A newly released document from the Missouri Department of Social Services says investigators suspect a girl from Springfield who was abducted and murdered last month was sexually abused. The disclosure about Hailey Owens, 10, had not been mentioned in court proceedings and documents in the case of her accused murderer, Craig Wood. If Hailey was sexually abused, however, prosecutors might be able to obtain a death penalty against Wood, if he's convicted.
A man kidnapped Hailey off a street in northwest Springfield about 4:45 p.m. on Feb. 18 as Hailey was walking home from a friend's house to her own home about two blocks away. Police found her body that night hidden in the basement of Wood's home in central Springfield. An autopsy found that she was shot in the back of the head.
Police arrested Wood outside his home less than four hours after the abduction. They then walked through the home but didn't find Hailey. They then got a search warrant and found her body in a tote box and wrapped in two garbage sacks.
Wood was charged the next day with murder, child kidnapping, and armed criminal action. He's now in the Greene County jail awaiting a preliminary hearing at which a judge will decide if there's enough evidence to send his case to trial. A hearing on legal motions filed by his attorneys is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
The document showing that investigators suspect sexual abuse by Wood is one of two documents that the Department of Social Services released to reporters in response to state Sunshine Law requests. KY3's request was for "any documents of the Children's Division or other agencies of DSS relating to or mentioning Hailey Owens."
The two documents have many parts blacked out to protect Hailey's brother and people who talked to investigators about her and her family.
The document that was completed after Hailey's murder has several questions under the sexual acts/exploitation section. One is: "Do you suspect child has been sexually abused?" The person who filled out the form answered, "Yes." The document lists the place where the abuse took place as Wood's home, 1538 E. Stanford St. The name of the person who completed the document is blacked out.
Under legal, ethical and court rules, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and police are not supposed to talk about criminal evidence that hasn't been made public in public documents or in open court hearings. Those rules are in place to try to protect a defendant against prejudicial publicity before his trial.
If a jury finds Wood sexually abused Hailey before he killed her, it could be a reason for the jury to recommend a death penalty. Under Missouri law, a death penalty requires a jury to find one or more of 17 aggravating circumstances was part of the murder.
The 11th of those 17 aggravating circumstances is: "The murder in the first degree was committed while the defendant was engaged in the perpetration or was aiding or encouraging another person to perpetrate or attempt to perpetrate a felony of any degree of rape, sodomy, burglary, robbery, kidnapping, or any felony offense in chapter 195."
Prosecutors don't have to say early in the legal process whether they intend to seek a death penalty if they obtain a first-degree murder conviction. That determination by Greene County prosecutors is likely months away.
The second document that was released by DSS shows the only other time that the state Children's Division had been in touch with Hailey's family was in November 2011 after someone made a report that the family's home was unsanitary. A state investigator visited the home -- an apartment -- a few days later and found the home was cluttered but not unsanitary. It concluded that no state action was needed and the case was closed.