Authorities: Mariah Woods killed with chloroform; mom's boyfriend charged
Posted January 24, 2018 10:33 a.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 1:41 p.m. EDT
Jacksonville, N.C. — An Onslow County man was charged Wednesday with killing a 3-year-old girl whose body was found last month in Pender County.
Adolphus Earl Kimrey II, 32, is charged with first-degree murder and felonious child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury in the death of Mariah Kay Woods. Kimrey, the boyfriend of the girl's mother, was previously charged with obstruction of justice and concealing a death.
Mariah's mother, Kristy Woods, reported her missing on the morning of Nov. 27. After five days of searching by Onslow County deputies, FBI agents and hundreds of local volunteers, a dive team from Fayetteville found her body in Holly Shelter Creek, off Shaw Highway in a remote area of Pender County – about 30 miles from her home.
Woods told authorities that she put Mariah and her brothers to bed on Nov. 26, but Mariah was missing the next morning. Kimrey told authorities that Mariah had gotten up during the night but was sent back to bed and that he left the door unlocked when he left the home for a short period that night.
Onslow County District Attorney Ernie Lee said the murder and child abuse charges came after consulting with Dr. Karen Kelly, a pathologist and medical examiner at East Carolina University in Greenville, who conducted the autopsy on Mariah.
Although the autopsy report hasn't been released yet, Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller said the cause of death was chloroform poisoning.
"We had to make sure we had the actual cause of death. We had suspicions, but until we get the actual report and have the report in hand, it's a suspicion," Miller said.
Chloroform can be used as an anesthetic in small doses, but it can be toxic in large amounts. The volatile chemical is used in industrial applications in the production of Teflon and in refrigerants for air conditioners.
"We suspect this chemical was used to disable the child, and according to the autopsy report, it led to her death, which is real unfortunate, as we all know," Miller said.
The sheriff wouldn't say how investigators think Kimrey got the chemical or discuss a motive for Mariah's killing, including whether she had been sexually assaulted.
"There is much information that is scientific in nature. Obviously, we have to depend on what science tells us," he said. "But there is a lot of information that we cannot legally or should not put out. It will come out in court."
WRAL News requested any records that might detail whether Mariah’s case was ever reported to Onslow County Child Protective Services or state agencies charged with preventing child abuse. Per state law, officials can release those records in cases where criminal charges have been filed in the death.
Lee denied the request, saying disclosing the information could undermine the investigation of the case and jeopardize any prosecution. The state Department of Health and Human Services says it has no such records.
Kimrey remains in the Onslow County jail without bond. His next court appearance is set for Feb. 14.
The case remains under investigation, and more charges are possible, Miller said, adding that Woods has been cooperating with investigators.
"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," the sheriff said in a statement announcing the new charges. "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."