Kim Moretz will be back in Effingham County Superior Court on Wednesday, to be sentenced for her role in the gruesome death of a Wilmington Island man.
An Effingham County jury found Moretz guilty Friday of concealing the death of Charlie Ray III last January and hindering the apprehension of the man investigators say committed it, her husband Chad Moretz.
She faces up to 15 years in prison — 10 for the concealment charge and five for the hindering charge. Assistant District Attorney Brian Deal said he will ask Judge Gates Peed for the maximum penalty.
“I am delighted that the jury saw fit in this case to hold Mrs. Moretz responsible for the actions that she took to conceal the deal of Mr. Ray,” Deal said following the verdict.
The jury of eight women and four men found Moretz not guilty of a third charge, tampering with evidence. The jury deliberated for about three hours following two-and-a-half days of testimony.
“It doesn’t make much sense,” defense attorney Michael Schiavone said of the jury’s decision. “These three offenses are inter-related, and I would expect for there to be consistency in the verdict — that it would be either not guilty on all three or guilty on all three.”
The trial produced grisly testimony about Ray being stabbed more than 50 times and then dismembered in the Moretzes’ house in Rincon. The defense portrayed her as being under her husband’s control from years of abuse, but the prosecution countered with evidence that Moretz misled investigators in the days following Ray’s death.
Ray’s torso, arms and legs were placed in a storage unit in Jasper County, S.C., and his head and hands were hidden behind a kitchen cabinet in the Moretz home. Chad Moretz was shot and killed by Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department SWAT team snipers following a standoff at the Moretzes’ home.
Deal used Moretz’s own words against her from seven recorded phone conversations she had with Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Detective James Coleman as he was investigating Ray’s disappearance and two videotaped statements she gave investigators following the deadly standoff.
Moretz referred to Ray as a friend and maintained that she had last seen him when she dropped him off at a gas station in Savannah. She stated that Ray drank often and speculated that “he’s out on a bender.”
Moretz said over the phone that she didn’t know where her husband was, but Coleman testified that he felt Chad Moretz was with her the whole time and coached her on what to say. Colemen told Moretz that he knew she was involved somehow and urged her several times to speak with investigators to help them determine if Ray was still alive.
“Of course he’s alive!” Moretz said emphatically, though she knew Ray had been dead for a week.
The prosecution hammered the point that Kim Moretz had ample opportunity to tell police what her husband had done. By her own admission, about a week after Ray’s death, Moretz called her brother Kevin Lambert and asked him to come up from Florida.
Kim Moretz stated that Chad Moretz was not with her when she picked up Lambert at the Greyhound bus station in Savannah. Deal contended that gave Kim Moretz the perfect opportunity to contact police, since she was away from her husband and was using the only car the couple had.
“If she is a friend, she is a false friend to Charlie Ray,” Deal said in his closing argument. “I’m more concerned about the actual victim in this case, not about the defendant.”
Kim Moretz admitted to renting the storage unit, using her maiden name and paying in cash. However, Schiavone pointed out that the state had no fingerprint evidence tying his client to the containers of Ray’s body parts found inside the unit.
Moretz maintained that she did not participate in or even witness Ray’s death. In a video statement, she said she was in the living room watching television and heard a struggle in the kitchen between her husband and Ray after they had been drinking, and Chad Moretz emerged covered in blood.
Asked why she didn’t go to police, Kim Moretz said Chad told her that “anybody gets in his way, he’s gonna blow him to bits and it’d be all my fault.”
Abuse was constant in the Moretzes’ six-year marriage, Schiavone said, and became even worse once Chad Moretz proved he was capable of killing someone. Schiavone accused the state of putting Kim Moretz on trial only because Chad Moretz was not alive to answer for his crimes.
“In any other situation, if she had not been married to Chad Moretz, she would be considered the victim,” Schiavone said. “But for she survived, they feel somebody has to be accountable for something.”
The defense’s final witness, clinical social worker Marti Loring, testified that Kim Moretz suffered from “severe” cases of battered person’s syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“There is no voluntariness on (Kim Moretz’s) part in anything about this case,” Schiavone said in his closing. “She absolutely believed everything he told her to do or not do.”
However, Deal — and ultimately the jury — did not see it that way.
Deal brushed off Loring’s testimony, saying to the jury, “She did not tell you (Moretz) didn’t know right from wrong. She didn’t tell you (Moretz) could not control her own actions. And that was all based on the assumption (Moretz) was telling her the truth.”