Crime

Family, community set to remember Heather Elvis two years after her disappearance; trial date still not set for Moorers

Handwriting of Heather Elvis held dear by mom, sister

Sister Morgan and mother Debbi Elvis on the Heather Elvis memorial vigil and life since her disappearance. The vigil, H.E.L.P.P., stands for Hope, Encouragement, Love, Purpose, Perseverance.
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Sister Morgan and mother Debbi Elvis on the Heather Elvis memorial vigil and life since her disappearance. The vigil, H.E.L.P.P., stands for Hope, Encouragement, Love, Purpose, Perseverance.

Two years after her disappearance, 20-year-old Heather Elvis’ family still struggles to cope without her, and many are still awaiting a trial date to be set for the couple accused in her kidnapping and murder.

“Death I guess is hardest on the living and questions are hardest on the living because when you don’t know where someone’s at, time slows down,” said Morgan Elvis, Heather Elvis’ 18-year-old sister.

Death I guess is hardest on the living and questions are hardest on the living because when you don’t know where someone’s at, time slows down.

, Heather Elvis’ 18-year-old sister

The loss has manifested itself differently for her and her family. She’s reacted with a sense of calm and difficulty feeling, for her mother it’s been an overwhelming sadness, and for her father, it’s been anger, she said.

Heather Elvis’ father, Terry Elvis, said to him the grief and struggle without answers is still so acute, it almost feels like it all happened yesterday.

“Everyday is pretty much the same. Nothing’s changed. We’re still in limbo looking for our daughter,” he said. “It hasn’t been easy. The constant disappointment of things not moving forward has been very hard to deal with.”

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A vigil is set for Friday at Peachtree Boat Landing to mark the two-year anniversary, but a date for the trial is not on the horizon. Sidney and Tammy Moorer, the couple charged in her murder, have since relocated to Florida for work and are eagerly awaiting their day in court.

“Tammy is ready to move forward with the court date. You know, it’s been two years and they’re [the Moorers] ready. I can speak for her,” Greg McCollum, Tammy Moorer’s defense attorney, said. “She’s looking forward to having the matter heard, and going to court and getting a resolution.”

Many questions about Elvis’ disappearance remain, and a gag order prevents involved parties from saying what they know about the case -- which has fueled speculation and rumors.

Tammy is ready to move forward with the court date. You know, it’s been two years and they’re [the Moorers] ready. I can speak for her. She’s looking forward to having the matter heard, and going to court and getting a resolution.

Greg McCollum, Tammy Moorer’s defense attorney

Monthly vigils are still held at the landing, which volunteers cleaned and cleared just months after Elvis disappeared. The family also put a prayer rock in place at the landing to create an area where people can find comfort and to remember others at the landing because they said it isn’t just Heather Elvis’ place.

Weathered trinkets laid in honor of Elvis still hold her memory there, and most mementos have sentimental meaning, like cosmetic tools set out for her passion for doing make-up and turtles perhaps in honor of her turtle tattoo, which she got in tribute of a dear friend who died.

“Your greatest ministry comes out of your deepest hurts, so instead of it just being a memorial it has to be something that means something and that stands for something greater, so that’s why there’s meaning attached to everything,” said Morgan Elvis, who is working to get a music therapy degree and a Christian studies minor at Charleston Southern University.

She shared some of her favorite memories of her missing sister last week, including the time Heather Elvis devoted hours and $20 to win a stuffed rabbit out of a claw machine to cheer Morgan up when her pet rabbit died.

“She would surprise you like that. She was really sweet,” Morgan Elvis said of her sister, who was four years older.

The girls had their differences as sisters do, but they were also there for one another and shared the stresses and struggles of their lives together, Morgan Elvis said.

She said her pastor at CSU, as well as her Alpha Delta Pi sorority sisters and friends, help her as she struggles with the loss of her sister while living away from home. She also keeps notes with her favorite Bible verses and quotes on her dorm room wall that she said helps her as well as encourages others around her.

“Comfort comes from knowing other people have been on the same journey as you, and then solace comes from knowing they understood and how they stood back up again,” she said.

Large pictures of Heather Elvis still hang on the wall of Terry Elvis’ shop, All Ways Stuck On You, a store in The Market Common area that specializes in banners, decals and signs.

