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Standoff becomes homicide investigation

POSTED: January 14, 2013 7:58 p.m.
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Kevin Lambert

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A four-hour hostage standoff ended Friday evening as a Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department SWAT team sniper shot and killed Chad Moretz.


What they found inside his Whitehall Avenue home took their investigation into a more gruesome direction.

Investigators combed through the house following the fatal shooting and found human body parts behind a cabinet inside a wall, according to Effingham County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Detective David Ehsanipoor. The body parts discovered late Friday night in the Moretz home matched up with remains found in a storage unit in Jasper County, S.C., Ehsanipoor added.


“I have never seen anything like this, with dismembered body parts in one state and body parts in another state,” Ehsanipoor said. “It was a gruesome scene.”


The body parts found in Effingham County were autopsied Monday and Ehsanipoor said they were consistent with those found in Jasper County, which were positively identified as the remains of Charlie Ray.


Ray, a Chatham County man who had been reported missing by his family on New Year’s Eve, had been known to frequent Rincon and the Whitehall Avenue neighborhood. An autopsy on Ray’s torso, discovered in the storage unit, was conducted in Charleston, S.C., on Monday.


The autopsy determined that Ray died from multiple stab wounds in a “very brutal attack,” Eshanipoor said. Investigators believe Ray was killed and his body was dismembered at the 205 Whitehall Avenue home where Friday’s standoff occurred. Deputies found traces of blood in the kitchen.


“We believe Chad Moretz had a key role in killing Charles Ray,” Ehsanipoor said. “We do not believe there is anybody (else) out there in the county who is a murder suspect (in this case).”


Moretz’s wife, Kimberly Moretz, 40, of Rincon, and her brother, Kevin Lambert, 38, of Florida, were arrested and charged with concealing a death. They are being held at Effingham County Jail without bond.


The standoff began, Ehsanipoor said, after an Effingham County Sheriff’s deputy and a Savannah-Chatham police officer went to the house Friday afternoon to question Chad Moretz, 34, about Ray. It was the second time investigators had been there, he added, after previously speaking with Kimberly Moretz.


However, this time, Chad Moretz’s brother-in-law Kevin Lambert answered the door. He gave the officers a disturbing message.


“He whispered to them that (Moretz) was inside but that he wasn’t going to come out and he was going to kill law enforcement,” Ehsanipoor said.


The officers pulled Lambert from the home, Ehsanipoor said, and learned that Moretz was holding his wife at gunpoint. Dozens of law enforcement units converged on the neighborhood to try to end the hostage situation peacefully, but Moretz did not cooperate with negotiators.


“His only request was for us to leave, which was not going to happen with a hostage in the house,” Ehsanipoor said. “He told us how, if he saw deputies in the area, he would get his rifle out and scope them in and start shooting.”


After approximately four hours in captivity, Kimberly Moretz managed to get out of the house and reach the safety of law enforcement personnel. She stated she had rib injuries and was “obviously panicked” as EMS treated her, according to Ehsanipoor. Kimberly Moretz was taken to Memorial University Medical Center for treatment and then taken into custody.


“Regardless of what she’s charged with, we’re thankful we got Kimberly out alive,” Ehsanipoor said. “Anything could’ve happened with her.”


Chad Moretz followed his wife outside, carrying an AR-15 automatic rifle. When he pointed the gun at officers, Ehsanipoor said, a SWAT team member shot Moretz twice on the front porch.


“When he walked outside, brandishing a rifle and pointing it at officers, we had no other choice,” he said.


Investigators continued to look for evidence at the house until late Monday afternoon. According to Ehsanipoor, the evidence collected included several knives, at least one saw and two guns — the AR-15 Moretz was carrying and a .357 Magnum that was in his waistband when he was shot.


The shooting brought a violent end to Chad Moretz’s lengthy criminal history. He had spent time in the Effingham County Jail twice — first on a domestic violence charge and then less than a month ago on a charge of making terroristic threats — and also had been arrested in other jurisdictions, Ehsanipoor said.


Moretz also had a violent family history. His father, Jeffrey Moretz, is accused of murdering his estranged wife, Christine Moretz, Chad Moretz’s mother. Christine Moretz was shot to death in 2009 in a Naples, Fla., hospital. Jeffery Moretz is awaiting trial on the murder charge.


“We think Chad Moretz is a pretty disturbed individual,” Ehsanipoor said. “I’d call him a sick person for what he did. It’s definitely a gruesome crime. Based off the negotiations we were trying to make with him Friday afternoon, he was not a rational person. We did everything we could to try to get him out of that house alive.”


Moretz and Ray were friends, Ehsanipoor said, but investigators don’t know of any problems that existed between the two. The circumstances that led to Ray’s death remain under investigation.


“We still don’t have a motive on this,” Ehsanipoor said. “Everyone wants to know why this happened. We would like to know also.”


Editor Pat Donahue contributed to this story.

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