Crime

’He’s still holding her hostage from us’: Heather Elvis’ family reacts to guilty verdict

Sidney Moorer was found guilty of kidnapping charges and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The jury delivered the unanimous verdict Wednesday after about two hours of deliberation, and Judge R. Markley Dennis issued the maximum sentence, the same one received by his wife last year.

Sidney and his wife, Tammy Moorer, were charged with kidnapping related to the disappearance of Heather Elvis on Dec. 18, 2013. Elvis was last tracked to Peachtree Landing during the early morning hours. She has not been seen since.

Prosecutors say Tammy Moorer grew jealous over an affair between Sidney Moorer and Elvis. Authorities believe the Moorers lured Elvis to the landing where they kidnapped her. A jury convicted Tammy Moorer last year, and she is serving 30 years in prison.

The first trial for Sidney Moorer ended in a hung jury. He later was found guilty of obstruction of justice and sentenced to 10 years in prison. His retrial in Horry County on the kidnapping charges started last week.

Despite the lengthy sentences, Heather Elvis’ immediate family members didn’t express much satisfaction because they’re still hoping to find out exactly what happened.

“He’s still holding her hostage from us,” Heather’s mother, Debbi Elvis, told the judge before he issued Sidney Moorer’s sentence.

After the courtroom cleared, Debbi Elvis said her husband, Terry, put his hand on her shoulder and asked, “Now what?” and she responded with tears.

“I don’t see this as a victory,” Terry Elvis said, “just another step.”

Terry, Debbi and Heather’s sister Morgan all expressed hope after the trial that they would find closure at some point.

Sidney Moorer elected not to take the stand before the defense rested Wednesday, so the only time he spoke was right before his sentencing, when he said he understood how much pain the Elvis family was in, but he couldn’t provide them with any closure.

His family members, including his mother and two of his three children, left the courtroom teary-eyed immediately after the verdict was read and only his mother returned for sentencing, after Elvis’ family spoke.

They were not present for any other day of the trial, which defense attorneys explained was at the request of Sidney Moorer because he didn’t want to have to see the people closest to him whose lives he could miss out on based on the result of this trial.

Closing remarks

Both sides agreed in their closing remarks that the case relies heavily on circumstantial evidence and that it hinges on whether or not Heather Elvis was pregnant.

Assistant solicitor Nancy Livesay argued that Sidney and Tammy Moorer’s relationship was horrible, and the two couldn’t return to normalcy until they settled whether or not Elvis was pregnant.

If this was just an affair, Livesay said, Sidney and Tammy Moorer could have reconciled without anything “dramatic” happening, but the rumor of Elvis’ pregnancy hung over everything, and the two only started texting each other again after Elvis disappeared.

Livesay told jurors that, sometimes, circumstantial evidence is the best possible evidence, and the only reason they didn’t have more direct evidence is because Sidney and Tammy Moorer took steps to cover them up.

Livesay pointed to Sidney Moorer removing his phone’s SD card to prevent being tracked when he went to pick up a pregnancy test at Walmart and his subsequent decision to call Elvis from a nearby payphone, which he later tried to lie about to police.

Prosecutors also showed a video earlier in the trial showing Sidney and Tammy Moorer spending hours cleaning the pickup truck investigators say was near Peachtree Landing at the time Heather Elvis went missing.

Livesay urged jurors to consider all the evidence and argued that “once you scratch the surface,” there’s no reasonable alternative for what happened.

“There is no doubt who the villain in this story is,” she said. “It’s Sidney Moorer.”

Defense attorney T. Jarrett Bouchette emphasized that prosecutors didn’t present any witnesses with firsthand knowledge that Elvis was pregnant, arguing that the state’s argument is merely a theory.

The defense also argued that police quickly developed tunnel vision on the Moorers in trying to solve the case.

Bouchette pointed to a pair of other men, Stephen Schiraldi and Jerry Stevens, who Elvis had contact with in the days leading up to her disappearance, that he argued police should have investigated further.

Schiraldi is the last person known to have seen Elvis as he went on a date with her on Dec. 17, 2013, Bouchette said. Stevens, who was called as a witness Wednesday, had exchanged text messages with Elvis as recently as Dec. 16, 2013.

Livesay said during closing remarks that she’s glad the defense introduced Stevens because it showed that Elvis was moving on, contrary to previous statements by Sidney Moorer that she wouldn’t leave him alone.

Bouchette also asked jurors to consider why prosecutors are only bringing kidnapping charges in this case when it’s clear, nearly six years later, that Elvis is gone and never coming back.

Livesay explained that she elected not to bring murder charges because they do not know Elvis’ whereabouts.

Defense rests

The defense called just one witness Wednesday in an attempt to cast doubt on the thoroughness of the police’s investigation. Sidney Moorer elected not to take the stand.

They called North Myrtle Beach Police Detective Will Lynch, who had extracted cellphone records from Jerry Stevens, a former friend and coworker of Elvis.

The records showed that Stevens and Elvis had a sexual relationship, and the two had been texting about meeting as recently as Dec. 16, 2013, just days before she went missing.

Livesay emphasized in her questioning that the two did not communicate on Dec. 17 or 18, and the prosecution called Stevens as a witness in response.

Stevens explained that he spoke to police twice after Elvis went missing, though defense attorney James Galmore’s questioning showed police never searched his home or car and never asked for his DNA swab.

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Investigative project reporter David Weissman joined The Sun News after three years working at The York Dispatch in Pennsylvania, where he earned awards for his investigative reports on topics including health, business, politics and education.
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