Testimony weaves tale of intertwined lives of missing woman, accused couple
03/19/2014 11:14 AM
03/19/2014 3:56 PM
At this time last year, Sidney and Tammy Moorer were raising three children in their Socastee home and running their own businesses.
Today, they are murder suspects in the disappearance of Heather Elvis and at the crux of an investigation that has been marked by death threats to both sides, social media misinformation, text messages, video surveillance, GPS phone records and wild speculation.
The couple will remain jailed without bond pending prosecution on charges they kidnapped and killed the 20-year-old St. James High School graduate who Tammy Moorer had learned had an affair with her husband last year.
Monday’s bond hearing gave a glimpse into what evidence prosecutors have collected and painted a picture of the lives of the Moorers and how they became intertwined with Elvis, who was last seen the night of Dec. 17 and last heard from early Dec. 18.
Horry County police found her car, which was registered to her father, parked Dec. 19 at the Peachtree Boat landing. The car was locked; her keys, cell phone and purse were not inside. Although the Moorers have been charged with murder, Elvis’ body has not been found.
Prosecutors say they are confident of their case against the couple. Defense attorneys say the evidence is circumstantial, with no link to tie the couple to Elvis’ disappearance.
Building a family
Like many young people who move to Myrtle Beach, a 21-year-old Sidney Moorer left his parents’ Summerville home in 1997, got a job at a highly touted Grand Strand attraction and started a new life.
The blonde, blue eyed young man was working at Broadway at the Beach’s Hard Rock Café when he met 25-year-old music lover Tammy Caison, an Horry County native like the generations of her family who preceded her.
The coworkers formed a bond that grew and matured into a relationship.
They solidified that connection in 1998 when they married at Ocean View Baptist Church and the following year their first son was born. They would share two more children, a daughter born in 2001 and another son born in 2005.
Using his restaurant experience, Sidney Moorer started living the American dream and formed his own business, Palmetto Maintenance LLC, which served area restaurants. Tammy Moorer would become a stay-at-home mom who homeschooled their children. She also would operate a part-time travel agency, which she used to plan trips for her family to explore the country, including cruises and regular visit to their favorite theme park, Disney World in Florida.
The couple lived what appeared from the outside to be the American dream, raising their children in the Socastee home owned by her father.
Those years weren’t without some conflict. During that time, Sidney Moorer had two run-ins with police, once in September 2009 when he was charged with shoplifting a DVD; and once in 2011 when his father-in-law was involved in a scuffle, but those charges were dismissed. Until she was charged on Feb. 21, Tammy Moorer had never been jailed.
In 2013, Sidney Moorer’s business served restaurants along the Grand Strand such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster. He crossed the path of a young waitress, Heather Elvis, during one of his visits to her Broadway at the Beach workplace, the Tilted Kilt.
Twenty-year-old Elvis and Sidney Moorer, 38, cared for each other, senior prosecutor Donna Elder said Monday, citing witness statements and records. But once Tammy Moorer, 42, learned of their trysts, the older woman invaded Elvis’ life, barraging her with threatening messages.
Tammy Moorer also put her husband on lockdown, even going so far as to handcuff him to their bed at night while she slept so he could not sneak out, password protecting his phone so only she could use it, and accompanying him on work and personal outings from their home, Elder said. Sidney Moorer agreed to the restrictions to save his marriage, authorities said.
On her husband’s cell phone, Tammy Moorer found evidence of the pair’s interactions. Elder cited a sampling of messages Tammy Moorer sent to Elvis in response, threatening her with physical harm and calling her an array of derogatory terms.
“Hey sweetie ready to meet the Mrs.,” Tammy Moorer texted to Elvis, who only responded twice during that time period.
“I think you are a little obsessed with me. I’m nobody you need to worry about anymore,” Elvis said in a return text on Nov. 1. Five days later, Tammy Moorer texted her again: “by the way dad no longer owns a phone.” This time, Elvis responded only with a period.
That day, Nov. 5, Elder said, was the last time Elvis saw Sidney Moorer . She had no contact with him until Dec. 18.
It’s unclear what happened that day, or how prosecutors know Nov. 5 was the last time she saw Sidney Moorer. But they do know the Moorer family left the area Nov. 19 and drove cross country to California’s Disneyland, Elder said. They returned home on Dec. 11, six days before Sidney Moorer would use a pay phone to reach Elvis on her cell phone.
It is not clear who Sidney Moorer was with at 1:35 a.m. Dec. 18 when he made the call from a payphone on 10th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach to Elvis. The young woman was at home after having been on a date that night. Her date later cooperated with police and was cleared in the investigation, authorities said.
Sidney Moorer spoke to Elvis from the payphone for more than four minutes.
