COLUMBIA — The lawyer for a Myrtle Beach man convicted of the 2013 kidnapping of Heather Elvis asked the state Supreme Court on May 17 to acquit her client for a 10-year sentence received after an Horry County jury found him guilty of obstructing justice in the case.
Sidney Moorer was later convicted of kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap in 2019 and received two concurrent 30-year prison sentences in the case that captured national attention, even generating an hourlong “Dateline” special in 2021.
The 20-year-old waitress was last seen on Dec. 18, 2013. Her car was found two days later by Horry County police abandoned near Peachtree Landing in Socastee along the Waccamaw River. Numerous searches, even by groups of volunteers, turned up nothing.
Horry County police arrested and charged Sidney Moorer and his wife, Tammy Moorer, with murder and kidnapping in 2014, though the murder counts were later dismissed because Elvis’ body has never been found.
According to court records, Elvis was having an affair with Sidney Moorer after meeting at a Myrtle Beach restaurant where the two worked. State prosecutors said the Moorers planned to abduct Elvis, painting Tammy Moorer as a jealous wife threatened by the possibility that Elvis might have been pregnant with Sidney Moorer’s child.
Sidney Moorer’s case before the S.C. Supreme Court centered on questions of whether the circuit judge was wrong in denying him a directed verdict to acquit him on an obstruction of justice charge because Moorer believes the state did not prove his guilt through evidence.
However, the S.C. Court of Appeals said in its opinion issued in 2020 that the trial court proved there was enough evidence to prove his guilt.
Moorer told investigators that his relationship with Elvis ended before her 2013 disappearance, but video footage in circuit court showed him using a payphone to get in touch with her. Also, records produced in the kidnapping trial show that he had deleted text messages from his cellphone.
But Susan Hackett, who represents Sidney Moorer, told the Supreme Court that while he initially denied using a payphone, it did not have any impact on the police investigation of the disappearance of Elvis, thereby not rising to the level of obstruction.
“There was nothing at all that his statements to law enforcement could have done or did do to impact their ability to investigate this case,” Hackett said. “In fact, every single officer who testified said we would have investigated this case the exact same way, even if Mr. Moorer never spoke to us at all.”
Justice Kaye Hearn questioned Hackett regarding statements she previously made that Moorer actually advanced the investigation with his statements.
“They (investigators) said we would not have known who the caller on the payphone was had he not admitted to it,” Hackett replied. “They knew that it (video of the caller) had fit his description, and they knew that there had been calls around that time.”
Senior Assistant Attorney General Mark Farthing, representing the state, countered that Sidney Moorer only came clean about the payphone after investigators let him know they had video of the incident.
“He was lying about a phone call in which two people were involved, about whether he was one of the two people involved,” Farthing said. “If he had any belief that the other person was going to turn up and be able to answer that question for the police, would that lie do him any good?”
The justices are expected to issue their opinion at a later date.
In a separate case, a lawyer asked the state Court of Appeals on April 13 to acquit Moorer of the kidnapping convictions, arguing the state relied on unscientific testimony and lacked direct evidence that he committed the crime.
No decision has been made in that case, according to court records.
The hearings come five months after his wife, Tammy Moorer, appealed to reverse her 2018 convictions for kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap Elvis, for which she was sentenced to 30 years in prison on each charge. The appeals court also has not issued a decision in that case.
In her appeal, Tammy Moorer said she wasn’t given a fair defense because a judge denied possible testimony by her children and mother that would have given her an alibi.
The state countered that the possible witnesses violated the judge’s sequestration order by watching the trial via live stream after they were warned not to pay attention to trial facts or proceedings.
If Tammy Moorer’s appeal is denied, she also could appeal to the Supreme Court.
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