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Missouri man charged in death of 10-year-old Hailey Owens

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By Shawn Nottingham and Jason Hanna

(CNN) — A southwestern Missouri man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of 10-year-old Hailey Owens.

Craig Michael Wood, 45, of Springfield, was also charged with armed criminal action and child kidnapping, Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson told reporters Wednesday.

He praised the community’s response to the case.

“It is a tragedy that it was not quick enough to save Hailey,” Patterson said.

Wood is being held without bond.

Hailey’s body was found earlier at a home where Wood’s been living, police said. She was allegedly abducted Tuesday afternoon.

An Amber Alert was issued after two witnesses told police that a man pulled Hailey, of Springfield, into a gold Ford Ranger, while she was walking about a block from her home, according to a probable cause document.

The man pulled up next to the girl and asked her for directions, one of the witnesses said. Hailey turned away from the car. The man opened his driver’s-side door and motioned for her to come back, according to the witness. She took a couple of steps closer, and the man “lunged out of the vehicle, grabbed the girl with his left hand and threw her into the truck ‘like a rag doll,'” the probable cause document said.

Both witnesses gave the same description of the man and his vehicle, and one of them was able to get the license plate number.

Police traced the plates back to Wood’s parents, who told them that their son drove the car.

Police went to Wood’s home on Tuesday night and, after he drove up to the residence, took him in for questioning. Officers who did an initial search of the house for Hailey could smell bleach in the basement, and the floor was wet. After getting a search warrant, investigators found Hailey’s body in a storage bin. She had suffered what appeared to be a gunshot to her head, according to police.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Hailey knew Wood.

Since 1998, Wood has been employed by Springfield Public Schools, working as a paraprofessional and athletic coach at Pleasant View K-8 School, according to a statement from the schools. He has since been suspended.

Hailey was a student at Westport Elementary School. She attended Bowerman Elementary School last year.

“Last night we learned the terrible news that one of our students had been abducted near her home. This morning, our sadness is compounded by the recent developments in the case of Hailey Owens’ abduction,” said Superintendent Norm Ridder.

He added: “Students and staff at three of our schools are coping with this situation. To support these school communities directly impacted by this tragedy, I have assigned additional counseling staff and school police officers to be on hand until further notice.”

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