SOCASTEE — The parking lot at Peachtree Boat Landing was filled Monday night with the 200 people who gathered around a cross of candles for Heather Elvis.
Bruce Crawford, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Myrtle Beach, led prayers from the back of a pickup truck at the boat landing, where police say 20-year-old Heather Elvis was killed on or about Dec. 18.
“We had been praying for her safe return,” Crawford said. “Of course our hearts are broken because we’re not going to get that answer, it looks like.”
Terry and Debbi Elvis, Heather’s parents, were at the vigil Monday, but did not wish to speak. Following the prayer vigil a stream of attendees took turns hugging and crying with the Elvis family.
Matt Stoddard, a family friend who has been helping run the Find Heather Elvis Facebook page, said the family is managing as well as expected after learning that Tammy and Sidney Moorer are charged with murder in connection with Heather Elvis’ disappearance.
April Stoddard, who also manages the Facebook page, said she was stunned and heartbroken when she learned about the murder charges. But, she said the community support for the family throughout the investigation has bolstered her faith.
“The community has been absolutely amazing,” she said. “I can never say thank you enough to them.”
April Stoddard said the Facebook page, which has more than 50,000 followers, reaches far outside the Grand Strand.
“It’s not nationally, it’s globally,” she said. “We get messages from Italy. We get messages from South Africa. People just showing support. There will never be words that we can put down on paper, emotions that will never be expressed to say how thankful, amazed and blessed we are that people have stepped up.”
Volunteers spent several weeks conducting searches for Elvis, but were unable to find her.
Matt Collins, who lives in Myrtle Beach, said he got involved in the searches early and has attended other vigils for Heather Elvis. He did not know Heather or her family before she was reported missing, but said helping in the search efforts was simple.
“I’m a father,” he said.
April Stoddard said many community members have had similar explanations for their involvement.
“Heather could have been my sister, your sister, anyone’s child,” she said. “It’s that age of going into adulthood. Those of us who are adults have experienced that. It’s so recognizable.”
That support is something Crawford said will be invaluable to the family in their healing. He said there isn’t much you can say to the grieving family, but showing up “speaks volumes of comfort.”
Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381, or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_akelley.