Hung jury, mistrial declared in Sidney Moorer trial
CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - After several hours of deliberation that began Thursday evening and continued for most of the day on Friday, 12 jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict and a hung jury was declared in the case of Sidney Moorer, who was charged with kidnapping in connection with the December 2013 disappearance of Heather Elvis.
In light of this development, there is a mistrial and the case against Moorer will have to be retried with a new jury.
Multiple jurors confirmed on camera that the jury was split: 10 in favor of a guilty verdict to two who argued for a not guilty verdict.
Moorer's attorney Kirk Truslow couldn't speak on when a new trial for Moorer would be held, and that the mistrial Friday would have no impact on the other charges. He told media at the courthouse that a change of venue will be discussed for the new trial.
"In a case like this, you want a resolution, for everybody," Truslow said. "If you have a firmly-held belief, you don't give it up just to get along," he added, speaking about the jury.
The hung jury declaration came after four days of testimony, which began Monday with the state's case and ended Thursday with witnesses for the defense and closing arguments from both sides.
Moorer was charged in connection with the December 2013 disappearance of Heather Elvis.
Sidney Moorer and his wife, Tammy Moorer, were both originally charged with murdering Heather Elvis, but those charges were dropped in March. The Moorers were arrested in February 2014 in connection with the disappearance of Elvis, who was 20 years old when she went missing in December 2013.
Tammy Moorer is still charged with kidnapping, and her trial date has not yet been set. Sidney Moorer also still faces a charge of obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to investigators about making a call to Elvis from a pay phone on the night of her disappearance.
Prior to the jury failing to render a verdict Friday, they listened to four days of testimony and deliberated for over 7 hours about a case that has been two-and-a-half years in the making.
The state's case was built around the extramarital relationship between Elvis and Moorer that ended in October 2013, the numerous texts and calls between their two phones in the months and days leading up to her disappearance, and video surveillance allegedly showing Moorer's truck driving toward Peachtree Boat Landing, where Elvis' car was found abandoned in the early-morning hours of Dec. 18, 2013.
The prosecution painstakingly constructed a timeline of the night of Dec. 17 and morning of Dec. 18, showing the movements of Elvis' cell phone, the last calls she placed, and Moorer's movements, based on several surveillance camera videos taken from around Horry County.
Moorer's defense attorney, Kirk Truslow, argued that the state's circumstantial evidence was not sufficient to prove Moorer's guilt, and there was nothing directly showing Moorer was in the truck seen driving toward's Elvis' last known location, nor any physical evidence linking him to the crime. He also raised questions about other men in Elvis' life, including an allegedly abusive ex-boyfriend who she lived with for a period in 2013.
The first day of the trial began with almost five hours of jury selection, shrinking a pool of hundreds of jurors down to a panel of 12, with two alternates.
The state objected to one juror, a friend of defense Truslow's, but the judge allowed the individual to serve on the jury after he said his relationship with Truslow would not affect his judgment.
Testimony began Monday afternoon with three co-workers of Elvis' from the Tilted Kilt restaurant, formally located at Broadway at the Beach. That restaurant was one where Moorer also worked.
Those witnesses established there was a relationship between Elvis, who was 20 years old at the time of her disappearance, and Sidney Moorer, who was 39 at the time.
They testified that the relationship ended in October 2013. Her supervisor also testified that Elvis was gaining weight, which led her to take a pregnancy test, which came up as an error.
Video surveillance footage made up the bulk of the rest of the evidence presented on Tuesday, the second day of the trial. An investigator with South Carolina's State Law Enforcement
Division presented surveillance video from a local Walmart, allegedly showing Moorer purchasing a pregnancy test at about 1:12 a.m. on Dec. 18.
Also on Tuesday, Stephen Schiraldi, a friend of Elvis,' testified he was the last person to report seeing her before her disappearance. He detailed a date they went on on the evening of
Dec. 17, which included dinner at a Myrtle Beach restaurant and him teaching her how to drive a stick shift.
He said he called, texted and messaged her on Facebook later that day, but never heard back.
Several Horry County Police Department investigators also testified in the case, establishing that they found Elvis' car abandoned at Peachtree Boat Landing in the early-morning hours of Dec. 18 while on patrol. They said they then went to the Tilted Kilt, where they learned from the general manager that there was a relationship between Moorer and Elvis.
HCPD investigators also testified that Elvis received a call from a pay phone early on Dec. 18. Nine calls were then placed from Elvis' phone to that pay phone, followed by a final call to Moorer's cell phone that lasted about four minutes.
Moorer told police when he was questioned that he called Elvis from a pay phone to ask her to stop leaving notes on his vehicle.
Day three of the trial started with the jurors getting a ride past the area where two surveillance cameras recorded footage in the early-morning hours of Dec. 18, 2013. That footage was shown to the jury during Tuesday's portion of the trial.
The surveillance cameras showed the areas of Mill Pond Road and S.C. 814, which are both in the vicinity of the Peachtree Boat Landing.
The location of Elvis' cellphone at various times in the early-morning hours of Dec. 18, 2013, was the focal point of testimony offered during the first part of Wednesday.
