LIVE: Man accused of killing Mariah Woods pleading guilty

LIVE: Man accused of killing Mariah Woods pleading guilty

ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) – A man who made national headlines after being charged with murdering an Onslow County toddler is pleading guilty in court this afternoon after several delayed trials.

Earl Kimrey is 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.

His attorney told the judge that Kimrey is pleading guilty to first degree murder and felony child abuse as part of a plea deal. As part of that plea, the state agrees 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.

Kimrey faces up to life in prison plus 40 years.

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