95,000 pounds of trash searched for clues in toddler's disappearance
Posted December 1, 2017 8:25 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 11:15 a.m. EDT
Jacksonville, N.C. — After another day of searching, Friday's search for Mariah Kay Woods offered no indication as to whether or not investigators are any closer to finding the missing three-year-old.
Day five of the search was the largest effort yet, with hundreds of volunteers helping law enforcement.
Around 700 volunteers gathered at the Onslow Community Church to assist in the search.
"We were not expecting such a great amount of people," Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller said during a news conference. "I'd like to consider this a personal thank you for all those who came out and helped."
Mike and Lori Satterfield said they felt compelled to assist in the search because they have kids of their own.
"We've got grandkids, a granddaughter that's that small," the couple said. "I took off work...we closed our company today."
Delores Rios echoed that sentiment.
"I feel like that's my family too. That's your family, that's your family. That's everybody's family," she said.
Mike Seifert said as a parent, he felt an obligation to help.
"Got grandkids that small," he said. "What can you do? Took off work. Let's do it."
Volunteers worked for hours.
"This is a baby that is missing, and this is emotional for me," Rios said. "I have grandkids and kids, and I want to be a part of finding her and bringing her home."
A few items were flagged, but they do not appear to be connected to the case.
Authorities also deployed officers on horseback and in boats, using underwater sonar.
Stanley Meador, a FBI supervisor, added that an underwater sonar device was brought in, and that 95,000 pounds of trash at a local landfill had been searched by hand.
For more than 24 hours, vehicles from the sheriff’s office, FBI and police department could be seen on the side of U.S. Highway 17, near Southwest creek. Authorities would not comment on why they were focused on that area.
"We are dedicating every available resource to this case," Miller said. "Our top priority is to find out where she is and what happened."
Mariah's mother told the Onslow County Sheriff's Office that she last saw her daughter at their family home, at 2404 Dawson Cabin Road in Jacksonville, on Sunday night when she put her to bed.
She called the sheriff's office around 6 a.m. Monday to report her missing.
On Thursday, Meador said agents at Marine Corps Base Quantico, outside Washington, D.C., were testing "items of interest" in this case. He did not elaborate on what those items were, or where they were found. He added that additional items were sent for testing on Friday.
Authorities have not said much about the investigation, but said they do not believe there is an ongoing threat to the general public.
"Any particulars about what we find, what we did not find, that is going to be close hold. We are not releasing it to the public at this point," Miller said. "We believe this is a focused incident at this point."
During a Friday afternoon news conference, Miller said that he had a "long conversation" with one of Mariah's family members, and added that "they are cooperating."
Mariah's parents are divorced, and her father, Alex Woods, said that while his daughter is living with her mother right now, the last few days have been extremely hard.
"Like hell. Like a nightmare. This ain't true. I mean, really," he said. "I hope and pray that I can get my daughter and hold her again. Tell her that I love her and to see the rest of my kids and be a family. I got to think the best."
Woods said it is hard to describe how he is feeling.
"It's just so overwhelming. I don't know how to put it into words," he said.
The sheriff also asked anyone who has had contact with Mariah's family since Sunday to call his office, and for the public to search their yards and outbuildings.