From WMBF News Partner MyHorryNews.com:
A Carolina Forest area man once again is facing charges in connection with the Heather Elvis missing persons case.
Garrett Starnes, 26, of the 600 block of Flintlake Court, was indicted on an obstruction of justice charge on May 22, according to court records obtained by Waccamaw Publishers.
"Garrett Ryan Starnes did in Horry County on or about January 19, 2014, intentionally do an act which prevented, obstructed, impeded, or hindered the administration of justice, in violation of the Common Law offense of obstruction of justice," the indictment states.
Starnes had been charged with obstructing justice on Jan. 28, according to an arrest warrant served on that date. An Horry County judge dismissed the charge on April 10 after the charging officer failed to show for a preliminary hearing at the time because he thought the case had been continued, according to the solicitor's office.
Donna Elder, the assistant senior solicitor handling the case, couldn't be reached for comment as of press time.
Jimmy Richardson, solicitor for the 15th Judicial Circuit, said he couldn't say why Starnes was indicted because it's Elder's case, but he said in general it's becoming more common for prosecutors to directly indict defendants when a magistrate dismisses a case.
With a direct indictment, a prosecutor presents the case directly to the Horry County grand jury. It takes eight of 12 jurors to decide to indict for the case to move forward, Richardson said.
"They [cases] are rarely dismissed at a preliminary hearing," he said. "It was quite a shock."
The arrest warrant stated that on Jan. 19, the suspect provided and created "false information regarding the disappearance of Heather Elvis.
This caused Horry County police to "divert resources to investigate these false allegations," the warrant states.
According to a police report filed in the case, the suspect "caused misleading information regarding the disappearance of Heather Elvis to be fabricated.
"[The suspect] then provided that misleading information to law enforcement," the report said.
The report adds that the false information was posted to social media.
"This caused investigating officers to obtain legal process regarding this information which diverted investigating officers from legitimate leads," the report continues.
William Barrett, 52, of Carolina Forest, has also been charged with obstructing justice in connection with the case.
Barrett's case is still pending, according to the Horry County public index.