Four years after arrests for Heather Elvis' disappearance, cases remain open

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Four years ago this week, Horry County police seemed to have a break in the case of a missing woman. They announced in February 2014 the arrests of Sidney and Tammy Moorer. Prosecutors charged them with murdering and kidnapping Heather Elvis.

Four years later, neither of the Moorers has been convicted. Prosecutors dropped the murder charges in 2016. Only Sidney has gone on trial for his kidnapping charge. The judge declared a mistrial because the jurors couldn’t agree on a verdict.

In an interview with News13, one of the jurors blamed so many unanswered questions about Heather's disappearance. Her body has never been found, but police believe she’s dead. The last sign of her – a cell phone ping and her abandoned car -- came from the Peachtree Boat Landing in Socastee in December 2013.

Prosecutors claim the evidence doesn’t point to anyone except the Moorers. Sidney’s attorney, Kirk Truslow, depicted the Moorers’ arrests as a police department bowing to public pressure to solve a case without having enough evidence. Truslow’s cross-examinations also revealed questionable documentation by Horry County Police.

Using the testimony from Sidney’s trial, News13 investigated what police knew when they arrested the Moorers and how much evidence any prosecutor should have before charging someone.  

The evidence

“A prosecutor’s got to have a good faith belief, per ethic rules,…that the evidence they have can obtain a conviction,” said Billy Monckton, an attorney who doesn’t have ties to Heather Elvis case.

The evidence presented in court was entirely circumstantial. Prosecutors never shared any physical evidence.

"It's harder for the prosecution to prove a circumstantial case because the judge is going to charge a jury that all the circumstances have to line up,” Monckton told News13. “Everything has to flow. 1-2-3-4."

Among the circumstances was a motive to get rid of Heather. She and Sidney had an affair.

According to Heather’s co-workers, Heather began to receive calls and texts from Tammy after she found out about the affair. One message presented in court said, “It’s best you call back and speak immediately. Save yourself.”

Heather’s co-workers also said she might’ve been pregnant, but they didn’t give any evidence. “She was putting on weight on the hip area and belly,” Jody Davenport testified.

On the night Heather disappeared, surveillance video showed Sidney buying a pregnancy test. Minutes later, another surveillance video showed Sidney calling Heather from a payphone.

Heather’s friend and roommate, Bree Warrellman, testified she soon got a call from Heather. “She said that he left his wife and that he wanted to see her and be with her and that he missed her.”

When police asked about the call, Sidney told a different story. He initially lied and denied the call. Then, he gave an explanation that confused police. "I asked her to please leave me alone because she had been leaving notes on our car."

Police didn’t believe him because he bought a new truck; how could Heather know which truck to leave notes on if it was purchased weeks after Sidney and Heather last spoke, as Sidney claimed?

The unanswered questions

Heather’s phone pinged for the last time at the Peachtree Boat Landing, not long after a call with Sidney’s phone. Prosecutors never presented any evidence that put the Moorers there at the same time. The Moorers say they were at home.

The only evidence to question the Moorers’ story came from grainy surveillance videos near the boat landing and near the Moorers’ home. A video expert, using the pattern of the headlights on the road, claimed the videos showed the Moorers’ truck around the same time Heather disappeared, but the prosecution didn’t hire him until months after the Moorers were arrested.

Even with that testimony, jurors still had questions. “We don't know what happened when they got to the landing,” a juror told News13. “We don't know what happened after he left Wal-Mart [to buy a pregnancy test], we don't know what happened after he left from the parking lot."

Questionable documentation

Sidney’s kidnapping trial also revealed questionable documentation by Horry County Police.

When investigators visited the Moorers’ home and took pictures, they didn’t take pictures of a surveillance system they say they saw at the Moorers’ home. Prosecutors implied the Moorers might’ve gotten rid of a surveillance system that would’ve recorded on the night Heather disappeared. Sidney’s attorney indicated the system didn’t exist.

Police also testified Sidney said he hadn’t “spoken” to Heather in weeks. A police report used the word “seen.” Moorer's attorney repeatedly called out police who testified for the discrepancy. 

Additionally, an investigator with Horry County Police admitted officers didn’t do forensic testing on Heather’s car or her apartment. During Sidney’s trial, his attorney asked why. "Mr. Elvis [Heather’s father] didn't allow us to tow the vehicle,” testified Jill Domogauer, a crime scene investigator. “He said we could do what we needed, or could do in the driveway. And we did what we could do in the driveway, to the best of our abilities.”

No one tied to the case is allowed to speak about the case to the media due to a gag order.

What’s next

Sidney’s serving a ten year prison sentence for lying to police about his payphone a call with Heather. A jury convicted him of obstruction of justice. State prison records indicate he may be released as early as 2021. 

Neither of the Moorers’ kidnapping trials has been scheduled.

Despite the murder charges being dropped, attorney Monckton says the charges could come back. “Evidence can still be brought forward. But it appears it was a strategic decision because they didn’t have enough evidence to prove a murder with the circumstances,” he said.

“If they tried the murder case and Mr. Moorer was found not guilty, then double jeopardy attaches,” Monckton told News13. “You could find video the next day of Mr. Moorer doing everything and he’d never be able to be tried again because double jeopardy had attached. There’s no statute of limitations on a murder charge.”

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