Search for missing North Carolina 3-year-old enters third day

Image: Mariah Woods
Mariah WoodsCourtesy of Onslow County Sheriff's Office

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By Phil Helsel

The search for a 3-year-old entered its third day Wednesday as authorities in North Carolina said hundreds of law enforcement officers have searched hundreds of acres after Mariah Kay Woods was reported missing — and investigators believe it was a “focused” incident.

The girl's mother, Kristy Woods, said she last saw the child when she put her to bed on Sunday night, and that when she went to check on her Monday morning, she couldn't find her and reported her missing.

"If you have a shed, a barn, a wooded area, go take a look, and call us immediately if you see something that’s out of the ordinary," Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller said at a news conference on Wednesday.

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"If something doesn't fit, something’s out of the ordinary, give us a call," he said.

The FBI's missing persons poster for Mariah Kay Woods whose family reported last seeing the child Sunday night, Nov. 26, 2017.FBI / via AP

Miller said that hundreds of acres have been searched on the ground and by air. He said that more than 225 investigators, agents and other members of law enforcement "are working around the clock." The FBI is among the agencies involved in the search.

Overnight, authorities released surveillance images of a woman and child that was believed to possibly be connected, but later determined that the child is not Mariah and that there is no connection to the case.

Mariah’s grandmother, Melissa Hunter, has said the girl normally walks with orthopedic braces on her feet and can't step straight without them.

Miller said Wednesday that "we believe that this is a focused incident at this point," and that there does not appear to be a threat to the larger community.

Miller said the girl's parents have been interviewed, and he asked anyone who had contact with the girl's immediate family Sunday through Monday to contact the sheriff’s office.

"We are still continuing to do a very active search," Miller said. "Our goal is to bring Mariah back."