Family of Abducted Missouri Girl Files Wrongful Death Suit

SPRINGFIELD, MO -- The family of a girl abducted and killed, 10-year-old Hailey Owens, has filed a lawsuit against the man charged with their daughter's death.

Hailey died February 19, after Springfield police say Craig Wood took her from her westside neighborhood. A few hours later, Hailey was found dead inside Wood's home.

A wrongful death petition was filed in Greene County court by attorney David W. Ransin on behalf of Hailey's parents.

The suit claims Wood is solely responsible for Hailey's death and calls his actions "grossly negligent, reckless, intentional and outrageous," even though he has not been convicted.

"It is an effort to try to bring some sense of civil justice to the family for the losses of Hailey before she died and what her parents have and will continue to suffer trough their lives without Hailey," Ransin said.

The lawsuit states Wood should pay the costs associated with Hailey's death, and punitive damages because Hailey was found dead inside his home.

Ransin said his office is conducting their own investigation and that the family is filing suit before the criminal case is resolved because the civil case's process will give them better access.

"Without a lawsuit you don't have the power of the court, you can't take depositions you can't serve subpoenaes you cannot compel the production of information of documents," Ransin said.

Legal expert Adam Woody, who is not involved in the case, said a civil wrongful death suit is easier to prove than a criminal case.

"The burden of proof in a wrongful death suit is preponderance of the evidence which is basically more likely than not," Woody said. "In a criminal case the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest level of proof that we have in our justice system."

Woody said it's not likely Wood will tell his story during the civil trial, but rather invoke his Fifth Amendment right. He also said even though Wood may have a large trust, no matter the civil case's outcome, it's not clear whether the family would get what they seek.

"It may very we'll be a case where the plaintiffs get a very large settlement and still a case where it's just uncollectible," Woody said.

Ransin said it's too early in the case to speculate how much money may be involved in the case and that ultimately it will be the jury's decision.

"We're going look at all opportunities and all alternatives," he said.

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