One of the two jurors in the mistrial of Sidney Moorer who found him innocent of kidnapping Heather Elvis said there were too many ‘what ifs’ to find him guilty.
“The state lacked evidence in general, and there were too many what ifs,” said Jessica Archer, juror, who found Moorer not guilty.
After about nine hours of deliberation that spanned two days, Judge R. Markley Dennis Jr. declared a mistrial after a hung jury deadlocked with 10 believing in Moorer’s guilt and two finding him not guilty.
Moorer, 40, charged in Elvis’ Dec. 18, 2013 disappearance, stood trial the week of June 20, and the mistrial was declared after jurors heard four days of testimony in a Conway courtroom. The state plans to retry Moorer and hopes to before summer’s end, but a new date has not been set, officials said.
Initial votes early in deliberations had the jury divided at one point, but the jurors deadlocked tightly at 10 guilty, two not guilty after reviewing evidence, and asked to break for the night June 23 after being handed the case by Dennis about 4:45 p.m. that day.
Archer said some jurors bullied a juror who identified himself as a friend of Kirk Truslow’s, Moorer’s attorney, because of his connection to Truslow, and said one juror even spoke to the judge about it.
She said she felt unsure as to how and why Elvis disappeared, but was not convinced of Moorer’s guilt based on the circumstantial evidence laid out by the state.
“I would really love for them to figure out who did it. I just don’t want the wrong man to go to jail,” said Archer, who added that deliberations grew more tense and heated as they went along.
Two jurors out of the 10 who determined Moorer was guilty said they were firmly convinced of Moorer’s guilt based on video surveillance evidence, the timeline of events tracing Elvis’ last known steps, phone records, and witness testimony.
“All they had was circumstantial evidence but when you have that much circumstantial evidence it’s like pieces of the puzzle and you put the puzzle together, and the puzzle ain’t going to fit together any other way,” said Robert Riley, juror.
Moorer, who is married, was in a relationship with Elvis from about July to October 2013, according to witness testimony. His wife Tammy Moorer found out about the affair and made threatening calls to Elvis, witnesses said.
Riley said he was convinced that Moorer lured Elvis to Peachtree Boat Landing on Dec. 18, 2013, when he called her from a Seaboard Street area payphone. Riley thought Tammy Moorer, who is also charged in Elvis’ kidnapping, was a part of the crime, he said.
He said he thought if the state tried Tammy, 43, and Sidney Moorer together it would have been a stronger case.
Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said the state has considered that option, along with others in the case, and decided it wasn’t in their best interest to do so. He declined to discuss details behind their strategies due to a gag order, which prevents legal parties and Tammy and Sidney Moorer from discussing the case.
A trial date has not been set for Tammy Moorer.
Riley said it was a shame there wasn’t a unanimous decision among the jurors. The panel reviewed evidence together, listened to one another, but two jurors remained unconvinced while the other 10 believed in his guilt, he said.
“I still believe that justice is done because 10 of us voted guilty and two of us voted not guilty, so we’re not sending a man to jail that only 80 percent of the jury agreed was guilty,” said Riley.
Norton Johnson, juror, said he was mainly convinced by the video evidence, including video showing Moorer driving his F-150 truck to Wal-Mart about 1:12 a.m. Dec. 18, 2013.
He thought Moorer’s was the same truck shown on surveillance videos traveling in the direction to and from Peachtree Boat Landing, and believed the testimony of expert witness Grant Fredericks, a headlight spread pattern analyst, who testified the truck on surveillance video belonged to Moorer.
“I was a hundred percent convinced of his guilt,” said Johnson.
Johnson said he felt like the two jurors who disagreed with the others on the guilty verdict didn’t lay out logical arguments as to why they thought Moorer was innocent.
Archer said she thought other suspects loomed in the background, which for her cast doubt on Moorer’s guilt, she said.
Archer said she also found Elvis’ former roommate Brianna Warrelmann’s testimony unreliable because she thought Elvis may not have been truthful with Warrelmann during the call she made after receiving a payphone call from Moorer.
Warrelmann, who was out of town when Elvis disappeared, said she received a phone call from Elvis after Elvis was called from a payphone by Moorer on Dec. 18, 2013. In the call, Warrelmann said Elvis told her Moorer had left his wife and wanted to be with her, according to her emotional testimony.
Riley said Warrelmann’s testimony seemed believable and true to him.
Archer said the police work in the case could have been more thorough and that it seemed like “the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing” during the investigation, she said.
While Riley was convinced of Moorer’s guilt, he also thought Horry County police could have done a more thorough job while investigating.
Lt. Raul Denis, spokesman with Horry County police, declined to comment on the investigation citing the gag order, which also prohibits him from releasing details.
Johnson and Riley said they found the judge to be very professional, but both thought it was a misstep to allow the juror who said he was a friend of Truslow’s to serve on the jury.
Johnson stressed that he felt bad for the Elvis family who he said still doesn’t have justice for their daughter and was glad there would be a new trial.
“I hope they get justice and peace on the whole thing,” he said of the Elvis family.
Elvis was 20 years old at the time of her disappearance, and she remains missing.