A cold, windy, persistent drizzle failed to deter mourners from saying "goodbye" to Mariah Kay Woods.
Even before the planned 4 p.m. start of Wednesday's two-hour public visitation, people began arriving to the Jones Funeral Home on Chaney Avenue. They arrived alone, as couples or entire families many with somber expressions on their faces. Most exited the home sobbing or crying, walking hastily back to their parked vehicles.
Sanae Hensey arrived early. Upon her exit, she wept holding an umbrella in one hand and a tissue in the other. Beating her softly on her chest, she said, “There was too much emotion in there. It is unspeakable.”
Mariah’s father, Alex Woods, arrived at 4:10 p.m. surrounded by a small entourage of family and close friends entering the funeral home without comment.
Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller entered the building at 4 p.m. where he remained until 4:35 p.m.
“We’re grieving with Mariah’s family. We in the community and in law enforcement consider her to be one of our own. She is no longer with us but we all still love her,” Miller said.
Miller remained near the entrance to the home where several mourners expressed their thanks to his personnel for trying to find Mariah.
A tearful Angela Swift clutched Miller’s hand and thanked him for his effort in the search.
“I thanked him for all the work he and his department did in trying to find Mariah,” Swift said.
Richlands resident Bonnie Roman, who aided in the search for the missing 3-year-old last week, arranged for the flowers displayed on and along Mariah’s small, white closed casket.
“On Monday, I contacted Blooms and Blessings in Richlands and Cornerstone Florists in Beulaville,” Roman said. “We arranged everything (Tuesday) and they provided the flowers at no cost.”
Rebecca Crooks, who also helped in several searches for young Mariah, said the visitation ran the gamut of emotions.
“It’s bittersweet,” Crooks said. “There’s a lot of sadness but because she’s not hurting anymore, I feel she’s safe.”
Crooks said Mariah’s viewing room had “so many flowers, lots of flowers with lots of unicorns.”
As well-wishers, friends and strangers who until last week did not know the little girl who lived on Dawson Cabin Road but developed a fondness for the innocent soul over the last nine days, continued to arrive to pay their respects, Ashley Kaldens exited with her two small boys and her friend, Kiara Warrington.
Kaldens, like many other parents in the community, were confronted daily by their inquisitive children on the status of the missing girl.
“They both wanted to help in the search. Each day they would ask, ‘mommy, mommy did they find her?’” Kaldens said. “It’s sad. I just pray for her little brothers. They need someone to keep them happy and to always remember their sister."
In the midst of the vistation, law enforcement confirmed the remains found in a creek Saturday evening was hers.
Maj. Chris Thomas with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office said he could confirm the body found was Mariah’s but said nothing else could be released, including whether lab work from the autopsy was still being processed.
Mariah was reported missing on Nov. 27 by her mother, Kristy Woods. Her live-in boyfriend, Adolphus Earl Kimrey was charged with Mariah's disapperance on Dec. 1 and Mariah's body was found Dec. 2.
Kimrey, 32, is charged with disposing of a body that died from unnatural causes, obstruction of justice, second degree burglary, larceny after break in and possession of stolen property.
No one has yet been charged with the toddler's death.
Autopsy results are pending and officials say they do not have an expected timeline of their completion.
A private service for Mariah will be held at an undisclosed location, place and time.
Reporter Amanda Thames contributed to this report. Reporter Mike McHugh can be reached at 910-219-8455 or email email@example.com.