Fighting back tears, Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson announced Craig Michael Wood, 45, was charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and kidnapping in the death of 10-year-old Hailey Owens.
“It is a tragedy that it was not quick enough to save Hailey, but I don't believe there is anything else they could have done in this case,” Patterson said.
According to charging documents, Owens’ body was discovered in the basement of Wood’s home with a gunshot wound to the back of her head.
Police found Wood inside a vehicle at a home in south Springfield late Tuesday night.
Hailey was within a block or two of her house Tuesday afternoon when witnesses said a man circled the neighborhood several times. Police said the driver initiated conversation with Hailey before pulling her in his truck and driving away.
"He opened his door and said, ‘Come here for a minute.’ And she walked up to his truck and as soon as she got in hands reach, he grabbed her, threw her over him in the passenger's seat and took off," Carlos Edwards told KY3, the NBC affiliate in Springfield.
Witnesses reportedly attempted to chase the truck. Police said one witness got in a car and tried to chase down the alleged kidnapper while calling 911.
"The man sped off really quick... burnt tires," Ricky Riggins said, a man who tried to chase the truck. "I got in my car and tried to chase him down on Grand, but I couldn't keep up with him."
Springfield police credit the neighbors who not only ran after the kidnapper, but with providing key details that led officers to the suspect's vehicle. That vehicle was registered to a family member who let Wood use it, police said.
Wood stopped at a laundromat before returning home about four hours after the abduction, police said, who were waiting for the suspect when he arrived.
Wood is listed on the website of a Springfield Public Schools campus as an employee of a middle school and an employee database confirms he was working as a paraprofessional employee as of last year, according to a report by the Springfield News-Leader. The school district confirmed he was an employee in an email sent out by the schools' superintendent, Dr. Norm Ridder.
"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."
Jim Wood, father of the suspect, told 41 Action News Wednesday he and his family were still trying to come to grips with what had happened.
"Yes, he's my son," Wood said by telephone from his home. "This is a major tragedy, a stunning shock. This has stunned southern Missouri. I don't know how else to say it."
A Facebook page called Porch Lights for Hailey has been created, with people posting pictures from states as far away as Arizona and New Jersey.