One little girl remains missing and legion of people continue to search.
Two days after 3-year-old Mariah Kay Woods was reported missing, a community, county and country have trained their sites and channeled their energies into locating the blonde hair blue-eyed child her maternal grandmother Melissa Hunter calls her “Princess.”
Mariah is described as a white girl, approximately 2-feet-9-inches tall and weighing about 30 pounds, according to the Amber Alert regarding her disappearance. The alert also states she was wearing pink and white panties.
She was last seen in the area of 2405-7 Dawson Cabin Road in Jacksonville, according to the alert.
Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller said Tuesday afternoon in a 14-minute joint press conference with Senior Resident Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent Stanley Meador that “we are using every resource available from federal, state and local levels.”
The heavy presence of law enforcement was evident Tuesday as members of civilian law enforcement and Marine Corps elements from nearby Camp Lejeune continued to conduct searches on the ground and in the air.
Special agents and more FBI personnel are in Onslow County to help search for the missing toddler. The FBI has deployed its Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team to help with the search for Mariah, FBI spokeswoman Shelley Lynch told The Daily News.
“FBI CARD Team members are highly trained and experienced experts on missing children cases. CARD teams respond across the country when a child is missing,” Lynch said.
Meador presented a new “missing person” poster showing images and a description of Woods during the afternoon press conference.
Base officials say nearly 100 Marines from various units across Camp Lejeune and New River are helping search for Mariah Woods.
Those numbers could fluctuate, according to base spokesman Nat Fahy.
The CARD team members are just another asset at Miller’s disposal including help from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Marine
Corps Criminal Investigation Division, Wayne, New Hanover and Brunswick counties Sheriff’s Offices plus citizens who are volunteering their time and energy to search.
“We are using every possible means to bring her home,” Miller said.
Miller said the search will continue. Meador said they planned to brief the media each afternoon while the search is underway.
With tips coming in from all channels including private citizens, social media pages and Crime Stoppers’ text and tip line, Miller said early Tuesday “We need a break at this point. We are continuing to find out where she is and what happened to her.”
While law enforcement and first responders working the case are sacrificing sleep for the hope of finding Woods, her family has gained little rest spending the daylight hours outside the Dawson Cabin Road home and lying awake at night at home.
Hunter said she stayed awake Monday evening on her couch with two phones waiting for word but none came.
“This is like something you see on TV. This is not real,” Hunter said.
Officials have been tight lipped are on their strategy to find Mariah who was reported missing Monday morning by her mother from the Dawson Cabin Road home she shares with her brothers, mother and her mother’s live-in boyfriend.
While a social media post early Tuesday morning asked for volunteers to gather at Haws Run Volunteer Fire Department, only a handful arrived only to learn that it had been called off. The cancellation of the group search party didn’t deter two Richlands women who until Tuesday were unacquainted but quickly bonded through their mutual goal to find Mariah.
Rebecca Crooks and Bonnie Roman together searched a wooded path off Haws Run Road jumping into thick briar where animal paths were evident. The duo then scoured a creek bed for evidence and clues of the child.
For Roman, it was her first venture in looking for a missing person.
“We need to look at places that haven’t been looked at before,” Roman said.
Crooks, the mother of two young boys found herself in a familiar situation. As a high school student back in Illinois, Crooks said she assisted law enforcement in the search for Stacy Ann Cales Peterson, the wife of Drew Walter Peterson.
“I learned about little Mariah after I woke up Monday and told my husband I’m going do something to help. I came out here to help in any way I can,” Crooks said.
Crooks was told Tuesday afternoon by an OCSO official that a civilian search party was being formed. The 29-year-old mother waited patiently in the field across the street from the Woods’ home only to be told later that there would be no need to form the group.
As Marines walked down the shoulder of Dawson Cabin Road and businesses such as Sanders Ford and Top Dogz Pizza delivered 20 large pizzas to the searchers, Mariah’s mother, grandmother, aunt and uncle, cousins, family friends and clergy congregated across the street biding time and waiting on a word.
“All I need is my baby back,” a tearful Hunter said Tuesday afternoon. Her grandson Braydon tugged on her leg while the grandmother and family and close friends stood near the Dawson Cabin Road home where 3-year-old Mariah was last seen Sunday night.
Hunter said the waiting is the hardest part.
“This waiting is unbelievable,” Hunter said. “Please continue to pray and be alert if you’re at Walmart or Food Lion if someone has taken her and please keep looking and praying.”
Hunter said the family continues to hold out hope and has endured two days without much news from authorities on the status of the search.
Hunter ventured down to the JPD training center being used as a command post away from the residence and was told by an unidentified female officer that investigators were “still gathering information.”
If anyone has information that could be beneficial to investigators they are urged to call 911 or the OCSO at 910-455-3113. People who wish to remain anonymous can also call Crime Stoppers if you have information you believe can be helpful to law enforcement with this case.
Xrime Stoppers offers cash rewards up to $2,500 for information deemed of value of assistance to law enforcement. Callers to Crime Stoppers may remain anonymous and never have to reveal their identity when calling 910-938-3273. Information can also be anonymously texted via Text-A-Tip by typing TIP4CSJAX and your message to 274637.
Contact Daily News Reporter Mike McHugh at 910-219-8455 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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