SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

February 21, 2014

Shock persists as southwest Mo. mourns slain girl

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Family and friends remembered 10-year-old Hailey Owens as a vivacious spirit — a trusting little girl whose cheery disposition only deepened the heartbreak after she was snatched off a southwest Missouri street and killed by an abductor.

Memories of Hailey mixed with anger and shock in Springfield yesterday, as the community tried to make sense of the brutal crime that took her life. She went missing on Tuesday, taken in daylight from a neighborhood street less than two blocks from her Springfield home as she walked back from her best friend’s house.

Craig Michael Wood, 45, a middle school football coach, is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and armed criminal action in the fourth-grader’s shooting death. His initial appearance in court was postponed yesterday and rescheduled for Friday.

Hailey’s mother Stacey Barfield and aunt Sara Wells gathered at the abduction site yesterday morning to retrieve some of the dozens of floral arrangements and stuffed animals left by well-wishers. Barfield broke down sobbing as she knelt beside the memorial.

“She’s in heaven. With angel wings,” Barfield told KY3-TV. “At least she’s not hurting.”

Wells called her niece a bubbly girl who loved to laugh, smile and dance. “She was pure gold,” the aunt told The Associated Press.

Westport Elementary School principal Gary Tew said Hailey was a “happy-go-lucky kiddo” who made sure new students felt welcome.

Even as many grow inured to all-too-frequent reports of child kidnappings, the horrific circumstance of Hailey’s abduction resonated far beyond Missouri’s third-largest city. A Facebook event that encouraged people to turn on their porch lights as a show of support drew thousands of participants Wednesday night and was extended through the weekend.

In Springfield, thousands are expected to attend a downtown candlelight vigil scheduled for tomorrow night that began as a private effort but now has city support to temporarily close several main streets.

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