Sheriff says more than 225 investigators are working around the clock, have followed through on more than 140 leads and have conducted more than 100 interviews since the child was reported missing Monday morning.
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — The numbers are beginning to add up, but what are not registering are the whereabouts of Mariah Kay Woods.
As the investigation and search for the 3-year-old girl moved through its third day, Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller and Federal Bureau of Investigation Senior Supervisor Agent Stanley Meador held their second press conference.
“We’re in our third day of our investigation and search for the little girl, and we want to find her and bring her home,” Miller said.
Miller said more than 225 investigators are working around the clock, have followed through on more than 140 leads and have conducted more than 100 interviews since the child was reported missing Monday morning from her Dawson Cabin Road home by her mother, Kristy Woods.
Mariah, the youngest of three children living with their mother, Kristy Woods, and her boyfriend, Earl Kimrey, went missing shortly after 6 a.m. Nov. 27.
“We’re talking to them and they’re talking to us,” Miller said of Kristy Woods and Kimrey.
Miller further reported that “hundreds of acres on foot, in the air and with dogs” have been searched. Officials stressed that residents in the Southwest and Verona areas should search their properties as a way to help find Mariah Woods.
“At this point, priority number one is finding Mariah,” Meador said.
Meador also asked the public’s assistance for specific information.
“If anyone had contact with the family on Sunday, please contact the Sheriff’s office at 910-455-3113 so that we can put together a specific timeline,” Meador said.
Mariah Woods is described as a white girl, approximately 2 feet, 9 inches tall and weighing about 30 pounds, according to the Amber Alert regarding her disappearance. The alert also states she has brown hair and blue eyes and was wearing pink and white panties.
She was last seen in the area of 2405-7 Dawson Cabin Road in Jacksonville, North Carolina, according to the alert.
Meador said behind the scenes there are hundreds of investigators helping those searching for Mariah and that it would not be right for authorities to divulge every effort since it would not help efforts to find the girl.
On Wednesday, authorities were observed searching many locations within a few miles of the family’s home.
Law enforcement blocked off a section of High Hill Road from traffic and searched a creek but were unable to go into specifics, according to FBI Public Information Officer Shelley Lynch.
Shortly after 1 p.m., authorities were at a small tributary that flows into Southwest Creek. Elements from the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Onslow County Emergency Services Dive Team spent more than an hour searching the waters of Troubleson Creek. Searchers found nothing.
High Hill Road is a 3-mile stretch of state roadway connecting U.S. 17 and Dawson Cabin Road and is near the Inez Mobile Home Park on Dawson Cabin Road in which Mariah lives.
Throughout the day Wednesday, busloads of Marines deployed from the command post on Dawson Cabin Road to different areas to conduct foot searches. Investigators stayed at the Woods’ residence with some seen wearing white hazardous-material jumpsuits, peering and crawling beneath the home as well as other nearby dwellings.
An Onslow County Sheriff’s Office crime scene investigator wearing a hazmat suit crawled underneath Mariah’s home and the home next door, but nothing was brought out from underneath.
Two law enforcement officers then walked door to door, knocking and talking to neighbors. One neighbor, Kelly Kerr, allowed agents to examine the area beneath her rental property after she and other residents in the home heard a loud sound emanating from their home late Sunday night.
“It sounded like something hitting a piece of wood real hard,” said Kyle Bonitz, who shares the home with Kerr.
Shortly before noon, a single-engine john boat joined the arsenal of tools being utilized in the search. The terrain near the Woods home is dotted with wetlands and small ponds.
“We all want to find her, and we want to find her safe and sound,” Lynch said.
Miller said more dogs were also being added to the search but would not elaborate on what kind of dogs.
“I don’t want to go there,” Miller said.
Both the FBI and the OCSO believe the disappearance of Mariah is a “focused incident.”
If you have information you believe may be helpful, no matter how small or perceived insignificant, you are urged to contact the OCSO at 910-455-3113 or Crimes Stoppers. Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards up to $2,500 for information deemed of value to law enforcement. Callers to Crime Stoppers may remain anonymous and never have to reveal their identity when calling 910-938-3273. Information can also be anonymously texted via Text-A-Tip by typing TIP4CSJAX and your message to 274637.
Amanda Thames and Mike McHugh are reporters for The Jacksonville (N.C.) Daily News.