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State News

February 20, 2014

Body found believed to be missing Missouri girl’s

(Continued)

St. Louis, Mo. —

“I couldn’t keep up,” Riggins told the newspaper. “He was probably five to six cars ahead of me. ... It was so fast.”

About 30 Springfield police investigators along with an FBI evidence response team searched the area near Wood’s home Wednesday morning, as well as a nearby coin-operated laundry.

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.

Springfield School District Superintendent Norm Ridder said in a statement Wednesday that Wood began working for the district in August 1998 and is a paraprofessional and coach at Pleasant View School. Ridder said Wood has been suspended since his arrest.

School spokesman Teresa Bledsoe later said that Wood was initially hired as a temporary employee who worked as a substitute teacher before he was hired full time in 2006. He has coached football at Pleasant View since 1998 and was also an assistant boys’ basketball coach.

“He met all of our qualifications for employment,” Bledsoe said, noting that the Springfield district has a more rigorous background check requirement than state law, with an additional screening designed to detect substantiated allegations of child abuse or neglect as well as any past criminal violations.

Hailey did not attend the school where Wood worked. She was a student at Westport Elementary School this year, and was at Bowerman Elementary School last year. Springfield, with 162,000 residents, is Missouri’s third-largest city.

“Students and staff at three of our schools are coping with this situation,” Ridder said. 

Additional counselors and police were on hand at all three schools, and the district planned to release more information to parents later Wednesday.

A candlelight vigil for Hailey is scheduled for Saturday, and a memorial fund has been set up in her name at a local bank.

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