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Police Confirm Body Found is Likely to be Kidnapping Victim

Hailey Owens
Hailey Owens (Credit: amberalert.com)

Update @ 6:21 pm 2-19-14:

Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson announced his office has filed charges of armed criminal action, first-degree murder and child kidnapping against Craig Wood.

Authorities confirmed the death of Hailey Owens, who was said to be found in the basement of Wood’s home with a gunshot wound to the base of her skull.

Original story @ 1:30 pm 2-19-14:

During a news briefing today, Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams confirmed they’d found the body of a young female in a residence at 1538 E. Stanford.

"While she has not been positively identified, we have a high degree of confidence that it is our victim, Hailey Owens.  An official finding regarding identity and cause of death unfortunately won't be determined until an autopsy if performed at a later date," he said.

Ten-year-old Hailey Owens was abducted by a man in a pickup truck as she walked in the 3200 block of West Lombard, just a couple of blocks from her house, at around 4:45 pm Tuesday. 

Witnesses took down a license plate number and tried to chase the vehicle but lost sight of it.

Police traced the license plate number to a man in Ash Grove who said he loaned the vehicle to a relative.  Based on information that man provided, police set up surveillance in the 1500 block of E. Stanford.

At 8:30 last night, 45-year-old Craig Michael Wood pulled into his driveway at 1538 E. Stanford, was approached by officers and agreed to accompany police for questioning.

But Williams says Wood refused to talk until he had an attorney.

He was arrested and booked into the Greene County Jail two hours later.

Officers obtained a search warrant at 2:15 am and shortly after were able to search the residence where they found the body.

Wood is employed as a paraprofessional and athletic coach at Pleasant View School, which houses grades K-8.  Springfield Public School Superintendent Norm Ridder said in a news release that Wood has been suspended “until this matter is resolved.”

According to Williams, the suspect had a criminal history involving drug charges and wildlife violations.  The Springfield School District says it does not allow any newly-hired employees to be around students until they have cleared all portions of the background check process.

Williams says he’s proud of the work his officers have done in this case.  He says he hasn’t dealt with anything this tragic during his career.

"In 30 plus years of law enforcement I've dealt with a lot of things, and no, I cannot specifically point to a case like this--an abduction of a young child by a stranger and then the tragic ending, no," he said.

Police say they have been unable to establish any connection between the suspect and the victim. Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson will determine what charges will be filed in this case. 

Westport Elementary, where Owens was a student, had additional counseling staff and school police officers on hand today.

See a timeline of our earlier coverage on this story here.