PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - After receiving numerous calls and emails from concerned citizens, WECT asked the Pender County Sheriff's Office for an interview about the death of a 5-year-old girl.
The sheriff's office released a statement Friday about its investigation of the Paitin Fields case after we requested an interview.
In the statement, the sheriff's office said Fields' case became a homicide investigation early on and that police are actively working the case.
"We want to be able to determine the truth surrounding Paitin's death, while protecting the integrity of our investigation in a manner that will allow the correct individual(s) to face charges and ultimately be convicted for the crimes they have committed," the statement read. "We understand there are many different opinions circulating in our community as to why more information has not been released concerning this investigation. Our detectives have remained in contact with Paitin's immediate family and will continue to communicate with them concerning the investigation."
Many of the calls and emails WECT received were asking why there was extensive coverage of the death of 3-year-old Mariah Woods out of Onslow County, and limited coverage on the death of Fields.
Captain James Rowell with the Pender County Sheriff's office explained the Woods investigation initially began as an Amber alert, which allowed the responding agencies to provide frequent updates. Sharing those updates and information can help the investigation.
In the case of Fields, there was never question on her whereabouts. On Nov. 13, medical staff at Pender Memorial Hospital notified the sheriff's office of the 5-year-old, who was brought in with injuries consistent with an assault. Police records show the girl was strangled and raped and she died Nov. 15 as a result of those injuries.
The assault case quickly turned into a homicide investigation in which detectives have been assigned to work exclusively on the case.
"This case started out as an assault call. Then, two or three days into it, the victim dies and now we're working as a homicide," Rowell said. "So there is a whole lot of, we're comparing apples to oranges completely even though we're talking about two innocent, young little girls and very tragic situations."
Pender County law enforcement said Friday that it will share more information on the investigation when it can and added, "There's nothing at all that in this investigation that leads us to believe there's any other person that's in danger, or in jeopardy. It's a tragic situation. It's a very bad thing that happened to Paitin, but we have no reason to believe that there's a person targeting other persons. This is an isolated incident."
WECT also reached out to the FBI and the State Bureau of Investigation. The FBI is not involved in the case. The SBI confirmed it was asked to perform a polygraph exam on someone, but could not say who.
Anyone with information on Fields' case should call the Pender County Sheriff's Office at 910-259-1212.