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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Trust Fund Millionaire|Charged With Child’s Murder

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (CN) - An accused child-killer who is believed to have a $1 million trust fund has two new public defenders.

Craig Michael Wood, 45, is being held without bond in the Greene County Jail. He is charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and child kidnapping.

Ten-year-old Hailey Owens was abducted and murdered in February.

During his Feb. 21 arraignment, prosecutors objected to Wood's request for a public defender, claming that he was the beneficiary of a $1 million trust fund.

"I think he can afford his own attorney," assistant prosecutor Todd Myers said during the arraignment, according to KOLR-TV.

Public Defender Chris Hatley replied that he appreciated the prosecutor's concern for Wood's rights but that "it's frankly none of his business."

Circuit Judge Dan Imhof said he would consider the matter. The case has since been reassigned to Associate Judge Mark A. Powell.

Wood was appointed two new public defenders - Patrick J. Berrigan and Thomas Jacquinot - on Friday. Berrigan and Jacquinot are members of the Missouri Public Defenders, Capitol Litigation Division.

Berrigan told Courthouse News that he and Jacquinot are often asked to represent defendants in cases where it is unclear if the prosecution will seek the death penalty.

"When our clients are charged with first-degree murder, there are two potential punishments if convicted in the state of Missouri," Berrigan said. "One is life in prison without parole. The other is the death penalty. It is not clear if the prosecutors in this case are seeking the death penalty."

Berrigan told Courthouse News that he could not comment on any trust fund involving Wood.

Hailey's parents filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against Wood on Friday. David W. Ransin, who filed the suit on behalf of Hailey's parents, told Courthouse News that going after the trust is tricky.

"Rumors are that he has a $1 million trust and that gets everybody excited," Ransin said. "At this point, it isn't available to us."

Ransin said his clients could seek to attach the trust to the lawsuit, but that would involve a number of constitutional issues. That option isn't off the table, depending on discovery.

Ransin said the wording of the trust, if it exists, is crucial.

"I reasonably expect that it does exist," Ransin said. "The details have yet to be determined. Trusts are private documents. They are like lockboxes with instructions for personal use."

For example, if the trust was created by Wood's grandmother for the use of Wood's mother, then Wood may not have access to it, even if he is named as a beneficiary.

Wood, a middle school football coach and substitute teacher, is accused of kidnapping Hailey as she walked home on Feb. 18, a Tuesday. Witnesses described Wood and his truck and gave police the license plate number, according to the probable cause statement.

That led police to Wood's home, where they found Hailey's body the next day. She was killed by a gunshot wound to the base of her skull, according to the probable cause statement.

Wood is expected to plead not guilty at a preliminary hearing on April 2.

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