People across the U.S. were notified when a nationwide Amber Alert went out in late 2017, after 3-year-old Mariah Woods of Jacksonville, Florida, went missing from her bedroom.
As Dearly previously reported, the toddler vanished after her mother, Kristy Woods, put her to bed in the home she shared with her live-in boyfriend, Earl Kimrey, on November 26.
The tearful mother begged for help finding her child. Kristy stood in front of the cameras, pleading with whoever stole her child:
“Please, bring her back … She’s my baby, she’s my everything. Just to be able to touch her and hold her and not let her go again. I’d give anything.”
The FBI and community members joined in the search, which went on for days — until the heartbreaking news that little Mariah was dead.
After Mariah’s body was found by officials in a body of water, Kimrey was arrested, as Dearly previously reported.
Now, the mother’s boyfriend faces a first-degree murder charge for the girl’s death, WBRC reports.
Kimrey originally told police that Mariah woke up after her mother fell asleep, but was sent back to bed before he left the home for a small amount of time and left the door unlocked, the Onslow County Sheriffs Office Facebook page states.
It also said that an autopsy performed on the toddler provided a preliminary cause of death; tests revealed the child died from chloroform toxicity.
Though Mariah’s mom called her daughter’s disappearance an abduction, her biological father, Alex Woods, sensed something was off as soon as he learned about it. As previously reported, the dad said:
“Someone just walked right up in there, grabbed the 3-year-old out of the bed and she didn’t cry, she didn’t scream? Nobody heard anything? Four people in the house, two adults and two kids, someone just comes up and snatches the baby and walks out?”
In court documents filed prior to the murder charge announcement, during his custody battle with Kristy, the father accused Kristy’s live-in boyfriend of abusing Mariah and her two brothers.
Specifically, Alex claimed that Kimrey sexually abused the toddler and used a belt to beat her two brothers.
The document also stated one of Mariah’s brothers said his mother knew the man was sexually abusing their sister, JDNews.com reports.
Kimrey was originally charged with concealing of death, obstruction of justice, second-degree burglary, felony larceny and possession of stolen property, and held in jail on a $1 million bond. But upon the addition of the first-degree murder charge Wednesday, the judge removed the bond option.
Kimrey’s next court date is Feb. 14.
No charges have been filed against Kristy, according to ABC13. WBRC reports the sheriff’s office said in a news release:
Kristy Woods has been cooperative with the investigation and continues to cooperate with the detectives as the investigation continues. These additional charges do not mean the investigation is concluded but will continue until all leads and information are thoroughly evaluated.
The emotional Sheriff Hans Miller told reporters:
[t]he death of a child is always a sobering reminder of how fragile life is. When the community is so deeply affected by such a horrific crime it is sometimes difficult to not allow our emotions to influence the decisions that we make. However, the best way to honor Mariah is to ensure a fair and thorough investigation, which will lead to a successful prosecution.
Then he added:
“We must remember that through these moments, together, as a community we can ensure that justice will be delivered for Mariah.”
See more on the toddler’s tragic death below: