February 21, 2014

Two arrested in Heather Elvis disappearance investigation

A little more than two months after 20-year-old Heather Elvis disappeared without a trace, police have arrested two people, and some of their property was seized and searched Friday by federal, state and local law enforcement officials.

A little more than two months after 20-year-old Heather Elvis disappeared without a trace, police have arrested two people, and some of their property was seized and searched Friday by federal, state and local law enforcement officials.

Officials from the Horry County Police Department, the S.C. Law Enforcement Divis on, the 15th Circuit Solicitor's Office, the U.S. Marshal Service and the S.C. Highway Patrol executed the warrant at 7:30 a.m. Friday at a home on S.C. 814, just off S.C. 544. The property is located on a parcel of land owned by William Caison, according to Horry County records.

The people removed from the house, a man and a woman, were taken into custody and booked Friday morning at J. Reuben Long Detention Center, where they remained Friday night, according to Lt. Robert Kegler of the Horry County Police Department.

Kegler said police took several items during the roughly 11 hours police spent at the property.

Charges likely will be filed Saturday on both suspects, Kegler said, but he could not say what those charges would be. The Sun News does not identify suspects until formal charges have been filed.

"We are here because of the ongoing investigation into the disappearance of Heather Elvis," Kegler said.

He said Elvis remains a missing person.

According to a press release issued by the department, "The search warrant was executed in an attempt to identify potential evidence based on new information obtained through expert analysis of previously seized surveillance tapes in the area along with financial discrepancies filed with the state of South Carolina on behalf of the occupants of the residence."

When asked about the financial discrepancy mentioned in the press release, Kegler said the U.S. Attorney General's Office was on scene and would elaborate further, but that information was not released.

Kegler said the surveillance tapes have to do with cameras throughout the Socastee area.

"The surveillance cameras that we're speaking of have nothing to do with this property," he said. "Those were previously seized surveillance cameras during the course of the investigation from December on, throughout the Socastee area."

He did not know what kind of expert viewed the footage and would not say what was seen in the surveillance tapes that prompted Friday's search.

Other search warrants previously were executed on the property, Kegler said, but he did not have specific details.

Cadaver dogs searched the property Friday with negative results, Kegler said.

News of Elvis' disappearance since being last seen Dec. 17 and last heard from Dec. 18 has rocked the region -- some allowing it to bring a community together to search for her and some being torn apart as social media debates of her whereabouts have fueled attacks, reported gunfire and threats.

Elvis was reported missing when her car was found at the Peachtree Boat landing Dec. 19. The home on S.C. 814 is less than five miles from where Elvis was last seen.

When Jennifer Garrett of Murrells Inlet received a call of the search warrant and arrest of two people Friday morning, she knew she had to see it for herself to believe it.

"Excitement. Jubilation. Fall on my knees to pray," Garrett said is what she felt when she heard the news. "I popped out of bed, threw on my clothes and came down. I had to be here and see it for myself."

Garrett had spent many hours searching for Elvis in the last two months and couldn't help but be brought to tears when she arrived on scene.

"We have an awesome community that came together as a whole, and focused on one goal and that was to find Heather," Garrett said. "We didn't let anything stop us... It's been just amazing that my community has come together the way that they have, focused on the same goal, and that is to bring Heather home."

Social-media conversations exploded as the news hit the Internet. .

"I'm hoping that this is a start," Garrett said. "I think the search team who came for a day or a weekend or seven days a week all feel the same thing, and that's gratitude, jubilation and relief."

Two flatbed tow trucks removed a red pickup truck and a black pickup truck from the property Friday. A mobile command center was set up and various police cars drove in and out of the cordoned-off crime scene.

An aerial view of the crime seen showed nearly a dozen vans surrounding two houses on the parcel that is west of the S.C. 814 bend near the S.C. 544 intersection. Police were carrying items from one of the houses to a white van Friday afternoon.

Gawkers drove down S.C. 814 throughout the day only to be told to turn around by police who had the road blocked on both sides of the property.

Officers cleared the scene after 6:30 p.m. Friday.

No part of the property was dug up during the search, Kegler said, despite rumors that a concrete driveway was being torn up.

Volunteers began gathering at a tent in front of River City Cafe next to the swing bridge in Socastee Friday night and will continue through 6 p.m. Sunday to take tips and hand out flyers about Elvis' disappearance. Call 997-4750 for more information.

Garrett said volunteers will keep working, as needed, to make sure justice prevails.

"I don't think it matters the time that you've given, but the outcome," she said.

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