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Tuesday September 22nd, 2020 10:22AM

Jurors convict man in abduction, killing of Missouri girl

By The Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A former middle school football coach was found guilty on Thursday of snatching a 10-year-old girl from a quiet Missouri neighborhood in front of horrified witnesses and then raping and killing her.

Jurors convicted Craig Wood of first-degree murder in the February 2014 death of Hailey Owens. Jurors will hear more arguments before deciding whether to recommend the death sentence.

Wood's attorney, Patrick Berrigan, didn't dispute that Wood killed Hailey, but contended that Wood didn't deliberate first, as prosecutors allege. Berrigan described the abduction as impulsive, saying Wood had "no disguise whatsoever." Berrigan blamed long-suppressed sexual urges and methamphetamine.

During the trial, witness Carlos Edwards testified he was raking leaves when he saw Wood drive past his Springfield home several times before stopping, asking Hailey for direction and then pulling the fourth-grader into his pickup truck. Edwards said he took off running but a drainage ditch at the edge of his yard stopped him from getting to the truck.

His wife called 911 and reported the truck's license plate, which led police to Wood's home. Hailey's body was found in a storage container in his basement. The girl had been shot in the back of her head from close range, according to Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson.

Dr. Carl Stacy, the forensic pathologist who oversaw Hailey's autopsy, testified that marks on Hailey's arms indicated she was struggling against some type of material used to bind her. A few jurors wiped away tears after they were shown pictures of Hailey's body.

Patterson said police found girls' clothing in a strip mall trash bin near Wood's home. Surveillance footage showed Wood buying bleach and drain cleaner at a Walmart. Patterson said Wood's clothes and bedding were found at a laundromat near Missouri State University.

Berrigan, Wood's attorney, noted that police found handwritten stories in Wood's bedroom dresser about sexual fantasies, two of them involving 13-year-old girls. Police also found four pictures of young girls who attended the school where Wood worked as an in-school suspension supervisor.

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