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Remains found in creek ID'd as missing NC 3-year-old Mariah Woods

Abbie Bennett and Camila Molina, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) on

Published in News & Features

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. -- The Onslow County Sheriff and District Attorney's offices announced on Wednesday that remains found in Pender County on Saturday are those of missing 3-year-old Jacksonville girl Mariah Kay Woods.

FBI investigators recovered remains believed to be those of Woods on Saturday, and her mother's boyfriend has been charged in connection with her death.

The Fayetteville Police Department dive team discovered the remains during a search of Shelter Creek along Shaw Highway in Pender County on Dec. 2.

No one has been charged with killing Mariah as of Wednesday afternoon.

Mariah was presumed dead based on evidence gathered throughout the weeklong investigation into her disappearance, according to the Onslow County Sheriff's Office. In a news conference on Saturday, FBI officials called the search for Mariah "a homicide investigation."

Earl Kimrey, 32, the live-in boyfriend of Mariah's mother, Kristy Woods, was arrested Dec. 1 in connection with her death and charged with concealing a death, obstruction of justice, second-degree burglary, felony larceny and possession of stolen property, according to arrest records. He appeared in court Monday, where his bond was upheld at $1.01 million.

Kimrey is being held in the Onslow County Detention Center. He made his first court appearance Monday morning.

State arrest records show that Kimrey previously had been charged with larceny, assault, and drunk and disorderly conduct. Kimrey is originally from Mebane, his Facebook page says. He attended Orange High School in Hillsborough and Alamance Community College, according to the Facebook page.


Mariah allegedly was abducted from a home in the 2400 block of Dawson Cabin Road in Jacksonville, according to an Amber Alert issued Monday, Nov. 27. She was last seen alive when her mother put her to bed about 11 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26, according to the Charlotte Division of the FBI.

More than 225 members of 14 local, state and federal agencies have conducted nearly 100 interviews in the case and followed more than 140 leads. Among them are the FBI's Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team and Team Adam from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Officials said 730 volunteers participated in a search for Mariah on Friday. The search expanded from Onslow to Pender County after Kimrey was arrested. Investigators also sorted through 95,000 pounds of trash by hand, searching for items of interest, the sheriff's office said.

Several items of interest were sent to FBI experts in Quantico, Va., for testing shortly before Kimrey was arrested and the remains were found.

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