“I’ll never take them down. I’m reminded every time I look up that I have two daughters, and one’s somewhere that I don’t know,” he said.

Vigil takes new tone

Morgan Elvis has taken an active role in helping plan Friday’s vigil, which starts at 5 p.m. at Peachtree Landing and is being promoted on Facebook as “First Annual Night of H.E.L.P.P. with Heather.”

H.E.L.P.P. stands for hope, encouragement, love, purpose, perseverance, and was also Morgan Elvis’ platform when she competed for Miss South Carolina in Columbia in June after being crowned Miss Socastee 2015.

Morgan Elvis said she’s lost a lot of people close to her over the years and has been through many struggles, and Friday’s vigil is all about reaching out to those hurting and giving them love and encouragement, in addition to honoring her sister.

“It’s going to be a night not just for Heather, but for the whole community because Christmas is a time when you’re supposed to get together and it’s all about your family,” she said.

The family is asking that people come not just in tribute to Heather Elvis, but to honor their own lost or far-away loved ones.

Debbi and Morgan Elvis said community support over the past two years has been unwavering and that people regularly gather at the monthly vigils.

“They’ve [the community] been faithfully consistent,” Debbi Elvis said. “It’s not just about Heather this time [at the vigil]. It’s about everybody. We don’t have to spend our Christmas without our loved ones. We can spend our Christmas in celebration of them and look at the promise that God gave us that we will all be together in eternity.”

Morgan Elvis said she loves luminaries and lights one each year for a friend she lost to suicide, and this year the family is inviting participants to write the name of someone they want to honor on a luminary and light a candle for them at the vigil.

“It’s a candle of hope. And it’s a candle saying we’re not with them, but they’re right here with us,” she said.

The Case

Sidney Moorer, 39, and Tammy Moorer, 43, have been charged with the kidnapping and murder of Heather Elvis. The married couple was arrested and those charges filed in February 2014. Other charges were filed against them just before kidnapping and murder charges, including indecent exposure and obstruction of justice.

With a gag order put in place March 21, 2014 by Circuit Court Judge Steven John, not much can be said about the case and where it’s at two years later.

However, one thing all sides seem to agree on is that they’re ready for a trial to begin.

“When the case is called we’ll be ready. … We’ll present the facts as they are,” Horry County Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said.

A trial date was set for May 11, but a continuance order was signed by Circuit Court Judge R. Markley Dennis on March 24 canceling that start date, according to court records. The reason for the order was unclear, and parties involved cited the gag order preventing them from discussing the change. Dennis has the authority to set the date for any and every proceeding in the case, including the start of the trial.

“There are no new developments in the case and no hearings currently scheduled,” Lindsey Coffey, Dennis’ law clerk, said in an email Wednesday.

The Moorers received permission to move to Florida in September after saying they found work in the Sunshine State. While the couple relocated, they remain under restrictions there, including home detention monitoring, and they must also provide officials with their home and work information and must alert them immediately if anything changes, among other stipulations, court records show.

In September, Kirk Truslow, Sidney Moorer’s attorney, filed a second supplemental motion for discovery, calling the prosecution to “produce certain evidence,” according to records. It doesn’t state the type of evidence being requested.

Truslow could not be reached for comment.

Speculations and rumors about the case have run wild over time; especially with the gag order preventing involved parties from saying what they know about the case.

I would suggest, just like the defense would say, and that’s to wait till those 12 are seated for a jury trial and withhold judgment, guilty or not guilty, until the facts are presented.

Horry County Solicitor Jimmy Richardson

“I think in general it’s just common in man to speculate when you don’t have answers. Your mind fills in that gap and then, you know, that’s just a crap shoot. You’re guessing,” Richardson said. “I would suggest, just like the defense would say, and that’s to wait till those 12 are seated for a jury trial and withhold judgment, guilty or not guilty, until the facts are presented.”

Richardson also said that two years is not an uncommon amount of time for a murder case to wait for trial though most in Horry County go around a year and a half.

“Most of the time you’re not only saying are we ready and is the defense ready, but there’s quite a few other cases out there that happened that you’ve got to go through before you can even get to this one,” he said.

Elizabeth Townsend: 843-626-0217, @TSN_etownsend

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