Aaron Edens, an intelligence analyst with the Mateo County, Calif., Sheriff's Office, was recognized as an expert in cellphone forensics investigations. He testified for the state that he compiled a report as to the movements of Elvis' phone.
During a PowerPoint presentation shown to jury, Edens walked the panel through his report. At one point, Elvis' phone was located at her residence on White River Drive.
Then, around 2:42 a.m., Elvis' phone was located at Longbeard's restaurant in the Carolina Forest area, Edens testified. It remained there until 2:56 a.m., and a minute later, it was heading to Augusta Plantation Drive and back to the restaurant, returning at 3:01 a.m.
From 3:02 to 3:15 a.m., Edens testified that Elvis' phone remained at Longbeard's. Then, starting at 3:16 a.m., the phone was heading back to Elvis' residence, arriving there three minutes later.
The phone was at Elvis' residence for five more minutes before moving from White River Drive to Peachtree Boat Landing starting at 3:25 a.m., according to Edens' testimony.
At 3:37 a.m., Elvis' phone was said to be at Peachtree Boat Landing, Edens testified. The PowerPoint presentation shown to the jury also indicated that four calls were placed from her phone to Moorer's.
The last slide shown to the jury indicated that the last location of Elvis' phone was Peachtree Boat Landing at 3:42 a.m., on Dec. 18, 2013.
Text messages between Moorer's and Elvis' cellphones were the focus of Wednesday afternoon testimony. . Will Lynch, a North Myrtle Beach police officer, testified that he compiled a report based on data extracted from the defendant's cellphone when he worked on the case while previously an investigator with the Fifteenth Solicitor's Drug Enforcement Unit.
That information included text messages between Moorer's and Elvis' phones, which was shown to the jury.
The messages indicated a relationship between the two, which previous witnesses had testified to. One of the messages from Moorer's phone that Lynch testified about stated, "Sorry, I made a mistake."
Another message sent from Moorer's phone to Elvis' said, "Stop stalking me," according to Lynch's testimony.
On Thursday, the final day of testimony, Brianna Warrelmann testified she and Elvis were friends and coworkers at the former Tilted Kilt location at Broadway at the Beach. She added the two became roommates after Thanksgiving in 2013.
Warrelmann also talked about a relationship between Moorer and Elvis that she described as more than friends, and one that eventually became sexual in nature before it eventually ended in October 2013.
During questioning by solicitor Nancy Livesay, Warrelmann became emotional when she was asked to recount the last phone call she had with Elvis, which took place at 1:44 a.m., on Dec. 18, 2013.
Warrelmann testified that Elvis called her crying, and the witness asked her what was wrong.
Elvis said Sidney Moorer called saying he left his wife and he missed her and wanted to be with her, according to the testimony.
"I got angry and I said, 'Don't do it. You're finally moving on with your life. You're happy again,'" Warrelmann said when discussing the conversation between her and Elvis.
According to the witness, she changed the subject and asked Elvis about a date she had gone on earlier that evening with Schiraldi.
Warrelmann described Elvis as becoming very happy when talking about the date.
According to the witness, when she asked Elvis if she was going to see Moorer again, Elvis said she was going to sleep and would think about it.
During cross examination by the defense, Warrelmann said she was aware Elvis had slept in her car for a period of time the previous summer.
The witness also described Elvis as being the rebellious child in her family and had been thrown out of her house on a few occasions.
There were also discussions while Warrelmann was on the witness stand about a former boyfriend of Elvis' who was described by the witness as physically, verbally and emotionally abusive.
Warrelmann was the defense's final witness. After the state rested its case at about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Truslow requested that the judge render a directed verdict.
It was the defense's argument that the evidence presented showed an affair between the defendant and Elvis, but there was not enough substantial circumstantial evidence that the Ford F150 belonging to Moorer was ever at Peachtree Boat Landing, that he was driving it or that Elvis ever got into it.
"The evidence is lacking to go forward to a jury," Truslow said.
After weighing the defense's arguments, and the evidence and testimony presented by the state, Judge Markley Dennis denied Truslow's request and ruled that the jury trial would move forward with the defense's case.
In answering the defense's motion, Dennis said the are many scenarios as to what could have happened the night Elvis disappeared.
The judge added that it's inconsistent for a young lady who was excited about her life to suddenly, "just vanish from the face of the earth."
"That's not logical and reasonable," Dennis said.
Following a recess, the defense said that Moorer would not be testifying, and the defense rested its case.
In her closing argument, solicitor Livesay said it was nothing but a countdown from the first time Moorer reached out to Elvis on Dec. 18, 2013.
She added that Peachtree Boat Landing is one of the "darkest holes" in Horry County.
"You know before they hung up the phone, they had to have a meeting of the minds," Livesay said.
In his closing, Truslow made reference to the prosecution's case relied solely on circumstantial evidence, as opposed to any direct evidence, such as an eyewitness account.
He stressed to the jury that Moorer was not a kidnapper.
"If you want to believe Sidney Moorer kidnapped Heather Elvis because he thought she might be pregnant, then you have to believe I've been sitting next to the devil himself this whole trial," Truslow said.
After closing arguments, the jury went into deliberations.
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