The retrial for Sidney Moorer, charged in the disappearance of Heather Elvis, will not be moved back to Horry County.
Circuit Court Judge R. Markley Dennis Jr. denied a motion filed by the state requesting he reconsider his change of venue ruling made in October that switched the re-trial’s location from Horry County to Georgetown County.
“We do believe a fair trial could be had in Horry County,” assistant solicitor Nancy Livesay told the court Friday afternoon.
Livesay said at the September change of venue hearing that the state had sent out hundreds of questionnaires to potential jurors and about 100 respondents said they could be fair and impartial.
She said at the hearing Friday that the state wanted to attempt to assemble an impartial jury in Horry County, and if they could not, she asked that a jury be selected from outside of the realm of local media coverage in Horry, Georgetown, Florence and Marion counties.
The state plans to have more witnesses, with the trial likely lasting two weeks, she said.
Moorer filed for a change of venue July 26 after a hung jury led to a mistrial during late June.
“In looking at the relevant statutes and case laws … one of the things that jumped out to me was the language of the Supreme Court that says, mere exposure to pretrial publicity does not automatically disqualify a prospective juror. Instead the relevant question is not whether a community remembers the case but whether the jury has such fixed opinions that they could not judge impartially the guilt of the accused,” Moorer’s public defender James Gilmore previously said. “We submit that, that is exactly the problem here in this case.”
An affidavit from a juror in the first trial expressed concerns of safety and community backlash after Moorer’s first trial, according to court records.
In his order to change the venue filed in October, Dennis noted that Horry County “has been saturated with the case” due to social media exposure — a revelation the court made after examining juror questionnaires.
“For example,” Dennis said, “the court found that there have been a number of reports of potential jurors posting on Facebook that they ‘know how to get around the judge by just saying that the(y) can be unbiased.’
“The court’s primary concern is whether a fair and impartial trial may be had in this case. The court finds that it cannot,” Dennis noted in his order. “The court’s primary concern is that, due to social media saturation, a fair and impartial jury cannot be empaneled in Horry County.”
Sidney Moorer did not attend Friday’s proceeding and was not required to do so. Elvis’ family did attend, but declined to comment afterward. Debbi Elvis, Heather Elvis’ mother, previously told The Sun News she did not want to see the trial moved.
Heather Elvis was last seen December 2013. Her car was discovered at Peachtree Landing in Socastee.
Tammy Moorer, Sidney’s wife, also has been charged with kidnapping in connection with the case, but her trial date has not been set.
Sidney Moorer also faces a charge of obstruction of justice, which isn’t part of this trial.
The couple initially was charged with murder, but those charges were dropped earlier this year.