Deputies recover body they believe is NC toddler Mariah Woods

JACKSONVILLE, NC (WNCN) — The Onslow County Sheriff announced at a Saturday evening news conference that they have recovered what they believe are the remains of a 3-year-old North Carolina girl who was missing since Monday.

Authorities said earlier Saturday afternoon it was with “deep sadness” that they already thought Mariah Woods was dead.

During the Saturday evening news conference Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller said that divers recovered the girl’s body in Holly Shelter Creek along Shaw Highway in Pender County.

The discovery of the body was made by a Fayetteville rescue team around 5:30 p.m. Saturday. By 7:35 p.m., the existing Amber Alert for Mariah Woods was canceled.

Miller talked during an earlier news conference about Woods, who vanished Nov. 27 from her home on High Hill Road.

Deputies took Earl Kimrey, 32, into custody Friday night. Earlier Saturday, officials said that the live-in boyfriend of Mariah Woods’ mother was charged in connection with the case.

Saturday afternoon, officials said they were still searching for Mariah Woods, but believed she was dead.

“This is the outcome we all feared. And sadly it is now what we face,” Miller said.

“It is with deep sadness that I tell you our investigation leads us to believe 3-year-old Mariah Woods is deceased,” Miller added.

The FBI, which was also at the news conference, said that two areas in Pender County had become part of the search.

Those areas are Highway 17 near Southwest Creek Bridge and Highway 53 in the Shaw Highway Area, according to officials.

Later Saturday, Mariah Woods’ body was found by divers in a creek along Shaw Highway, officials said.

“Sadly, it was too late to save Mariah the moment the 911 call came in,” said FBI Senior Resident Agent Stanley Meador.

“The focus of this investigation has changed from a missing child to homicide case,” Meador added.

Miller said that the outpouring of support from the community has been “overwhelming” and asked that residents continue to support each other “as we all grieve the life of this little girl and still focus on finding her.”

“We all hope and pray to find her alive, but it is still extremely important we find her. We have got to find her. We have got to bring her home,” Miller said.

“I wish we had a different outcome,” Miller added.

Kimrey faces several charges, including concealing of death, obstruction of justice, second-degree burglary, felony larceny, and possession of stolen property.

Arrest warrants obtained by CBS North Carolina report Kimrey obstructed justice by, ”removing Mariah Woods’ body from the scene of her death and did conceal Mariah Woods’ death and body, knowing that Mariah Woods died from unnatural causes. The defendant acted with deceit and intent to fraud.”

In the warrants, officials claim Kimrey “secretly disposed of the dead child’s body.”

Additionally, records say Kimrey broke into a home on High Hill Road and stole two dressers around the time of the toddler’s disappearance.

He is being held at the Onslow County Detention Center on a $1.01 million bond and due in court Monday at 8 a.m., according to these documents.

Deputies said more charges could be pending.