Overwhelming amount of volunteers turn out to help FBI search for Mariah

Investigators are ramping up search efforts to find missing 3-year-old Mariah Woods by asking for the public's help.

ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. -- An overwhelming amount of people turned out to help in the search efforts to find missing 3-year-old Mariah Woods.

The number of people that showed, 730 of them, was so great that the Onslow County Sheriff's Office ran out of room for volunteers.

"We will need to cut off the arrival of any additional volunteers for today's search," the Onslow County Sheriff's Office posted on Facebook. "We understand you may be disappointed, but if people continue to show up, it would delay or interfere with the work we are trying to do."

The FBI asked the public for help in an on-foot search at 8 a.m. Friday morning in Onslow County. The massive search effort is occurred just one day after investigators announced that they may have found evidence in the 3-year-old's disappearance.

Authorities asked volunteers to meet them in Jacksonville, North Carolina to help cover areas as the search intensifies and expands. 

Volunteers needed to arrive at the Dawson Community Church located at 2311 Dawson Cabin Road between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Shortly after 9 a.m. the Onslow County Sheriff's Office announced they were cutting off the amount of volunteers.

"We may plan additional volunteer searches in the coming days," they said in a Facebook statement. "We appreciate your patience and prayers!"

Volunteers were broken up into groups with a team leader and will walk in a straight line no more than 10 feet apart, authorities said. Each search could last anywhere from four to six hours. 

The Onslow Sheriff's Office says that the search area covered east of Dawson Cabin Road and from Laredo Drive West, to High Hill Road. 

RELATED: Search for missing NC girl intensifying near her home

Authorities also encouraged folks to help out in other ways.

"Search your own properties, buildings, abandoned cars, anything that would help us to ensure we have searched every place possible," an FBI spokesman said.

After searching local bodies of water and abandoned land in Onslow County, the FBI said Thursday that they gathered evidence that may be connected to Mariah's disappearance. 

The items are now headed to Virginia for testing. 

"Those items will be a priority for testing so we can determine whether or not they contain any evidentiary value," an FBI spokesperson said. 

As of Thursday, investigators said they have already followed up on more than 140 leads and conducted over 100 interviews.

Earlier in the week, the FBI released images from a Walmart surveillance of an adult woman walking with a child believed to be Mariah. However, officials later determined the girl in the pictures were not the missing child.

"As a father and a grandfather, I'm looking at a little 3-year-old girl and I'm emotional about this," a representative from the Onslow County Sheriff's Office said. "We want to find Mariah and bring her back." 

© 2017 WCNC.COM


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