A Missouri Amber Alert has ended in tragedy. Authorities confirmed that 10-year-old Hailey Owens was found dead inside a Springfield home. Hailey disappeared on Tuesday while she was walking down the street near her home.
Witnesses reported that the little girl was grabbed by a white male, who forced her into his gold Ford Ranger pickup truck. Authorities immediately issued an Amber Alerts in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
On Tuesday evening, authorities receive a tip that led them to the home of Craig Michael Wood. Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said evidence inside Wood’s home suggested he was involved in Hailey’s abduction.
Woods was eventually discovered hiding inside his vehicle. He was taken into custody for questioning and later charged with kidnapping and first-degree murder.
During a press conference, Williams confirmed that Woods was arrested in connection with the abduction. However, he did not confirm Hailey’s body was found.
As reported by Ozarks First, a friend speaking on behalf of Hailey’s family confirmed that Hailey Owens’ body was found at the scene.
Authorities credit the Amber Alert for leading them to the suspect. Chief Williams said 30 officers spent the remainder of the evening collecting evidence from the suspect’s home. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting with the collection of evidence.
Witnesses said Craig Michael Woods circled the neighborhood numerous times before he forced Hailey into his truck. Although authorities believe it was a stranger abduction, it was later revealed that Wood was an employee of the local school district.
It is unclear whether the suspect ever had contact with Hailey in the course of his employment.
KMBC reports that officials with Springfield Public Schools confirmed the suspect was employed by the school district. Although he worked as coach and a teacher’s assistant, a representative said woods will remain under suspension pending the outcome of his trial.
Superintendent Dr. Norm Ridder said he and his staff are fully cooperating with the investigation. He has also expressed his sympathy to Hailey’s family and friends. Ridder said counselors and law enforcement officials will be available to provide support to SPS faculty, students, and their families.
Although Woods was never previously convicted of a violent crime, he was arrested for possession of a controlled substance in 1990. Court records confirm that he plead guilty and his jail sentence was suspended. The suspension was contingent on completion of a rehabilitation program.
The Amber Alert did not save Hailey Owens’ life. However, it led authorities to her suspected killer. His arrest and prosecution may help Hailey’s family find closure.