Kimberly Moretz’s trial began Wednesday with the prosecution accusing her of committing “inexcusable actions” and her attorney countering that “she’s a victim in every way in this case.”
The state rested Thursday afternoon and the defense will call its final witness Friday morning. Judge Gates Peed said he expects the jury to begin deliberating the case by noon Friday.
Audio and video recordings of statements Moretz made to investigators in the wake of Charlie Ray’s murder on or around Jan. 1 of last year were played for the jury of eight women and four men in Effingham County Superior Court.
Moretz, 43, is accused of covering up her late husband Chad Moretz’s grisly killing of Ray, 35, a Wilmington Island man with Tourette’s syndrome who befriended the Moretzes and even lived with them in their Rincon home a few months prior to his death. She was also indicted on charges of tampering with evidence and hindering the apprehension of a criminal.
“By her own admission, she was there when Chad Moretz killed Charlie Ray by stabbing him. And she was present when he was dismembered,” Assistant District Attorney Brian Deal told the jury.
However, defense attorney Michael Schiavone maintained that his client had no direct involvement in Ray’s death and “was under the fear and terror of Chad if she said or did anything” following years of abuse in their six-year marriage. Just two weeks prior to Ray’s murder, Schiavone said, Chad Moretz beat his wife so badly that he fractured three ribs and lacerated her spleen.
Schiavone told the jury that Chad Moretz’s abuse became worse after he was committed to a psychiatric unit in Savannah in August 2011, after his father shot and killed his mother in Collier County, Fla. He added that Chad Moretz “was having ongoing thoughts that he has to kill his wife,” according to his medical records.
“From that point forward, the defendant was subjected to the worst kind of abuse I’ve seen, physical and mental, in any case,” Schiavone said. “She became the target.”
Ray was reported missing by his family on Jan. 3, 2013, and officers went to the Moretzes’ house at 205 Whitehall Avenue on Jan. 11 to ask if they knew of Ray’s whereabouts. A standoff ensued, and SWAT team snipers fatally shot Chad Moretz after he walked out of the house brandishing a gun.
In two videotaped statements, Moretz said her husband and Ray got into an argument at the Moretz home, but she didn’t know how it started. She stated that she was in the living room watching television when Chad Moretz killed Ray in the kitchen.
“He walked out and … look, this is really hard for me … he was covered in blood all over his arms and all over his face,” Moretz told Effingham County Sheriff’s Office Investigator David Pollett on Jan. 11 from her hospital bed at Memorial Health University Medical Center, where she was taken following the standoff.
“He was smiling and I was crying,” she continued. “I was so scared because I thought I was next. He would stare at his face in the mirror, like admiring it.”
Schiavone called Jimmy McDuffie to the stand and used the Effingham County sheriff’s own words. Schiavone cited a news story from Jan. 15, 2013, in which McDuffie was quoted as saying Chad Moretz was “like a ticking time bomb” and the ECSO had evidence that he had beaten Kimberly “on numerous occasions.”
Asked if he made the statements in the story — including, “I don’t think it was a question of if Chad was going to snap, I think it was a question of when” — McDuffie said, “I must have.”
Ray was dismembered, and investigators found parts of his body concealed at the Moretz home and other parts in a storage unit in Jasper County, S.C. Blood evidence was found on a circular saw in the Moretzes’ garage, Sgt. Matt Holbrook of the ECSO crime scene unit said in his testimony.
Kimberly Moretz told investigators that she was present in the house when her husband dismembered Ray’s body, but she did not participate.
“He made me stay in the house,” she said of Chad Moretz. “He wouldn’t let me leave the next day when I heard the saw.”
Kimberly Moretz acknowledged that she rented the storage unit, paying cash and using her maiden name, but said she did it under intense pressure from her husband. Also, Schiavone pointed to investigators having no fingerprint evidence that his client touched the storage room door or its containers with Ray’s body parts inside.
“I knew what was in there. I didn’t put it in there,” Moretz said.
Prosecutors played seven recorded phone conversations Kimberly Moretz had between Jan. 7-9 with Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Detective James Coleman, who was following up on the report of Ray missing. Moretz told Coleman several times she last saw Ray on the night of Jan. 1, when she claimed she dropped him off at a gas station in Savannah to meet a friend for a night of partying.
However, Moretz appeared to be evasive whenever Coleman tried to set up an in-person meeting with her, and she said she couldn’t remember the location of the gas station where she took Ray. Moretz said she was not from this area and did not know Savannah well, though at the time she was working at a law office in downtown Savannah.
Exasperated, Coleman told Moretz during their seventh conversation that he knew more about the case than she realized. He also felt that, despite her statements to the contrary, Chad Moretz was with her and was coaching her on what to say.
“The information you’re telling me is not adding up,” Coleman told her. “You’re trying to cover up for somebody, and I already know it. Tell Chad that I’m looking for him also.”
Another apparent inconsistency was in Moretz’s answers to questions about the murder weapon. In the second videotaped interview, she said she saw Chad Moretz with a knife, after saying in the previous interview that she didn’t see what type of knife was used because she was in another room of the house.
“Chad walked past me with a knife,” she told investigators. “He pushed me and said, if I don’t back off, he’ll stab me too.”