Two Myrtle Beach men were charged with obstructing justice Tuesday for reportedly posting misleading information on Facebook regarding the Heather Elvis case, but Elvis’ father Terry said one of the men has been a friend for five years.
William Christopher Barrett, 52, and Garrett Ryan Starnes, 25, are being held in the J. Reuben Long Detention Center, according to information provided by the Horry County Sheriff’s Office.
Police say Barrett began posting misleading information on Facebook regarding the disappearance of 20-year-old Elvis, who was last seen Dec. 17. The release states Barrett’s posting “created a community reaction that diverted investigating officers.”
According to Barrett’s Facebook page, he has posted more than two dozen status updates about Elvis and, in a Christmas Day posting, referred to Elvis’ father, Terry, as his friend.
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Barrett’s profile picture is a flame on top of a candle, which has been used to symbolize remembering Elvis.
Elvis was last heard from around 3 a.m. Dec. 18, when she called a family member to talk about how a date she was on had gone well, her family said. She was reported missing two days later when her car was found at a boat ramp about 8 miles from her home, police have said.
Terry Elvis said he does not know Starnes, but said Barrett has been a friend of his for five years.
“I’m really disheartened,” Elvis said. “That’s not the kind of arrest we’re looking for. This is an unnecessary distraction.”
Elvis said he thinks Barrett’s intentions were good.
“There’s no reason to distrust him in the slightest,” Elvis said.
The case has drawn national attention and has been featured on shows such as HLN’s Nancy Grace television program. Even Gov. Nikki Haley has confirmed she reached out to Elvis’ family to provide assistance in the search. Search crews have been heading out most weekends led by CUE Center for Missing Persons.
Monica Caison, director of CUE, said she did not know the men arrested.
“They don’t have anything to do with our organization,” she said Tuesday. “That’s something that people were out doing it on their own.”
Lt. Robert Kegler, spokesman for the Horry County Sheriff’s Department, said he was not sure if the men will face additional charges for the alleged crime occurring online.
“It was an investigation separate from law enforcement,” Kegler said.
Police have accused Barrett of questioning potential witnesses.
“It was also discovered that in an effort to conduct a separate investigation from law enforcement, he began questioning a witness in an attempt to gain confidential information about the law enforcement investigation,” according to a press release from police. “In addition, he conducted an independent search, where potential evidence was uncovered and did not immediately report it to law enforcement.”
Also during the investigation, police say, Starnes fabricated misleading information regarding the disappearance of Elvis and then relayed the false information to law enforcement. This information was then posted to a social media site, causing investigating officers to obtain legal process regarding the information, which diverted them from legitimate leads, according to the press release.
Bond had not been set for either man early Tuesday evening, according to a deputy at J. Reuben Long.
Elvis said there’s “nothing bad I can say about Bill.
“There are a lot of people doing a lot of things, some helpful and some not so helpful, but Bill Barrett has always been a good friend of mine,” Elvis said. “This doesn’t sway my friendship and doesn’t sway my opinion about him.”