JACKSONVILLE, N.C. - Earl Kimrey was charged with the murder of Mariah Woods this morning.
It's the case that impacted thousands in Eastern North Carolina and around the country. Mariah, a three-year-old girl from Onslow County, was first reported missing around 6:30 a.m. on Monday, November 27. Kimrey was the one who made the call.
It was reported that Mariah and her older brothers were all put to bed by her their mother on the prior evening and everything was fine. The next morning, Kristy discovered Mariah was missing. Kimrey told officials that after Kristy went to sleep, Mariah had gotten up, but was sent back to bed. He reported that he left the residence for a short period of time, leaving the door unlocked.
Officials began the search for Mariah shortly after she was reported missing. The search included multiple local, state and federal agencies. Members of the military and hundreds of citizen volunteers searched miles of residential, woodland and farm land for signs of the missing three-year-old, officials said. Hundreds of tips and leads were followed by investigators. The Onslow County Sheriff's Office collected over 250 items of physical evidence during the investigation -- many submitted for additional forensic examination to the FBI Forensics Lab in Quantico.
The search came to an end close to a week after it began. Leads developed during the investigation brought detectives to the Holly Shelter Creek bridge in Pender County on December 2, 2017, where a dive team recovered Mariah's body.
Kimrey, 32, was the live-in boyfriend of Mariah's mother Kristy Woods. He was charged on December 2, 2017, with multiple offenses relating to the little girl's death, including concealing of death, obstruction of justice, second degree burglary, felony larceny and possession of stolen property. Now, he is being charged with Mariah's murder. Since that date, Kimrey has been in custody in the Onslow County Detention Center under a secured $1,010,000.00 appearance bond. Additional charges have been pending the completion of the autopsy and other forensic lab analysis, officials said.
An autopsy on Mariah's body was conducted on December 4, 2017 by East Carolina University in Greenville. A preliminary cause of death was provided, but additional chemical and toxicology testing was required before officials could release more information.
On January 22, 2018, those additional test results were received by the medical examiner. On January 23, 2018, members of the Sheriff’s Office Investigations Division and the District Attorney’s Office were in consultation with the Medical Examiner’s Office to review the findings, officials said.
The cause of death was determined to be chloroform toxicity.
“Chloroform is a chemical used to incapacitate people and in some cases it can take your life and that’s what the toxicology report now shows us," Sheriff Hans Miller told NewsChannel 12 reporter Merrilee Moore.
Charges of one count of first degree murder and one count of felonious child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury were filed against Kimrey this morning, January 24, 2018. He was placed under a no bond and held for a first appearance, which will be at 2 p.m. in Onslow County District Court today.
Kristy Woods has been cooperative with the investigation and continues to cooperate with the detectives as the investigation continues, officials said.
The additional charges filed against Kimrey do not mean the investigation is concluded. Officials stressed that they will continue until all leads and information is thoroughly evaluated. District Attorney Ernie Lee said that additional testing and analysis will continue to be performed by a pathologist and medical personnel at the Medical Examiner's Office in Greenville. A final autopsy report and toxicology results will be released at a later date.
“The death of a child is always a sobering reminder of how fragile life is. When the community is so deeply affected by such a horrific crime it is sometimes difficult to not allow our emotions to influence the decisions that we make," Sheriff Hans Miller said. "However, the best way to honor Mariah is to ensure a fair and thorough investigation, which will lead to a successful prosecution. We must remember that through these moments, together, as a community we can ensure that justice will be delivered for Mariah. We sincerely thank the community for their patience and support through this entire investigation."