"We're now able to confirm that we have, in fact, discovered a young female body pursuant to a search warrant at 1538 E. Stanford," Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said during an 11am briefing Wednesday. "While she has not been positively identified, we have a high degree of confidence that it is our victim, Hailey Owens."
Williams said the official determination on identity and cause of death will be made after an autopsy is performed.
Williams said the suspect, Craig Michael Wood, was found sitting in a gold-colored Ford pickup truck outside the house on Stanford about 8:30pm Tuesday. He was taken to police headquarters for questioning, but is not talking to investigators.
Williams said officers made a cursory search inside the house for anyone needing help. They believed they had a body in the house, and backed out to get a search warrant. The search warrant arrived about 2:15am Wednesday morning, but processing of the scene did not start until 7:30 or 8am when FBI and crime scene technicians arrived to begin collecting evidence. Williams said officers could not visually confirm a young female victim until 10:45am.
In addition to the house on Stanford, Williams said "multiple" crime scenes are being processed, including the area where Hailey was grabbed and the Dutch Maid Laundromat near National and Cherry. He declined to give details.
Hailey was abducted within a block or two of her home in the 3200 block of West Lombard, shortly before 5pm Tuesday.
Williams is crediting witnesses for acting quickly when seeing the abduction taking place. He said several witnesses chased the fleeing pickup truck, one even jumping in a car to follow. "...having good witnesses who paid attention and provided information and came forward made all the difference in the world," Williams said. Those witnesses described the truck, got the license number and called 9-1-1 immediately. Williams said those witnesses also described seeing Hailey talking to the driver of the pickup, and seeing the driver jump out and grab her, pulling her into the truck. The truck, Williams said, was owned by a relative of Wood.
"We have no idea why he was in that neighborhood," Williams said. We're still working to determine any connection." Williams said he did not know if the body had been sexually assaulted.
When asked why he didn't announce the discovery of the body during a 6:30am news conference, Williams said his first priority was to contact the family. I understand the community's need to know. But we didn't want to go off and make an assumption without having something to verify.
"We did not want to raise or lower anxiety and fears, so we took the cautious approach of we'll notify the family we might have something. Until we could confirm at least it was a person, and it was a deceased person, and it was a young girl, that we were able to confirm about 15 minutes ago." (10:45am)
Williams said he does not believe there are more suspects in the case.
Formal charges had not been filed against Craig Wood as of noon Wednesday. He was booked into the Greene County jail on probable cause charges of first degree murder. Wood was a football coach and paraprofessional at Pleasant View Elementary and Middle school. Springfield R-12 officials confirm he was hired in 1998. R-12 officials say his employment has been suspended until the case is resolved.
But Williams said there is no indication Hailey knew him. She attended Westport Elementary.
A memorial account in Hailey Owens’ name has been established at Empire Bank to assist the family with funeral expenses. Donations can be made at any branch of the bank.
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