School Coach Charged With Murder of Missouri Girl

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A middle-school coach was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder in the death of a Missouri girl who was taken off the street just blocks from her home a day before — as neighbors watched in horror.

A body believed to be that of 10-year-old Hailey Owens was found Wednesday at a Springfield, Mo., home owned by the suspect, Craig Michael Wood, 45.

A complete autopsy was pending, but Police Chief Paul Williams said authorities “have a high degree of confidence” in the preliminary identification, according to The Associated Press.

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.

Owens was walking to a friend’s house in Springfield before 5 p.m. Tuesday. Witnesses told investigators that a man in a gold-colored Ford Ranger approached her, grabbed her, threw her in his truck and drove away.

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."

Wood was arrested inside the truck parked outside his small, single-story home on Tuesday night.

In a statement Wednesday, Springfield School District Superintendent Norm Ridder said Wood works as a paraprofessional and athletic coach at Pleasant View K-8 School.

He has worked for the school district since Aug. 18, 1998, Ridder said.

Officials said Owens did not attend that school and likely did not know Wood.

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.

Craig Michael WoodGreene County Sheriff