The S.C. Press Association says that requested court documents related to Heather Elvis’ disappearance, which Horry County withheld this week, should be released.
The Sun News filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking documents detailing what was found during the execution of search warrants at the home of Sidney and Tammy Moorer, who are charged with Elvis’ murder.
Horry County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said that the results of the search warrants are exempt under state law because the information is to be used in a prospective law enforcement action or it would disclose investigatory techniques.
Bill Rogers, president of the SCPA, said Thursday that search warrants are not exempt under South Carolina law.
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“You don’t need the FOI[A] to get court documents,” he said. “They are open under the constitution of South Carolina.”
Elvis, 20, was reported missing Dec. 19 when her car was found at the Peachtree Boat Landing in Socastee. Police charged the Moorers with murder and kidnapping Feb. 24 in connection with Elvis’ death.
Horry County Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said that his office considers the investigation of Elvis’ disappearance and murder ongoing.
“Generally, even if it hurts us, we try to turn it over,” Richardson said of FOIA requests. “But, there are certain exceptions to FOIA and we believe this falls under those exceptions. There are still mounds and mounds of evidence. This is truly an ongoing investigation. We are certainly not trying to deny the public the right to see anything they are entitled to.”
Rogers said it shouldn’t matter that the investigation is ongoing or that Elvis has not been found.
“They have little or no ground to stand on to withhold those things,” he said.
Gag order pending
A motion for a gag order which would prevent lawyers from publicly commenting on the case remained pending as of Thursday.
Richardson filed the motion about a week ago. On Monday, he said the motion is an attempt to prevent a change of venue for the trial.
He said he expects defense attorneys to request a change of venue, and the motion for a gag order is one step he hopes will prevent that.
“I can promise you, whenever this case comes to trial, that whoever is left in the trial will scream to the top of their lungs to move this case from Horry County saying there’s been too much publicity,” he said.
Kirk Truslow, attorney for Sidney Moorer, said Thursday that he doesn’t think a gag order is necessary.
“The problem is everybody’s already talked about it,” he said. “The gag order would only gag me and the other attorneys. I don’t see any way that a judge has the power to stop people from commenting on news sites or social media.”
Truslow said he’s not sure if he wants a change of venue.
“Despite what some people may think, that’s not really a commonly granted motion anymore,” he said. “Even if you’ve heard things about a case, if you can set [opinions] aside and be fair and impartial, then you’re qualified.”