Local News

Remains found in Pender County positively identified as Mariah Woods

Posted December 6, 2017 4:17 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 1:40 p.m. EDT

— Remains found Saturday in Pender County have been positively identified as 3-year-old Mariah Kay Woods, according to the Onslow County Sheriff's Office.

Mariah's mother 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, authorities arrested Mariah's mother's boyfriend, Earl Kimrey, on Saturday and charged him with concealing her death.

Investigators have not said what led them to suspect Kimrey, who remains in the Onslow County Detention Center under a $1 million bond.

Community in mourning

The news Wednesday comes as the child was remembered at a funeral and public visitation in Jacksonville.

Pam Brewer, who is a friend of Mariah's grandmother, attended the public visitation Wednesday afternoon and said the family's pain is personal for a lot of people.

"I am a grandma too and I can't imagine what she must be going through," Brewer said.

Since the discovery of her body in Shelter Creek along Shaw Highway, a memorial of stuffed animals, balloons, cards and signs has been forming near Mariah's home.

The teddy bears at the memorial will go to Mariah's two brothers, while all toys that remain will be donated to children in the Department of Social Services and to first responders.

Mariah weighed heavy on the minds of so many in the community, including Shannon Graves and her 4-year-old son, Gavin.

"I would hope that someone would care like that for my child if something like that was to ever happen. I can't imagine the pain the family must feel," Graves said.

"I'm hurt. Everybody is hurt around here. I called the aunt (Monday), and they were in tears. Grandma is crying," said resident Corey Humphrey.

"It's impacting our children," community member Anna Rust said. "Something so tragic has impacted our own children that are still here with us. We just have to hold onto our kids and watch over them."

Mother's boyfriend charged

The arrest warrant issued for Kimrey said he 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."

Kimrey "secretly disposed of the dead child's body," the warrant said.

State records show Kimrey had previously been charged with a series of lower-level crimes dating to 2005. Kimrey's previous charges include larceny, assault and drunk and disorderly conduct, according to the state's online records.

Kimrey is a graduate of Orange High School in Hillsborough.

Mariah was living in a house with Kimrey and her mother, who was divorced from her father, Alex Woods.

Woods had filed court documents challenging that arrangement and, in those documents, alleged that there was abuse in the home.