She was a beautiful, brown-eyed, 10-year-old from Springfield, MO. Hailey Owens was walking home from a friends house in the 3200 block of W. Lombard St. It wasn’t a long way, nor was it unusual for the child to traverse the area. On February 18, 2014, neighbors watched in horror as she was snatched off the street and tosed into a pickup truck. The male witness jumped in his vehicle and tried to chase the truck, while the woman wrote down the lisence number and made a frantic call to 911. Unfortunately, the heavy traffic afforded the kidnapper an easy escape.
Police arrived on the scene just before 5 pm to take witness statements. The statewide Amber Alert was issued by 7 pm. By 8:30 pm the truck was located at the home of Craig Wood.
Police arrested Wood and began searching for Hailey hoping to find her alive. After all, it had only been four hours since she was snatched. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
Officers noticed a strong bleach smell as they entered the basement of Woods’ home. Later, Hailey’s body was found stuffed in a plastic tub. She had been raped and shot in the back of the head.
Anger erupted across the Ozarks and quickly spread nationwide. How could an ex-coach rape and murder a tiny 77lb girl?
Wood, 45 was a former employee of the Springfield school system. He worked as a teacher’s aide and a football coach for sixteen years. Officers found child pornography including pictures of four young female students from the school where he had worked.
A candlelight vigil was organized on February 23rd. 10,000 people marched from Commercial St. to the Jefferson Ave. footbridge. The bridge was lit up with purple lights. Purple was Hailey’s favorite color.
The murder trial of Craig Wood
The trial began on October 30, 2017. Wood claimed his Meth binge caused him to kill Hailey Owens. He was convicted of 1st degree murder on November’s 4th. Defense attorneys argued that the lack of premeditation should spare Woods from the death penalty. Much to the public’s surprise, the jury couldn’t decide on the death penalty.
Defense attorneys quickly filed a motion requesting a new trial citing errors by the judge.
While the public went on with their holiday celebrations, the family of Hailey Owens were forced to wait on justice. The ruling wouldn’t come until after the new year.
January 11, 2018:
Judge Thomas Mountjoy denied Craig Wood’s appeal for a new trial. Later the same day he sentenced Wood to death by lethal injection.
Hailey’s parents are working hard to get “Hailey’s Law” passed. If passed, it will help streamline the Amber Alert system in hopes of saving lives. A 2-hour window elapsed between Haily’s abduction and the Amber Alert. Could those 120 minutes have saved Hailey? We will never know, but if it saves one child in the future then I say pass it. Get it on the books.
This case took an odd turn when Craig Woods’ family joined Hailey’s family in trying to push through Hailey’s Law.
There are many photos available of Craig Woods online, but I refuse to plaster his sorry face on my blog. If you want to see him then you can google it.