SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Tears, emotional remarks and very personal memories filled the courtroom Friday, as those closest to 10-year-old Hailey Owens shared with the jury what Hailey was like.
“Goofy, silly, always happy,” said Sarah Wells, Hailey’s aunt.
Friday was the first day of the sentencing phase of Craig Wood’s trial. Wood was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2014 death of 10-year-old Hailey Owens. Now a jury will decide if the convicted killer will spend life in prison or get the death penalty.
On Friday the prosecution called to the stand family members, teachers and those who knew Hailey Owens to talk about her and her short life.
“She liked to run, she liked to pick flowers,” said Linda Sue Owens Minor, Hailey’s great-grandmother. “They would always bring me a wallflower for a bouquet and that to me was as precious as a rose.”
Chandra Calhoun, Hailey’s aunt, told the jury some of the things Hailey liked to do.
“Anything from playing outside to wanting to go shopping for girl clothes, to fix my hair and do my nails for me,” she said.
The prosecution also called to the stand Savannah Taylor, the mother of Hailey’s friend. Hailey was at her house before walking home the evening Wood abducted her from the street.
“My husband called and told me that there was an Amber Alert and asked if all the kids were inside the house. He also asked if Hailey was still there. I told him, ‘no, I sent her home.”
“Do you have any regrets from the night of Feb. 18 of 2014?” asked prosecuting attorney Dan Patterson.
“Yes. I wish I wouldn’t have sent her home,” Taylor responded.
In the afternoon, the jury heard from Craig Wood’s father, Jim Wood.
The defense showed Jim a photograph he identified as being from sometime around 1990’s. Jim got emotional.
“Was that a good time in your life with Craig?” the defense asked.
“Those were the great times,” he answered.
He recalled good memories with his son.
“We were connected professionally with our coaching and teaching. And we had a great connection on the farm,” Jim said.
The defense also called James Dishman, Wood’s childhood friend.
“Craig and I have been friends since grade school,” he said.
Dishman sent wood a text message the evening Hailey went missing. It read “there is an Amber Alert in a 2008 Gold Ranger. You haven’t been hunting have you?”
Dishman said he couldn’t really explain the meaning behind it.
“Just to give him crap. That is the way we communicate,” he said.
The next day, Dishman found out Wood had been arrested.
“I thought it was some kind of identity mistake or something. Some kind of mistake. There was no way my friend Craig would have ever done that. He’s not a violent person at all,” Dishman said.
The prosecution had no questions for Dishman.
The defense then called to the stand Sergeant George Hunt who said Wood spends 23 hours of the day in a cell alone and is only allowed rec time when other inmates have been locked down for the evening.
“Because of the nature of his crime,” Sgt. Hunt said.
He said Wood has always been cooperative and has had no disciplinary issues.
Now that Hailey is forever gone, those who knew and loved her, have only their memories to hang on to.
“The memory of Hailey that seared into my mind is her throwing her arms, and head bobbing around, and hair flowing everywhere, laughing and just joyful,” said Tara Tharp, Hailey’s teacher.
Wood, in a cell waiting to find out if he will spend the rest of his life there, or if he will receive the death penalty, can still call a friend who says he will keep answering the phone.
“He’s been like a brother to me for 35 years. He has always been there for me,” said Dishman. “If I can give him 30 minutes a week for somebody to talk to I’m going to do that. I know he’s going to be judged here by man’s laws, but he’s also going to be judged in front of God Almighty when the time comes.”
The sentencing phase will resume Saturday at 8:30 a.m. and is expected it to last half a day.