Only seconds passed by before Sidney Moorer corrected an alleged lie he told detectives about using a payphone to contact Heather Elvis the night she disappeared, according to court testimony.
Sgt. Jonathan Martin with Horry County police was the third and final witness for the first day of Moorer’s obstruction of justice charge trial Monday at the Horry County Courthouse in Conway. Moorer, 41, is charged with stalling the investigation in the Socastee woman’s 2013 disappearance. She remains missing.
Martin told Moorer’s attorney that Moorer briefly told police he didn’t use a 10th Avenue gas station payphone, but then quickly changed his answer.
Moorer had already spoken with police in regards to Elvis’ Dec. 18, 2013 disappearance, but when he spoke with Martin and other detectives on Dec. 20, 2013, he was briefly dishonest with them about contacting her, according to court testimony.
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By that point in the investigation, detectives had obtained Elvis’ cellphone records showing she spoke with someone at a payphone before vanishing that night, and detectives had gotten surveillance video of the payphone, but Martin testified they didn’t know for certain Moorer was the one who used it until he corrected himself in the lie, testimony stated.
“And at that point, he goes OK, maybe I made a payphone call,” Martin said Moorer told police.
Martin said Moorer said this after police told him they had records and video surveillance of a call.
Kirk Truslow, one of Moorer’s attorneys, questioned Martin on the time between the statement and correction.
“How much time had lapsed in between that?” Truslow asked him.
“10, 15 seconds,” Martin said.
“Ten or 15 seconds … How were you impeded in 10 seconds by that, or obstructed?”
Martin said that information would have been useful to police if he had told officers that initially.
“The lie was only a lie for about 10 seconds,” Truslow said. “How did that impede your investigation?”
“It’s still a lie,” Martin said.
“I know, and it’s bad to lie, but he’s charged with a crime called obstruction of justice,” Truslow said and went on to question whether making a statement and quickly correcting it was obstructing justice.
Martin said the payphone wasn’t the only thing Moorer was dishonest about during the beginning stages of the investigation, and said if he had told the first officers who contacted him about Elvis’ disappearance that he spoke with her from a payphone, the police would have taken different steps in the investigation, like trying to interview witnesses at the gas station, according to testimony.
Truslow also asked Martin about Moorer identifying himself for police and argued police were helped by Moorer telling them it was him on the video footage.
Earlier in the afternoon, attorneys launched into opening statements. Several police detectives took the stand as witnesses, testifying to their role in the early stages of the case when prosecutors say Moorer tried to hinder the investigation.
“His dishonesty and his deceit led investigators down one path … then they had to follow up on the story he told …” said Josh Holford, Assistant Solicitor for the State, who is prosecuting along with Assistant Solicitor Nancy Livesay.
Holford said Moorer hampered the investigating in the early stages, which he said are the most crucial.
In his opening statement, Holford said Moorer spun a “web of lies” and left out details about his last interactions with Elvis, specifically about the .payphone call.
The Elvis family sat in the courtroom throughout the day as the trial got going.
Moorer’s legal team includes Truslow and public defender James Galmore, who gave an opening statement to the court, saying at the end of the prosecution’s case the jurors will see Moorer didn’t obstruct justice here.
Sgt. Danny Furr, with Horry County police, took the stand as the first witness. He testified that when he spoke with Elvis’ former employer, the Tilted Kilt, that someone there suggested police contact Moorer to see if he had any information on her whereabouts.
Truslow questioned Furr’s memory on the matter, stating the call was nearly four years ago, and pointed out a police report written by a different officer states Moorer told Furr he hadn’t seen her in six weeks.
Furr said Moorer did not mention speaking to her from a 10th Avenue gas station .payphone on Dec. 18, 2013, when Elvis went missing, or that he spoke with her later that night from his cellphone.
Moorer did call Elvis from a payphone, but said he did so to tell her to stop leaving notes on his truck and to leave him alone, according to court testimony that also states Elvis had a more than four-minute conversation with someone on Moorer’s cellphone later that night.
Brian Scales, another HCPD detective, took the stand next and told the court he went to speak with Moorer at his home on Dec. 20, 2013 with another officer, who asked Moorer questions about his communication with Elvis and where he thought she might be.
Police dash camera footage of the talk was shown to jurors. Galmore pointed out Moorer willingly answered questions and didn’t evoke his rights not to speak with them or to get an attorney.
If convicted on the obstruction of justice charge, Moorer would face up to 10 years in prison.
Moorer is also charged with kidnapping in Elvis’ disappearance. A jury deadlocked at his kidnapping trial last summer, and a mistrial was declared.
The state plans to re-try Moorer on the charge, but a date has not yet been set.
Moorer’s wife Tammy, 45, is also charged with kidnapping in the case, but has not been to trial, and a court date has not been set.
Tammy Moorer was present with other family in the courtroom Monday.
She was scheduled to appear in court last month after the state said she violated a gag order on the case when she allegedly made statements about it on a Facebook page. Sidney Moorer spent about two months in jail last year when Judge Dennis ruled he violated the order by speaking to a media outlet during the kidnapping charge trial.
The Moorers were initially charged with murder in Elvis’ disappearance, but those charges were later dropped in 2016 after the couple spent about a year in jail following their 2014 arrest.
Elvis’ abandoned car was found at Peachtree boat landing in the Socastee area on Dec. 19, 2013 – a place dubbed “the darkest hole in Horry County” by the state during the kidnapping trial.