Bluegrass element to tragic Missouri murder

Much of the US followed news this week of the kidnapping and, ultimately, the murder of Hailey Owens, a 10 year old girl in Springfield, MO. She was abducted near her home by a man feigning a request for directions on February 18.

The kidnapping took place in the middle of the day while Hailey was walking home from school, and the Springfield community has been aghast at the possibility of such a crime, just as the whole nation has been. Witnesses reported a license plate number to police, who arrested Craig Wood at his home a few hours later. Hailey’s body was found during a subsequent search of Wood’s property, with a gunshot to the head.

Nothing grabs the heart like a child in distress. It reopens wounds for anyone who has lost a child, and tears at the emotions of parents who do a quick “what if” examination of how they might react in such a situation.  Contemplating the horror of her ordeal, and the madness or evil that drives someone to such a crime, tests the level of human empathy.

For the bluegrass community in Springfield the horror is profound, as it turns out that the murderer was a local grasser. Most media reports identify him as an athletic coach, but Wood also played mandolin with a local band, Uncle Fudd, and was a familiar sight at jams and pickings in the area.

We spoke this morning with John Chapman, who operates the Acoustic Shoppe in Springfield, a music store catering to bluegrass musicians. In addition to his national notoriety with The Chapmans, John is intimately familiar with the bluegrass scene in southern Missouri. He said that he knew who Wood was, and had seen him many times, but didn’t know him personally.

“He played with a progressive sort of band around here. They worked bars and clubs, plus a few shows and town festivals.

Nobody at all saw this coming. I know one of the guys in that band, who is the super-nicest guy in the world. If he had any idea that Wood might have something like this in him, he wouldn’t have gone anywhere near him.”

John said that the abduction took place just three blocks from where his brother Jeremy lives, where John had lived previously.

“I’ve chased my dog through that neighborhood, and walked right by their house.

It’s rattled everybody around here. Springfield is a small, fairly close-knit community, and everyone is shocked that such a thing could happen.

We’re trying to raise funds within the bluegrass community. Lots of folks have been coming by the shop to drop off donations for the family.

It’s a horrible thing, but the bluegrass folks are coming together to do what we can to be of help.”

Anyone who would like to make a donation for the Owens family can contact The Acoustic Shoppe on Facebook.

Not many see the bluegrass world as a dangerous place for children. Let’s hope that continues to be true.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.