Barbara Shelly

A child snatched, a community’s worst nightmare

Many of us in Kansas City received text messages Tuesday night telling us that a child had been abducted in Springfield and it appeared to be a stranger abduction.

Sometimes children who are the subject of alerts turn up quickly, perhaps with a non-custodial parent. This one appeared ominous from the start, and the outcome was the worst that could be feared.

Police in Springfield said Wednesday they believe the body of a girl found inside of a home is that of Hailey Owens, 10. Witnesses saw a man pull her into a Ford Ranger truck as she walked near her home.

If there is any positive element to this story, it is that people were watching and tried to help. A couple of witnesses tried to chase the truck on foot. One person jumped into a car and followed, but couldn’t keep up with the abductor. People called 911 and provided a good description of the pickup, including the licence plate number.

Tragically, those efforts weren’t enough to save Hailey’s life. They did enable police to zero in on a suspect before the day was out.

Craig Michael Wood is in custody and charged with 1st degree murder, child kidnapping and armed criminal action. The child’s body was found at his home. Disconcertingly, he is a football coach and teacher’s aide at a K-8 school in Springfield. Hailey attended a different school, and police don’t think she and Wood knew each other.

This is the rare scenario that causes lasting horrors in a community — a child doing something perfectly normal, snatched out of her life and into a nightmare. It doesn’t happen often, thank heavens. But when it does, it serves as a reminder for parents to hug their kids and tell them once again to steer clear of strangers who try to engage them even in simple conversation.

It also serves as a reminder for the rest of us to stay alert. Witnesses’ quick actions didn’t save Hailey, but they perhaps are of some comfort to her family. In another situation, the same vigilence and concern may have a more positive outcome.