by Valerie Verkamp
Twelve Platte County residents this week will be selected as jurors--and four others as alternate jurors--and transferred to Greene County for the trial of a man accused of kidnapping, raping, sodomizing and murdering 10-year-old Hailey Owens of Springfield in 2014.
The Platte Countians serving on the jury will decide whether the defendant is guilty or not, and also subsequently decide whether he will live or die.
The defendant, 49-year-old Craig Wood, is facing the death penalty following two failed motions filed in September to dismiss it.
The jury trial is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 30 in Greene County.
The list of jurors and alternate jurors has been kept confidential. During the pendency of the trial, the jurors will be sequestered and at night be required to stay inside undisclosed hotel rooms until a verdict of either guilty or not guilty is reached.
The Landmark has been told the initial pool of potential jurors consisted of 486 people.
According to prosecutors, the jury trial is expected to last about two weeks.
During that time, Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Patterson will present all evidence the state has acquired against the defendant, while defense attorney Thomas Jefferson Stephens will argue why Wood should be found not guilty.
The state has a list of around 88 witnesses it may call upon in the trial.
Court documents allege at 4:48 p.m. on Feb. 18, 2014, police responded to 3247 W. Lombard in Springfield regarding an abduction.
Two eyewitnesses told authorities they saw a white male in a tan Ford Ranger pull up next to the victim and asked her where Springfield Street was located. When the victim turned to walk away from the vehicle, Wood allegedly said, “Hey, come here a minute,” and motioned for the girl to step toward the vehicle.
As Owens took a step closer, Woods allegedly lunged out of the vehicle and pulled her inside with his left hand. Before he fled the scene at a high rate of speed, witnesses obtained the license plate number of the Ford pickup.
The license plate number was registered to a Jim and Regina Wood in Ash Grove. During an interview, Jim informed the police that his son, Craig Wood, drove the 2008 Ford pickup.
When police arrived at Craig Wood’s residence at 1538 E. Stanford, they allegedly saw him sitting inside the tan Ford Ranger in his driveway. He initially told police he just left Pleasant View Middle School, where he was employed. He later revoked that statement and told authorities he drove around for a while.
Later that evening, police searched Wood’s residence looking for the girl. Officers detected a strong odor of bleach in the basement, court documents allege.
When detectives returned to search the residence the following afternoon with a signed search warrant, they discovered two plastic storage totes down in the basement of the home. One allegedly contained the body of Owens.
Tom Van De Berg, chief investigator for the Greene County Medical Examiner’s Office, told authorities Owens had a gunshot wound to the base of her skull. A crime scene technician located a .22 caliber shell casing inside Wood’s basement, authorities say.
Authorities say the young girl lived a block from where she was abducted and was on her way home from a friend's house.