Kristy Woods and her live-in boyfriend, Earl Kimrey, fell under scrutiny after Woods’ 3-year-old daughter, Mariah Woods, mysteriously vanished from her bedroom in the family’s trailer.
It’s now been announced that Kimrey has been arrested, and, sadly, authorities found what they believe is the child’s body in a creek 25 miles from her home on December 2. They have accused Kimrey of concealing the girl’s death, among other charges. “Kimrey removed the girl’s body from the place where she died and knew her death was not natural,” arrest warrants alleged. Authorities have not specified how they think Mariah died. However, the warrant alleges that Kimrey “secretly disposed of the dead child’s body.”
An Amber Alert was issued previously for Mariah after her mother told authorities that the girl vanished in the middle of the night from the trailer in Jacksonville, NC. The trailer home is located on Dawson Cabin Road in Onslow County, North Carolina. The FBI has now joined in the case’s investigation, according to WITN-TV.
The Jacksonville Daily News has now reported that documents allege Earl Kimrey sexually abused Mariah before her death.
Some people on social media were comparing the case to JonBenet Ramsey, but, in the case of Mariah Woods, the child was not found for days. From the start, that increased attention on Kristy Woods and Kimrey, especially as the distraught mother made emotional pleas for the child’s return to the North Carolina news media. Kimrey is a serviceman at a heating and cooling company, according to his Facebook page, and Kristy is a stay-at-home mother.
“Mariah is a member of our community, and we will use all of our means to bring her home,” the sheriff said in a news conference on November 28, adding that “every second counts…our focus is to find Mariah as quickly as possible.” The FBI’s child abduction team was also working on the case. Officials want anyone who came into recent contact with Mariah’s family to call the Sheriff’s Department in Onslow County. From the start, many observers didn’t think the story made sense. “..something is off about this whole situation,” wrote one citizen on social media, echoing the comments of many about the case.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Mother Says Mariah Disappeared From Her Bedroom in the Home & Reports Say Kimrey Last Saw Her
Earl Kimrey, 32, now stands charged with “obstruction of justice, second-degree burglary, felony larceny and possession of stolen property,” in addition to the death-related charge, CBS News reported, adding that “prosecutors are reviewing whether additional charges should be filed.” The investigation is now being labeled a “homicide investigation”; Mariah’s body was discovered around 5:30 p.m. on December 2. It’s not yet clear what led authorities to the creek.
WRAL-TV reported that authorities are awaiting the medical examiner’s findings, including official identification of Mariah’s body, but they believe the remains are the little girl.
Kristy Woods told authorities that she woke up Monday morning November 27, 2017 “and noticed her daughter was missing from her bedroom. She says the last time she saw her daughter was around 11:00 p.m. Sunday when she went to check on her.” The mother also said that, after she checked on the child, “her live-in boyfriend checked on the toddler again when she woke up, and told her to go back to sleep. Woods went to check on her the following morning, but alerted authorities at around 6 a.m. when she couldn’t find her,” NBC News reported.
Earl Kimrey, the mother’s live-in boyfriend, was the last person to see the child alive, other news reports also alleged, but authorities would not confirm who last saw the child, calling it an “investigative detail.” CrimeOnline reported: Mariah’s “mother, Kristy Kay Hunter, put her to bed inside their Jacksonville home at 2404 Dawson Cabin Road. At around midnight, Hunter’s live-boyfriend, Earl Kimrey, checked on the toddler and told Hunter to ‘go back to bed.’”
Rumors exploded online that the child’s body was found, but, in the November 28 press conference, authorities said they were still looking for Mariah and that rumor was false. “Priority number one is to find Mariah,” the FBI said. “Our focus right now is to find her, bring her back and figure out what happened,” the sheriff said. “…We will not rule out any possible situation that may have occurred.”
A report earlier in the day indicated that authorities were interested in a trash can on the property. “Earlier today it appeared that evidence was being collected from the child’s home where she was last seen,” reported WITN-TV. “Investigators took particular interest in a trash can outside of the home on Dawson Cabin Road where the toddler lives. The trash can was surrounded by crime scene tape before it was moved from the scene into the back of a law enforcement vehicle.” It’s not clear what the significance of the search was, if anything.
The statewide Amber Alert for the girl reads, “This is a North Carolina Amber Alert for a Child Abduction. The Onslow County Sheriff’s office is searching for Mariah Kay Woods. She was last seen at 2405 Lot 7 Dawson Cabin Rd Jacksonville, North Carolina at 11:30pm in bed at her home. The abductor is unknown at this time, with an unknown direction of travel. If you have any information regarding this abduction, call Onslow County Sheriff’s Office immediately at 910-455-3113.”
A news release from the Sheriff’s Department was brief. “Onslow County Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help locating a missing 3-year-old child,” it read. “Mariah Woods…3-year-old Caucasian Female, Blonde Hair, approx. 20-25 kg. Last seen Sunday, November 26th when put to bed. Mom contact the Sheriff’s Office at 6:00AM Monday, November 27th to report her missing. She was last seen in the area of 2404 Dawson Cabin Road in Jacksonville; unknown clothing.”
