MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – As investigators continue to find out what exactly happened to Heather Elvis, circumstances surrounding the arrests of Tammy and Sidney Moorer could have big implications on the South Carolina justice system.
The murder charges filed against the Moorers are uncommon, because in most cases remains of the victim are discovered before the warrants are signed. There's a Latin term lawyers use for this, Corpus Delicti, literally translated as "body of crime."
"Guilt has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt," says attorney Thomas Brittain. "That includes different types of evidence, though there's no particular type of evidence that has to be established."
Despite having not found Elvis, authorities are adamant they have uncovered enough evidence to prove she was murdered.
"We were able to find enough to develop enough probable cause to secure these murder warrants," said Horry County Police Captain Dale Buchanan during a February 24 news conference.
Myrtle Beach Police were in a similar situation in November, when murder warrants were issued for two men who allegedly killed Helbert Woodberry at the Atlantic View Motel in downtown Myrtle Beach. Police were still searching for Woodberry's body when the two suspects were charged.
Brittain says filing murder charges before a victim has been found is very rare, and could only recall one other similar murder case in Horry County: State v. Alvin Owens in 1986. Owens was convicted of murder, but that conviction was later overturned.