Craig Michael Wood, a middle-school football coach, has been charged in the killing of 10-year-old Hailey Owens in Springfield, Missouri.
The Associated Press reports that Wood, 45, kidnapped Hailey in front of multiple witnesses as she was walking home from a friend’s house Tuesday evening, only a few blocks from her home.
A neighbor tried to pull Hailey away, but Wood threw the girl into his vehicle. Another resident ran after the truck and wrote down the license plate number.
Ricky Riggins, who also watched the horrifying event unfold, got in his car to chase down Wood’s pickup.
"I couldn't keep up," Riggins told the Springfield News-Leader. "He was probably five to six cars ahead of me. ... It was so fast."
The Springfield Police Department worked quickly to issue an Amber Alert and identify Wood as a suspect, finding him less than four hours after the abduction. They worked throughout the night to obtain a search warrant and complete their investigation of Wood’s home.
But despite their best efforts, they were too late. The authorities found Hailey’s body stuffed into bags the bleach-soaked basement of Wood’s home. She had been shot in the back of the head.
"While they were tragically not able to save Hailey, I want to express my appreciation to the citizens who were aware and alerted law enforcement," said Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterrson at a Wednesday news conference.
Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said there was “no connection” between Wood and Hailey, who did not attend the school where Wood worked.
Wood is being held on bond and may face the death penalty for charges of first-degree murder, child kidnapping, and armed criminal action.