Craig Michael Wood, Missouri Football Coach, Charged with Murder After 10-Year-Old Found Dead

ST. LOUIS—A middle-school football coach was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder in the death of a 10-year-old girl in southwest Missouri who was reportedly snatched off a neighborhood street just blocks from her home as several neighbors watched in horror.

Craig Michael Wood, 45, of Springfield also faces kidnapping and armed criminal action charges, according to Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson, who filed the charges late Wednesday afternoon.

Wood is accused of kidnapping fourth-grader Hailey Owens about 5 p.m. Tuesday as she walked to a friend’s house. Wood was arrested inside the truck parked outside his small, single-story home Tuesday night.

A body believed to be that of the missing girl was found Wednesday at a Springfield home owned by Wood. Official confirmation won’t occur until after an autopsy, but Police Chief Paul Williams said “we have a high degree of confidence” in the preliminary identification. He did not disclose the child’s cause of death.

Witnesses told investigators that a man in a gold 2008 Ford Ranger pickup truck drove down the street several times before abducting Hailey.

The Springfield School District said Wood is a seventh-grade football coach and teacher’s aide who supervises in-school suspensions at a school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Hailey did not attend that school, and Williams said the two apparently didn’t know each other.

“There’s no connection that we’ve been able to determine at this time between the victim and the suspect,” he said.

Williams said police have no idea of a motive for the killing. He said Wood has not talked to investigators since his arrest.

Police and FBI agents investigate the scene where Craig Michael Wood was arrested in Springfield, Mo., on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/The Springfield News-Leader, Valerie Mosley)

Craig Michael Wood. (AP Photo/Greene County Sheriff’s Office)

The chief said that witnesses to the abduction called 911 to report the truck’s license number. Resident Ricky Riggins told the Springfield News-Leader he chased the fleeing pickup in his car after a neighbor tried to pull the girl away.

“I couldn’t keep up,” Riggins told the newspaper. “He was probably five to six cars ahead of me. … It was so fast.”

About 30 Springfield police investigators along with an FBI evidence response team searched the area near Wood’s home Wednesday morning, as well as a nearby coin-operated laundry.

A records search shows Wood had little criminal history. He pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance in 1990 in Greene County and was fined $100. Wood also was convicted in 2001 for illegal taking of wildlife, the News-Leader reported.

Springfield School District Superintendent Norm Ridder said in a statement Wednesday that Wood began working for the district in August 1998 and is a paraprofessional and coach at Pleasant View School. Ridder said Wood has been suspended since his arrest.

School spokesman Teresa Bledsoe later said that Wood was initially hired as a temporary employee who worked as a substitute teacher before he was hired full time in 2006. He has coached football at Pleasant View since 1998 and was also an assistant boys’ basketball coach.

“He met all of our qualifications for employment,” Bledsoe said, noting that the Springfield district has a more rigorous background check requirement than state law, with an additional screening designed to detect substantiated allegations of child abuse or neglect as well as any past criminal violations.

Hailey did not attend the school where Wood worked. She was a student at Westport Elementary School this year, and was at Bowerman Elementary School last year.

A candlelight vigil for Hailey is scheduled for Saturday, and a memorial fund has been set up in her name at a local bank.

Category: US Crime

  • Even Tempered

    If she was abducted on Tuesday, and the trucks license-plate number was called in minutes (if not seconds) after the abduction, why did it take the police an entire day to find this guy? If a child is snatched off the street with multiple witnesses, you’d think they’d make that a priority.

    • Gin1234

      It didn’t. They found him within hours. By the time I went to bed last night, they had already taken him into custody, but the news said that they were still looking for her body. I was surprised at how quickly they found him.

      • Even Tempered

        Thanks. I only read the article here, so I guess the cops were doing their job. I just read, however, that he was an in-school-suspension teacher. It burns me up to think of how many students were at his mercy as a disciplinarian. I cannot actively advocate the death penalty, but I hope the police interrogators are putting him through Hell right now.

        BTW, this new username and pic are customized for the people I’m butting heads with in another arena , but I’m actually one of the Huffugees. Have you gone to Alexa lately, and looked at the HP’s stats (particularly the bounce rate)? I’ve also noticed that they are now hiding their profile on Quantcast. If I’m reading the tea-leaves correctly, it looks like poor Arianna is in serious trouble.

        • Gin1234

          It is really disturbing that he has been working there, since 2006. I wonder what else he has done. Typical of pedophiles though. They always choose jobs where they can have access to children. Surprising that it took him this long. I imagine that she was dead in a very short period of time after he took her. There are just no words to express how much I hate a person like this, so I just won’t try. That poor little girl.

          I saw a comment from you with your new name at the House of Cs and did a double take. :) I think I know who you are, but maybe not if you have a new avatar, too. The whole fall for Hidden Profile is supposed to be because of a glitch. They tried to instate a better system for counting clicks or something, but it didn’t work out. Born Okay has some knowledge in computer code. Apparently, he is very knowledgable, and that is what he said is happening based on an article they posted a couple of weeks ago in their tech section. You have to wonder why it is taking them so long to fix it, though.

          • Even Tempered

            I don’t think pedophilia was the motive. The only charges against him I’ve read are for murder and abduction, and I couldn’t find him on Missouri’s sex-offender registry. In addition to being a coach, he was an in-school-suspension teacher, and the picture of his face is certainly indicative to me of anger-management issues. My guess is that, as the story unfolds, we’ll find that their were instances of excessive disciplinary practices on his part. Possibly the girl got him in trouble, and this was his way of getting revenge. Either that, or he had been keeping his monster (a desire to hurt and/or kill a child) in the box, and finally just indulged in the thrill kill to gratify his sick needs. If I go any further, though, this post will degenerate into a rant.

            I have no idea what House of C’s is, but I’m guessing the comment you read wasn’t even related to the discussion. This is apparently a result of multiple identifiers being assigned to the same thread. Unfortunately, I created this ID on E.T., and it must share the same URL as the People article in which I was having it out with both “truthers” and “guilters”. I deliberately commented on Zack’s “Amanda and Raffaele Innocenti” board in an attempt to alert the mods, and keep their insane blog war off your boards, but I’ve since gone to past threads, and can see that several of them have already found their way here. Worse, at least two of my comments from the People brawl migrated (as a result of the identifier issue) to stale Amanda Knox threads, so there’s no telling where else they’ve gone. I’m going to have to go into the API console, and address this, but I really haven’t had the time to puzzle it out yet. Since they stalk each other in this game, and I can tell from my likes that I’ve picked up several lurkers, those rogue comments may very well have been what led them here in the first place. Fortunately, the latest ET article on Amanda Knox concerning the BBC documentary has (for now) a short and fairly civil board, so either the most of the Knoxers realize that they won’t get much mileage out of ET, or (more likely) the moderators are showing the ones who don’t behave themselves the door. I’ll address your other reply to me in a separate post.

          • Gin1234

            I see they removed my comment because I wrote the words c*h*i*dpor…, but they found some of that in Woods home, as is being reported in a number of articles I read, today. However, he does not meet the same criteria as most ped s and abductors as far as age,ability to maintain one job, background, and other things, so he is really a mystery.

            I’m sorry you are having so much trouble with stal*king. I hope it works out for you. Sometimes, it’s just better to use a different email and reregister allover again. Good luck to you!

  • Gin1234

    This man is despicable. There is so little else that can be said to express what he is, and I’m not going to bother describing what should be done to him. There aren’t words for that, either. So sad that another innocent child, playing, is gone.