A former middle school football coach has been sentenced to death for kidnapping, raping, and murdering a 10-year-old girl he grabbed off the street.
Craig Wood, 49, of Springfield, Missouri, was sentenced for the first-degree murder of Hailey Owens on Thursday, Jan. 11.
The 10-year-old was walking home from school in Springfield, in February 2014 when Wood pulled his truck over to the side of the road and beckoned the girl over, DailMail reported.
Witness Ricky Riggins saw Hailey as he was pulling into his driveway, just moments before Wood snatched her.
“When I pulled in, she smiled at me,” Riggins said, Fox4 reported. “I remember that. She was smiling.”
Moments later Riggins heard his neighbor’s frantic screams as he saw Wood kidnap Hailey.
“He grabbed her, put his hand over her mouth and just yanked her in there,” Riggins said.
“He is a monster.”
While another witness called the police and provided Wood’s license plate, Riggins tried to follow Wood in his car.
“He had peeled out and was going really fast that way. He was probably going about 60 [mph] on through here,” Riggins told reporters.
Wood lost him in traffic.
When police arrived at Wood’s home after running a trace on his registration plate, they found Hailey’s body wrapped in plastic and placed in a tub.
She had been shot in the back of the head.
During the trial, prosecutors produced evidence showing Wood was an impulsive pedophile.
He was convicted last month but jurors could not decide whether to sentence him to death or life in prison without parole.
On Thursday, a judge sentenced him to death.
Wood’s defense team argued that the death penalty was unconstitutional, the Daily Mail reported, on the grounds that the killing was not premeditated.
No execution date has been set.
KOLR10 spoke with the mother of Hailey Owens, Stacy Herman, at the courthouse.
Herman told reporters it had been a very hard emotional day and requested her attorney David Ransin to read a statement.
“After three and a half years, Craig Wood finally got what he deserves. The death penalty. Knowing Craig Wood will never get out and never hurt another child is my satisfaction.”
Herman also told of her plans to push for Hailey’s Law in years to come.
This is a legal initiative to allow police to act faster to kidnappings.
“The bill gives officers across the state the ability to issue an Amber Alert digitally, which could shave time off a process in which every second counts,” reads a statement posted on a Facebook page set up in Hailey’s memory.
Prosecutors told KOLR10 reporters that an appeal by Wood’s defense team is likely, but that they are confident the death penalty will stand throughout the appeals process.