Despite Quick Response, Abduction has Tragic Ending

Tuesday night, Oklahomans received an Amber Alert. A 10-year-old girl from Springfield, Missouri, was missing. The suspect was driving a 1998 gold Ford Ranger, and police believed he could be headed toward Oklahoma. By the time Oklahoma got the alert, however, Hailey Owens was already dead, and the suspect was in custody. Most child abductions involve parental kidnapping by a non-custodial parent. Stranger abductions are rare, but when one occurs, it strikes fear in the heart of parents and children everywhere. In this case, the details are shocking on many levels. Hailey was abducted in the presence of witnesses who not only tried to pull her from the kidnapper's vehicle, but who also gave chase to the fleeing truck and who immediately called 9-1-1 with the license plate number. Despite such rapid response, it was too late to save the little girl. A suspect, Craig Michael Wood, was arrested at his home less than four hours after Hailey was abducted. Responding officers noticed the smell of bleach in Wood's home, and after obtaining a search warrant, found the body of a young girl believed to be Hailey. Although police have not officially identified the body or released the cause of death, reports say the girl had ligature marks on her arms and that she was shot at the base of the skull. Between the time Hailey was abducted at 4:48 p.m. and the time Wood was arrested at approximately 8:30 p.m., the suspect had time to murder the little girl, clean up with bleach, and go to a nearby laundromat to wash his clothes before returning home to find police waiting for him. So far, no one has been able to provide a link between Wood and his victim, and it is believed that the girl was abducted at random. Witnesses say Wood drove up and down the street several times as the girl walked to a friend's house only a few blocks from her own, before stopping to ask the girl for directions. As Hailey turned to walk away, the man gestured for her to come back, grabbing her by the arm and tossing her into the truck as horrified witnesses tried to prevent the abduction. If the tale of a random abduction in broad daylight, in the presence of multiple adult witnesses isn't enough to shock and terrify parents, details of the suspect are. Wood was an employee of a school serving children in Kindergarten through 8th grade. The alleged kidnapper and child murder spent his days with children his victim's age, working for the school district since 1998 as a substitute teacher, then a teacher's aide, in-school suspension supervisor, and 7th grade football coach. Wood's criminal record shows only a minor drug possession charge in 1990, when he would have been in his early 20's, and for which he was only ordered to pay a $100 fine. Certainly, the offense is nothing to indicate kidnapping and first degree murder. Wood is charged with kidnapping, first degree murder, and armed criminal action. Because of the nature of the murder charge, Wood may face the death penalty. Although prosecutors have not yet said whether they will seek the death penalty, it seems likely that they would do so, given the nature of the child's abduction and murder. Missouri is at the heart of multiple legal battles regarding the death penalty and the state's use of pentobarbital as part of a three drug protocol in lethal injections. The state received the drug from a compounding pharmacy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but last week, a federal judge temporarily blocked the pharmacy from sending pentobarbital to the Missouri Department of Corrections.