Tags: coach | held | missing | girl

School Coach Held in Abduction of Missouri Girl

Wednesday, 19 Feb 2014 12:08 PM

Police are holding an elementary school coach on suspicion of first-degree murder in the abduction of a 10-year-old Missouri girl, electronic booking records show.

Craig Michael Wood, 45, a coach and paraprofessional, was taken into custody on Tuesday night, less than four hours after Hailey Owens was abducted from a street near her Springfield home.

The witness reports triggered a multi-state Amber Alert, Springfield police said on Wednesday.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation canceled a statewide Amber Alert for Owens and reported on their website Wednesday that at 7 a.m. local time, Springfield police "announced that they had a suspect in custody and that (Hailey) was deceased."

A KBI spokeswoman confirmed that the website information was accurate.

Springfield police, however, said in a Twitter feed the department had not canceled its Amber Alert. Department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said police were not ready to say whether Hailey has been found.

Wood is being held in the Greene County jail on suspicion of first-degree murder, according to the jail's online booking records. Police did not specify the charges against Wood during a morning news briefing.

Police declined to take questions at the briefing about whether Hailey had been found.

Several local news outlets reported Wednesday that the child's family said authorities had located her body.

The girl was walking down a Springfield street late Tuesday afternoon when a man driving a gold Ford Ranger with Missouri license plates grabbed her and pulled her into his vehicle, police said.

Police searched for the vehicle and suspect and issued the Amber Alerts.

Following a lead, officers found Wood in a vehicle at a Springfield residence at about 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday. They took him to police headquarters and arrested him three hours later after finding evidence of foul play, police said on Wednesday.

Wood has worked in Springfield public schools since 1998 and was a paraprofessional and athletic coach at Pleasant View K-8 school, Superintendent Norm Ridder said in statement posted on the district's website on Wednesday. Wood has been suspended, pending the results of the investigation, he said.

Hailey attended Westport Elementary School, Ridder said. Police officers and extra counselors were called in on Wednesday to help students cope with the tragedy, Ridder said. (Reporting by Kevin Murphy; Edited by Chris Francescani, Lisa Von Ahn and Gunna Dickson)

© 2015 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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