Springfield police: Body thought to be Hailey Owens found at suspect's home, suspect charged

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - The man accused of abducting and killing a young girl in Missouri has been formally charged, investigators announced Wednesday night.

Craig Michael Wood, 45, faces charges for first-degree murder, armed criminal action and child kidnapping.

On Tuesday evening, a multi-state Amber Alert was issued for 10-year-old Hailey Owens after witnesses reported her abduction. Court documents released Wednesday night state a man matching Wood's description was seen pulling up next to Owens as she walked down a Springfield street. 

The witness told police she could hear the man ask for directions, opening the door of his tan Ford Ranger as she turned to walk away. 

"Hey, come here a minute," the man said before grabbing Owens and throwing her into the vehicle "like a rag doll," according to the documents.

Ricky Riggins, who lives across the street from where the abduction took place, told 2NEWS he saw Owens playing moments before.

"She was picking stuff off the ground, playing with her phone," said Riggins.

Then he said he heard people screaming.

"My neighbors were trying to get this girl out of the man's truck," he said.

But the driver of the truck sped off with Owens.

"I got in my car and tried to chase him down but I couldn't keep up with him," said Riggins.

Multiple witnesses reported the same license plate, which led investigators to Wood's parents. Wood, they said, typically drove the Ranger.

2NEWS learned from an attendant at the Dutch Maid laundromat in Springfield that Wood washed his clothes there a short time before he was arrested at his house.

The attendant said investigators visited the laundromat Wednesday morning to process evidence Wood left behind.

Court documents state Springfield investigators witnessed Wood carrying duct tape into his home, which he threw back into his truck bed upon seeing the officers. He was taken into custody around 8:30 Tuesday night.

By 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, officers had obtained a search warrant for Wood's residence. Inside, investigators noticed the smell of bleach and reported seeing two bottles of bleach in the basement.

Crime scene technicians then uncovered two plastic storage totes. One of the containers, according to the report, held the body of a small child.

The Greene County Chief Medical Examiner later determined the victim had sustained a bullet wound to the head. A .22-calibur shell casing was found in the basement. 

PHOTOS: Suspect's home, laundromat police say he used after abduction

Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Norm Ridder confirmed with 2NEWS Wednesday Wood is an employee of the district, working as a paraprofessional and coach. He has been employed with the district since 1998.

Ridder posted the following statement Wednesday on the district's website:

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

The suspect in this case, Craig Michael Wood, was arrested by Springfield Police Department. Wood has been employed by SPS since Aug. 18, 1998. He works as a paraprofessional and athletic coach at Pleasant View K-8 School. His employment has been suspended until this matter is resolved.

Hailey is a student at Westport Elementary School and last year she attended Bowerman Elementary School.

I offer my support to Hailey's family and to our SPS community. 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.

We are fully cooperating with law enforcement officials as their investigation continues. Because this is an ongoing investigation, I will not be making any further comments about the situation at this time.

Brittany Fuqua lives in the neighborhood where Owens was abducted. She said Owens and her daughter are playmates.

Fuqua told 2NEWS she is struggling with how to tell her daughter about Owens' death.

She said she also worries about her daughter's safety.

"My daughter keeps asking multiple questions and it sucks that she can't just come outside and play," said Fuqua.

Wood's neighbors said he has lived in the house alone for the last five years at least.  They say they would see Wood driving up and down the street in his vehicle but rarely talked to him.

"I don't think he was quite as friendly as the rest of us in the neighborhood are with each other," said Kurt Kendrick.

Prosecutors said the murder charge could result in the death penalty for Wood but they did not announce whether they plan to seek it in this case.

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