Deputies recover body they believe is NC toddler Mariah Woods

Mariah Kay Woods

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCN/WAVY) — The Onslow County Sheriff announced at a Saturday evening news conference that they have recovered what they believe are the remains of a 3-year-old North Carolina girl who was missing since Monday.

Authorities said earlier Saturday afternoon it was with “deep sadness” that they believed Mariah Woods was dead.

Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller said during the news conference that divers had recovered the girl’s body in Shelter Creek along Shaw Highway in Pender County.

Earlier Saturday, officials said that the live-in boyfriend of Mariah Woods’ mother was charged in connection with the case.

Deputies took Earl Kimrey, 32, into custody Friday night, as the search continued for Kristy Woods’ daughter.

Saturday afternoon, officials said they were still searching for Mariah Woods.

“It is with deep sadness that I tell you our investigation leads us to believe 3-year-old Mariah Woods is deceased,” Miller said.

Later Saturday, Mariah Woods’ body was found in a creek along Shaw Highway, officials said.

“Sadly, it was too late to save Mariah the moment the 911 call came in,” said FBI Senior Resident Agent Stanley Meador.

“The focus of this investigation has changed from a missing child to homicide case,” Meador added.

Miller said that the outpouring of support from the community has been “overwhelming” and asked that residents continue to support each other “as we all grieve the life of this little girl and still focus on finding her.”

“We all hope and pray to find her alive, but it is still extremely important we find her. We have got to find her. We have got to bring her home,” Miller said, “I wish we had a different outcome.”

Earl Kimrey. (Onslow County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Kimrey faces several charges, including concealing of death, obstruction of justice, second-degree burglary, felony larceny, and possession of stolen property.

Arrest warrants obtained by CBS North Carolina report Kimrey 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.”

In the warrants, officials claim Kimrey “secretly disposed of the dead child’s body.”

Additionally, records say Kimrey broke into a home on High Hill Road and stole two dressers around the time of the toddler’s disappearance.

He is being held at the Onslow County Detention Center on a $1.01 million bond and due in court Monday at 8 a.m., according to these documents.

Deputies said more charges could be pending.