Man pleads guilty in murder of Mariah Woods, will spend life in prison

Man pleads guilty in murder of Mariah Woods, will spend life in prison
Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 2:12 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 12, 2022 at 9:12 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Adolphus Earl Kimrey II, the man charged with murdering 3-year-old Mariah Woods in 2017, pleaded guilty to her murder Monday in Onslow County Superior Court.

It was an emotional hour-long session as Earl Kimrey took a plea deal agreeing to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

District Attorney Ernie Lee had said he’d seek the death penalty for Mariah’s killer. As things have changed in the five years since Woods’s death, Lee said this was the best option.

“I had to look at all the evidence and look at all the facts, the statements that were made, everything and then make the decision based upon my experience as to what would be the best resolution for this case,” said Lee.

Lee read through several pages of evidence in open court describing what happened to the three-year-old girl in 2017.

At the time of the child’s murder, Kimrey was the live-in boyfriend of Kristy Woods, Mariah’s mother. Kristy Woods told investigators she put Mariah to bed at their home in Onslow County on Nov. 26 and Mariah was missing the next day.

Days of investigation followed, including FBI-led polygraph tests that Kristy Woods passed but Kimrey failed.

On December 1, Kimrey told the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office that he concealed Mariah Woods’s death and threw her body off of a bridge on Shaw Highway near NC 53 in Pender County. At this point, OCSO obtained warrants for Kimrey’s arrest for concealing death, felony obstruction of justice, second-degree burglary, felony larceny and possession of stolen property.

The next day, investigators began searching Holly Shelter Creek where Kimrey said he had disposed of Woods’s body. Divers located Mariah Woods’s remains that evening about 18 feet underwater. She was concealed in a couch cushion cover along with a large piece of concrete. Her body was wrapped in a white trash bag that had been tied off.

“It took a toll on [investigators,]” said Onslow County Sheriff Christopher Thomas. “We got started early Monday morning and a lot of them didn’t sleep the entire week. It’s a bitter end to a sad story.”

In late January 2018, a forensic pathologist determined Woods’ cause of death to be chloroform toxicity. Prosecutors say Kimrey used chloroform on Mariah while trying to get her to fall asleep, leading to an overdose.

Kimrey was subsequently charged with murder.

“My client accepts full responsibility,” said Kimrey’s attorney, Walter Paramore. “He’s wept about it. He has expressed remorse. He cared for the child. He did not mean to kill the child.”

Mariah’s family members read tearful impact statements in court describing the emotions of never getting to see the little girl go to school, attend a dance or even graduate.