JACKSONVILLE, N.C (WNCT) – During a Saturday evening press conference, FBI and local authorities announced they believe they have found the body of 3-year-old Mariah Woods in Pender County. Final confirmation will be done through the medical examiner’s office.
The discovery was made by a Fayetteville rescue dive team around 5:30 p.m. Saturday near the Holly Shelter Creek in Pender County.
On Saturday afternoon, Angela Wiles, who lives in the Jacksonville community, started a memorial to remember Mariah.
“This is a way for the community and so many others that I felt like maybe felt the same way…to show her that we love her,” Wiles said. “I’ve cried, even this morning I woke up reading the news articles and its just complete devastation.”
Other parents, like Megan James, had to explain what happened to their own kids.
“She asked me why I was crying and I said that a little girl went missing, and they had found that she went to heaven,” said Megan James, who had to explain what happened to her 3-year-old daughter.
Wiles said the memorial is open to everyone in the community.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation the search for Mariah Woods has changed from a missing persons case to a homicide case.
This news came out of an afternoon press briefing with the Onslow County Sheriff’s and the FBI on Saturday.
People in Onslow County have created a memorial site for missing Mariah Woods.
The memorial is set up on the corner of Dawson Cabin and Ernest King Road. People have begun leaving messages and items following the arrest of Earl Kimrey.
Authorities have expanded the search for Mariah Woods to Pender County after an arrest was made in the case.
Deputies blocked off Shaw Highway at the intersection of Highway 53 and also blocked off the intersection of Shaw Highway with N.C. 210.
The Holly Shelter Creek was searched with a dive team.
The Onslow County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI arrested 32-year-old Earl Kimrey, the live-in boyfriend of Mariah Woods’ mother, Kristy Woods, in connection with Mariah’s disappearance.
Kimrey was taken into custody by investigators at the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office Friday.
According to an arrest warrant, Kimrey took Mariah’s body from the scene of her death and “secretly disposed” of it.
Kimrey was also charged with stealing two dressers from a home in Jacksonville the night of Mariah’s disappearance.
Kimrey was taken before a state magistrate and faces charges of concealing of death, obstruction of justice, second-degree burglary, felony larceny and possession of stolen property.
Kimrey is currently being held in the Onslow County Detention Center under a $1,010,000 bond.
District Attorney Ernie Lee has been consulted on the current charges and additional charges could be pending as the investigation continues.
Due to evidence gathered during the course of the investigation, the Sheriff’s Office said it believes Mariah is deceased.
At this time, the location of Mariah is unknown, the Sheriff’s Office said. The searches will now shift to a recovery process.
Anyone with information should contact Onslow County Sheriff’s Office at 910-455-3113 or Crime Stoppers at 910-938-3273.