A 37-year-old North Carolina man will spend the rest of his life behind bars after admitting to killing his then-girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in 2017.
Adolphus Earl Kimrey II on Monday pleaded guilty to one count each of first-degree murder and felony intentional child abuse in the death of young Mariah Woods, authorities announced. A judge in Onslow County consequently ordered Kimrey to serve a sentence of life in prison without the possibility for parole, as per a plea agreement reached between defense attorneys and prosecutors with the county district attorney’s office.
Kimrey at approximately 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 27, 2017 reported Mariah missing from the home he shared with his girlfriend, Kristy Woods, and her children, according to a press release from the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office. Kimrey told investigators that Mariah had woken up the night before but was sent back to bed. He then claimed he went out of the house for a period of time, leaving the door unlocked.
After a six-day search, leads developed by investigators — with the help of civilian volunteers, agents from the FBI, and members of the U.S. Marine Corps — brought detectives to the Holly Shelter Creek bridge where the child’s body was discovered on Dec. 2, 2017. That day, authorities charged Kimrey with obstruction of justice, concealing an unattended death, possession of stolen goods, second-degree burglary, and larceny after breaking and entering.
An autopsy conducted two days later at the East Carolina University medical lab determined that Mariah’s cause of death was “chloroform toxicity.”
Investigators continued to amass leads, sending more than 200 items of physical evidence to the FBI Forensics Lab in Quantico, Virginia for forensic examination. Authorities on Jan. 24, 2018 charged Kimrey with first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury or death.
While Onslow County District Attorney Ernie Lee originally notified the court that his office would be seeking the death penalty against Kimrey, he told reporters on Monday that he was no longer sure if the law would have allowed him to do so.
“When I first looked at this case, I had to decide whether there was the existence of an aggravating circumstance, because in North Carolina, the only time you can seek the death penalty is with [the presence of] one of 11 aggravating circumstances,” he said. “In this one, at that early stage, I decided it was ‘especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel,’ but I’ll be upfront with you, I could not find any cases that chloroform, you know, this type of death, would be that. But I was going to argue it because, you know, this [victim] was a 3-year-old child.”
Lee also explained that his office learned Kimrey was going to argue that Mariah’s death was an accident, which he also took into consideration when agreeing to the plea deal. According to a report from Jacksonville, N.C. paper The Daily News, Kimrey told at least two other inmates that he used the chloroform on Mariah in an effort to get her to go to sleep so that he could get high on methamphetamine. But, Kimrey reportedly claimed, he accidentally used too much of the chemical.
DA Lee further stated that he believed the plea deal was best outcome for Mariah’s family and the state under the circumstances.
“I don’t take these decisions lightly and I’m not afraid to seek the death penalty,” Lee said. “I’ve done eight capital cases in my career, and I have to decide what do I think is best in this particular case and what will be the best for justice. I decided, in this particular case, that life without parole would be appropriate based upon all the evidence.”
Mariah’s mother also addressed the court during Monday’s hearing.
“I stand before you a broken, destroyed person. My family and I will never be the same,” Kristy Woods reportedly said. “Something will always be missing and that is my baby girl. We have been tortured, harassed and beaten. We have not been able to grieve. My sons have been tortured, taken away and to this day, still can’t understand why she was the one taken away from us. All of those milestones that we should be experiencing with her, we’ll never experience.”
Watch the press conference below:
[Image via Onslow County Sheriff’s Office]
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