There was not much hand wringing in Springfield on Thursday when Judge Thomas Mountjoy sentenced middle school football coach Craig Wood to death Thursday afternoon for the 2014 murder of 10-year-old Hailey Owens.
Mountjoy had the choice of sentencing Wood to death or to life without parole as the jury could not come to a unanimous decision. In choosing the death penalty, Mounty made himself something of a local hero.
“It is an exceptional case, an extreme case, I think, in all regards,” said Mountjoy. Extreme it was. Wood abducted Hailey while the 10-year-old girl was walking down the street. A man who witnessed the abduction almost reached Wood’s truck before it sped away.
According to prosecutors, Wood took the girl to his home, raped and sodomized her for 45 minutes, then took her down to his basement and shot her in the head.
At the time of the abduction, Wood worked at Pleasant View Middle School as a football coach and supervisor of in-school suspension. Although school officials said “they never noticed any inappropriate behavior from Wood,” trial testimony revealed Wood to be daily pot smoker who kept photos of middle school girls in his bedroom dresser.
The Springfield News Leader posted numerous responses from their Facebook page. Other than one from a fellow with the Death penalty Information Center and another from a reader who believed “state-conducted murder should never be celebrated,” all were celebratory.
“They finally get a verdict right now let’s just shoot him now and not (waste) taxpayer money,” wrote local rap artist Mike Wallace.
Reader Jessica Merrill observed, “Although this is the best news I have heard in along time. Will you please do a favor? Will you put her picture up? I don’t ever want to see his again!”
Said Samantha Simmons, “I am celebrating. I have a little girl and can’t even imagine what that innocent little soul went through, her terror, her pain, her last moments. What her family and her mother went through. So yes, this monster needs to be eradicated.”
“I’m in full celebratory mode…,” posted Patty Hodges. “Beers all around… #justiceforhailey”
“It’s a satisfying verdict,” wrote Jessica Pendaz. “Even though it’ll cost taxpayers, it’s still a relief to hear he’ll die for what he did.”
This case, as well as the many sex abuse cases coming out of public schools, suggests that there should be a much better screening process for school employees. Wood is 49-years-old and a functioning alcoholic. One has to wonder how he survived this long in the system.