2. Mariah’s Distraught Mother Called Her a ‘Very Sweet Loving Girl & Both She & Kimrey Posted Numerous Family Photos Online
Mariah’s mother, Kristy, gave repeated emotional comments to the news media in the wake of her young daughter’s disappearance.
“If anybody knows where she is at or any information, just please call the sheriff’s department or notify anybody. She could be anywhere. She is very sweet loving girl. Long brown hair, blue eyes. Goes by Mariah. She has walking difficulties, so please, if anybody sees her. She is 3-years-old, please notify them,” the mother said in one TV interview.
She also told WNCT-TV: “I’ll do anything that I can, whatever you want. Just bring her home please safe and sound. She’s my baby. She’s my everything.”
On Facebook, the mother wrote, “I am sitting here can’t sleep just thinking of m my babygirl, mommy loves you praying your safe and i will see you and your beatuiful smile. Plz everyone pray thank you for everyone who has helped today it shared her pics.” Her Facebook page describes her as “a stay at home mommy of three my life revolves around my babies.” She went to Dixon High School and lives in Jacksonville, NC. The page says she is in a relationship with Earl Kimrey.
Her live-in boyfriend’s page says that he studied HVAC/R and is also from North Carolina. His page is filled with pictures of him with Kristy, Mariah and other children, and skateboarding references.
“Guys plz look for my baby and pray she is safe,” Kristy also wrote on Facebook.
Adding to the bizarre twists in the case, police released surveillance videos of a woman with a little girl from a local Walmart, which were taken Monday, and asked the public’s help to identify whether the child in them was Mariah Woods.
Police said they weren’t sure whether the girl in the photos is the missing child. It was later revealed the child was not Mariah.
3. Mariah’s Biological Father Questions How the Girl Could Have Just Vanished & Kimrey Has a Criminal History
Earl Kimrey is no stranger to the criminal justice system. According to WRAL-TV, “State records show Kimrey had previously been charged with a series of lower-level crimes dating back to 2005. Kimrey’s previous charges include larceny, assault and drunk and disorderly conduct.” Furthermore, according to Jacksonville Daily News, court documents allegedly say that other children in the house said “they’d seen alleged sexual abuse on Mariah by Kimrey and said Kristy Woods allegedly knew about the sexual abuse as well as Kimrey’s alleged use of marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine.”
The child’s biological father, who doesn’t live in the trailer home, raised questions about how Mariah could have been taken without anyone in the home hearing. “Somebody just, walked right up in there, grabbed the three-year-old out the bed – she didn’t cry, she didn’t scream. Nobody heard nothing,” Alex Woods said. Some on social media also expressed skepticism that the child just disappeared without anyone hearing anything or knowing anything. The mother’s Facebook page has filled up with negative comments questioning the story, although many others are offering prayers.
Authorities have not revealed what led them to arrest Kimrey.
The missing child case falls under the jurisdiction of the Onslow County Sheriff’s Department, which is conducting organized searches for the child, according to a Facebook post the department made. K-9 units and helicopters were “combing” the “rural community near the North Carolina coast,” NBC News reported.
“The Onslow County Sheriff’s Office among other agencies are working very hard on the investigation of the disappearance of 3 year old Mariah Woods. The Sheriff’s office is encouraged that so many citizens are offering to volunteer their time and effort to assist in the search efforts,” the post reads. “At this time the Sheriff’s Office has sufficient manpower to conduct continued organized searches. The Sheriff’s Office does encourage citizens to be observant in their own neighborhoods.”
4. Mariah Has a Leg Problem That Would Make It Hard For Her to Walk Away
Family members told the news media that they don’t think Mariah walked away on her own because of her very young age and also because she has a leg ailment. “Family members said Mariah has an orthopedic leg problem, so when she walks her left leg is thrown around and causes her to wobble,” WNCT-TV reported.
A family friend said the girl was shy and wouldn’t go with a stranger. “She’s a sweet child, but she is shy with strangers, so she wouldn’t just go with a stranger,” said family friend Anne Edwards to WRAL-TV.
The Sheriff’s Department post outlined a reward. “If you see something that looks out of place or a child that matches the description of Mariah, PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO CONTACT THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE AT 989-4070, CRIME STOPPERS AT 938-2373 OR DISPATCH AT 911. The Sheriff’s Office sincerely appreciates the outpouring of support in this investigation by the members of our community. Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards of up to $2,500 for information that is deemed of value or assistance to law enforcement. Information can also be anonymously texted via Text-A-Tip by typing TIP4CSJAX and your message to 274637 (CRIMES). Callers to Crime Stoppers may remain anonymous and never have to reveal their identity.”
5. There Were Other People in the Home When Mariah Disappeared
Kimrey, the mother and child weren’t the only people in the home during the disappearance. Mariah’s two older brothers were in the residence too. They are also small children, according to photos from Kristy Woods’ Facebook page. Her biological father told authorities that he does not have the child, according to WNCT, which added that there was no sign of forced entry at the home.
The mother’s Facebook page is filled with photos of her children carving pumpkins, at the beach, putting up a Christmas tree, and dressed up in Halloween costumes.