Elvis called a friend after the call and said Sidney Moorer was leaving his wife and wanted to resume their relationship, Elder said. After the phone call with Sidney Moorer, Elvis remained at home.
At 2:29 a.m. , she called the payphone back, but no one answered. Elvis, who was still at her home, then called Sidney Moorer’s cell phone at 3:16 a.m. and again a minute later. During that call, someone answered the phone and there was a 4:15 minute conversation.
Both Tammy and Sidney Moorer were at their home with the cell phone and Elvis was at her home, Elder said. But based on that conversation, Elvis got in her car and drove to the boat landing, Elder told the court.
At 3:38 a.m. , Elvis’ phone records show her phone was at the boat landing. From there, she called Sidney Moorer’s phone. She called it three more times a minute later, no answer.
At 3:41 a.m. Elvis’ phone stops sending data signals to cell phone towers or to a GPS backup connected to a Google account, Elder said.
As part of their investigation, police sought video surveillance along the route from the couple’s home, three miles away on Secondary Highway 814, to the boat landing, Elder said. A private home and a business had video of the roadway .Those videos showed a pickup truck going down the road to the boat landing, then returning the same route a short time later, Elder said.
The video taken from the house, which is 1.7 miles from the Moorer’s home, showed a pickup truck going to the boat landing at 3:36 a.m. Dec. 18, Elder said. At the business, which is a mile from the first camera and closer to the landing, the vehicle passes at 3:39 a.m.
At 3:45 a.m., the business video shows the truck traveling back toward the Moorer home. Less than a minute later the truck speeds by the house toward the Moorer home, Elder said.
Horry County police found Elvis’ vehicle Dec. 19 parked at the boat landing, and that’s when the investigation into her whereabouts began. Her purse, car keys and cell phone were not found in the locked car, authorities said.
Investigators went to the Moorer home on Dec. 19 and the couple allowed officers to check the house and camper, but nothing was found, McCollum said.
“This thing has snowballed into an outrageous witch hunt where there is no evidence,” said Kirk Truslow, Sidney Moorer’s attorney. “This case is extremely circumstantial at best. Lots of incredible speculation and rumors with this case. . . . There’s nothing you can point to in his life that shows a propensity to violence.”
Several rescue diving crews in addition to a Coastal Carolina University team with a scanner did an “ultrasound like scan of the riverbed to Winyah Bay” but have not found her body, Elder said.
The video surveillance of the vehicle was sent to the FBI in Quantico, Va., and to the S.C. Highway Patrol’s Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team with a request to identify the vehicle, Elder said. The agencies sent reports that the truck was a dark 2013 or 2014 Ford F-150, with silver toolbox in the bed, a moon roof, silver rims and high-end bulbs in the headlights.
MAIT Team investigators learned there were 82 such trucks registered to owners living in Horry County, so they went and visually inspected 81 trucks, Elder said. The last of those trucks was owned by the Moorers, so police got a search warrant and executed it on Feb. 21.
Defense attorneys dispute that the video of the truck could connect the couple to the case.
“There’s evidence he had an illicit affair with a younger woman that ended in October,” Truslow said. “They’ve charged two people with murder . . . I suppose now is the time they are going to look for evidence. My client maintains his innocence.”
The couple’s three children, ages 14, 12 and 8, are now being cared for by their grandmother.
Horry County police first charged the couple with obstruction of justice and two counts each with indecent exposure when they were taken into custody at their home last month. The indecent exposure arrest warrants accuse the Moorers of exposing themselves in public between Dec. 17 and Dec. 18 at 1325 Celebrity Circle and in Conway at Atlantic Avenue and Century Circle, respectively.
Truslow said police charged the couple because they had “martial relations” in a vehicle prior to the case and it was irrelevant. But Elder said police learned the couple went to the places and had sex, then Tammy Moorer sent photos of their sexual positions to Elvis.
The acts were a culmination of revenge toward Elvis, Elder said. “Heather was in fact fearful of Tammy during this time period.”
‘No matter how long it takes’
For the Moorers the case is just beginning, but for Elvis’ father, the 90 days since his daughter was last seen is the beginning of “life sentence,” Terry Elvis wrote on a Facebook post Tuesday.
“I once was different, I once could understand, I once could live life and smile. But, then it happened, you vanished, my life was turned upside down, I still do not know where to turn to, suddenly everything changed, still thru it all, one thing remains constant, Heather my dear sweet child, no matter how long it takes, no matter the cost or the sacrifice, I your father and the rest of your family and your friends will never give up hope, we will never give up faith and we will never stop looking for you till we bring you home,” Terry Elvis wrote in the posting.
In court on Monday, Terry Elvis said his family lost a “vibrant young woman.”
“I miss her laughter and her light in our life,” Terry Elvis said. “Her potential was yet to be fulfilled. . . . We will continue to search for her.”
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