The autopsy for 3-year-old Mariah Woods, a girl who stole the nation’s heart in November during a week-long search, has been released.
Her cause of death is listed as chloroform toxicity, according to the report.
“There were no surprises,” said Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller, who received the report Wednesday. “With the autopsy, that is one additional piece of evidence that we needed.”
Mariah was reported missing to authorities by her mother's live-in boyfriend, Earl Kimrey around 6:30 a.m. Nov. 27. Authorities searched for the girl for five days before the toddler's body was found in Shelter Creek in Pender County.
The ECU Brody School of Medicine released her autopsy Wednesday, which was written and signed by Dr. Karen L. Kelly.
Mariah was 28 pounds and just shy of three feet tall, according to the report. She had abrasions over her left upper eyelid, nose, beneath her chin, and above her lips. The examiner found early acute pneumonia, but otherwise noted Mariah as a normal 3-year-old girl health-wise prior to her death and the “traumatic injuries.”
While there were previous reports of alleged sexual abuse, the autopsy notes no evidence of sexual trauma to her body.
Kelly wrote that Mariah was “enclosed in a plaid, zippered cough cushion cover” which contained a large piece of solid cement curbing. She was wrapped in three white plastic trash bags, which were tied around her neck.
Retired FBI agent John Ligato, who served 23 years with the Bureau and now resides in Onslow County, said there’s a specific reason Mariah’s body was found wrapped and placed with a heavy object: “Obviously, it’s to keep her at the bottom for the fish to feed on.”
Ligato said in a homicide case, the body is evidence.
“The bottom line is if you can get rid of the body even a confession by the person who killed her may not hold up in court without the body,” Ligato said.
The cause of death was deferred for additional studies, according to the report, and Mariah’s blood came back positive for caffeine and a “significantly elevated chloroform level.” The level noted in Mariah’s toxicity report is 34mg/L.
“Given the investigative, autopsy and toxicological findings, it is my opinion that Mariah Woods' cause of death was due to chloroform toxicity,” Kelly wrote.
Chloroform is a “colorless liquid with a pleasant, nonirritating odor and a slightly sweet taste,” according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. The chemical was used as an anesthetic for surgery for years – but this was before the harmful effects on the liver and kidney were recognized.
In the body, chloroform affects the brain, liver, and kidneys and breathing it in causes fatigue, dizziness, and a headache, according to the registry.
On Feb. 13, an Onslow County Grand Jury handed down true bills of indictment against Kimrey, 20 days after the live-in boyfriend of Mariah’s mother, Kristy Kay Woods, was charged with first-degree murder and felony child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury.
Kimrey was first charged on Dec. 2, 2017 with felony common law obstruction of justice, felony concealment of death, second degree burglary, felony larceny, and felony possession of stolen property.
District Attorney Ernie Lee announced previously he plans to seek the death penalty in Woods' death. Lee said Kimrey does not have an upcoming court date scheduled for these charges.
To read the full autopsy, click here.
City Editor Amanda Thames can be reached at 910-219-8467 or Amanda.Thames@JDNews.com
Managing Editor Amanda Humphrey can be reached 910-219-8467 at Amanda.Humphrey@JDNews.com
Reporter Mike McHugh contributed to this story. He can be reached at 910-219-8455 or firstname.lastname@example.org