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February 20, 2014

Body found believed to be missing Missouri girl’s

St. Louis, Mo. — A middle-school football coach has been jailed on suspicion of first-degree murder in the abduction and death of a 10-year-old girl in southwest Missouri, police said Wednesday.

A body believed to be that of Hailey Owens was found Wednesday at a Springfield home owned by the suspect, Police Chief Paul Williams said at a news conference. Official confirmation won’t occur until after an autopsy, but the chief said police “have a high degree of confidence” in the preliminary identification. He did not disclose the child’s cause of death.

Police say Craig Michael Wood, 45, is jailed on suspicion of first-degree murder but formal charges have not been filed. The Greene County prosecutor is reviewing the case and scheduled a news conference for late Wednesday afternoon.

Hailey was walking to a friend’s home in Springfield just before 5 p.m. Tuesday. Witnesses told investigators that a man in a gold 2008 Ford Ranger pickup truck drove down the street several times before abducting the child, who was just several blocks from her own home.

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

The Springfield School District said Wood is a seventh-grade football coach and teacher’s aide who supervises in-school suspensions at a school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Hailey did not attend that school, and Williams said the two apparently didn’t know each other.

“There’s no connection that we’ve been able to determine at this time between the victim and the suspect,” he said.

Williams said police have no idea of a motive for the killing. He said Wood has not talked to investigators since his arrest.

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.

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