Man who killed Mariah Woods gets life in prison without parole

Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 9:15 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 12, 2022 at 5:57 PM EST
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ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - A man who made national headlines after being charged with murdering an Onslow County toddler was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Earl Kimrey had been charged with the first-degree murder of 3-year-old Mariah Woods in 2017. Kimrey was Woods’ mother’s live-in boyfriend at the time of her disappearance which sparked a massive search effort.

Kimrey this afternoon pleaded guilty to first degree murder and felony child abuse as part of a plea deal. As part of that plea, the state agreed to take the death penalty off the table.

Mariah Woods
Mariah Woods

Prosecutors said in 2018 they would seek the death penalty against Kimrey if he is convicted.

Today’s appearance comes after several delayed trial dates due to the pandemic and other issues like Kimrey’s lawyer preparing for another murder trial.

Woods’ body was found in a creek in Pender County several days after she was reported missing. The case left scars in the community that continue to go unhealed as the proceedings drag out.

District Attorney Ernie Lee told the judge that the child died from chloroform toxicity and that there was no credible evidence of a sexual assault.

Lee said they had statements from two former cellmates of Kimrey. “He said he used chloroform to make her go to sleep because she was bothering him while he was trying to get high,” the D.A. told the judge.

Defense attorney Wally Paramore turned to the family and apologized to them. He told the judge that Kimrey was “completely consumed and inundated by drugs.”

“I am deeply sorry for the grief that I have caused, responsibility for Mariah’s death,” Kimrey told the judge. “Again, I am so very sorry.”

After a 70-minute hearing in which the judge heard from the tearful mother of the toddler, he sentenced Kimrey to life in prison without the possibility of parole.