SPRINGFIELD, MO (KPLR) - Several thousand Springfield, MO residents stood up in unity Saturday night with the family of a child who was kidnapped and killed Tuesday. Holding flickering candles and glow sticks, the crowd lined Commercial Street as the parents of murder victim Hailey Owens led the march.
“It’s unspeakable, it really is,” said a man who came to show the child’s family support and to prove there still is good left in this world.
As the marchers strode by, the crowd chanted, “Hailey, Hailey, Hailey.” Relatives carried a banner sized photo of the ten year old.
Tuesday afternoon witnesses saw a man in a pickup truck snatch the youngster from a residential street. She was less than two blocks from her home. A neighbor tried to follow the kidnapper, but he eluded him.
Police tracked down the man within three hours, but it was too late. The child’s body was found in the home of suspect Craig Michael Wood, a teacher’s aide and football coach at a public school.
“Random homicides are rare for Springfield,” said Springfield’s Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Seifried. He described the town as a “faith based community” where it is unusual to record more than a dozen murders a year.
The crime left residents speechless. “I’m sick and tired of people hurting children. We don’t like it when it happens right in our backyard,” said one woman as she waited for the vigil to begin.
“We’re Springfield. You can’t mess with us. You can’t mess with our babies,” pronounced a mother of three.
The vigil, itself was brief. A singer sang “Amazing Grace.” Seifried called for a moment of silence in memory of Hailey Owens and then concluded the event with a reading from the Bible.
Several residents said the turnout indicated a growing sense of unity in Springfield.
Donations can be made to Hailey’s family at any Empire Bank in the Springfield area; donations should be made to the Hailey Owens Memorial Fund:
c/o Hailey Owens Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 3397
Springfield, MO. 65808