A 3-year-old girl vanished in the middle of the night, setting off a frantic search
Federal and local authorities in eastern North Carolina are frantically searching for a 3-year-old girl after her mother said she disappeared from her bed in the middle of the night.
The child, Mariah Kay Woods, was reported missing Monday, her mother telling authorities she had not seen her daughter since she put her to bed Sunday night in their home in Jacksonville, according to ABC affiliate WCTI. It prompted a widespread search with law enforcement, military and members of the community looking for the girl.
The FBI said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon that "priority No. 1 is to find Mariah."
Authorities are urging the public to come forward with any information that could help investigators determined what may have happened to the young child.
"Our focus right now is to find her, to bring her back and then to find out what happened," Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller said. He added that authorities "will not rule out any situation that may have occurred."
But details surrounding the case are still murky.
Officials with the Onslow County Sheriff's Office said in an earlier statement that Mariah's mother, identified in local news reports as Kristy Woods, reported her daughter missing about 6 a.m. Monday.
The FBI said it brought in a Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team to assist local law enforcement who were searching on the ground and by helicopter.
And an Amber Alert has been issued for the preschooler, who was described by the authorities as 2-foot-9 and 30 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes.
"Please, bring her back," her mother said during an emotional news conference, according to WSOC-TV. "I would do anything that I can - whatever you want. Just bring her home, please, safe and sound.
"She's my baby," Woods said. "She's my everything."
Mariah's grandmother, Anne Edwards, said that the preschooler wears braces on her legs, suggesting that she would probably not make it far on her own.
Edwards also said she does not believe Mariah would have gone with someone she did not know. "She's a sweet child, but she's shy with strangers. So, she wouldn't just go with a stranger," the grandmother said, according to the news station.
Woods described her daughter as "goofy," "outgoing" and "talkative."
"Just to be able to touch her and hold her and not let her go again, I'd give anything," she told reporters.
But Alex Woods, Mariah's biological father, told WCTI that he has suspicions about the mother's story.
"Someone just walked right up in there, grabbed the 3-year-old out of the bed and she didn't cry, she didn't scream?" he said. "Nobody heard anything? Four people in the house, two adults and two kids, someone just comes up and snatches the baby and walks out?"
Miller, with the Onslow County Sheriff's Office, said authorities interviewed the child's mother and her live-in boyfriend but would not comment further during the news conference about the ongoing investigation.
"We don't know what happened," Miller said, according to WCTI. "It's entirely premature to try to determine what happened."