springfield brought up the topic of child safety and finding her body made it essential that the matter be looked into.
By Hammad Ali