Crime

Man who allegedly confessed to killing Nancy Moyer now says he doesn’t recall confessing

Thurston County Sheriff announces ‘person of interest’ in 10-year-old Nancy Moyer case

Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza discusses the investigation into the 2009 disappearance of Nancy Moyer at a July 11, 2019 press conference.
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Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza discusses the investigation into the 2009 disappearance of Nancy Moyer at a July 11, 2019 press conference.

After Eric L. Roberts allegedly confessed to killing Nancy Moyer and appeared in Thurston County Superior Court last month, what seemed like a potential break in the 10-year-old Tenino cold case quickly went quiet.

Since his alleged confession in July, Roberts has appeared in court on other charges, and was ultimately released. In a recent podcast interview, he said he doesn’t remember confessing.

Meanwhile, the investigation into Moyer’s disappearance and Roberts’ potential role continues.

Moyer was reported missing in March 2009, and her body was never found, though she is presumed dead. Her estranged husband told The Olympian this week that he remains hopeful.

“I still highly suspect they have the right person,” Bill Moyer said of Roberts.

A series of arrests and court appearances

Roberts, 53, first appeared in Thurston County Superior Court on second-degree murder charges July 11. According to court documents, Roberts had called 911 and confessed July 9 to killing Moyer, his former coworker and neighbor, in 2009. He later told a detective he strangled her accidentally with a scarf during a sexual encounter at his house, according to court documents.

He allegedly also told a detective that, if he were to get rid of a body on his property, “it would be right there,” then pointed to a fire pit, and said that Moyer’s clothing was still in his basement.

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office began searching Roberts’ property on the 16500 block of Sheldon Lane Southwest outside Tenino for evidence July 10. That same morning, Roberts allegedly recanted his statements about killing Moyer.

A Thurston County Superior Court Commissioner found probable cause for the charge of second-degree murder and set bail for Roberts at $1.5 million.

However, prosecutors held off on filing murder charges, saying charges related to Moyer’s death will not be filed “until the investigation is complete and all evidence can be fully considered.”

While executing the search warrant at Roberts’ property, detectives found unsecured firearms and took them for safekeeping since the residence would be left unattended, according to court documents. Detectives found two weapons were in violation of state law, and Roberts was then arrested on charges related to those firearms before he could leave the jail.

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A Thurston County Superior Court Commissioner found probable cause for charges of unlawful possession of dangerous weapons and unlawful possession of a short firearm and set bail for Roberts at $100,000.

Federal court documents show Roberts was arrested again the next day on federal weapons charges and appeared in federal court. But U.S. Attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the complaint July 18 and Roberts was ultimately released from federal custody.

On July 19, Snohomish County Jail records show Roberts was arrested by the Edmonds Police Department and booked on charges of fourth-degree assault, domestic violence. Those charges, jail records show, were dismissed July 31 and Roberts was released.

According to audio recordings from the municipal court in Edmonds, the alleged victim in the matter, Roberts’ son, didn’t want to pursue the charges.

Then, a podcast appearance

On a recent episode of the real-crime podcast Hide and Seek, which had reported extensively on Nancy Moyer’s disappearance in the past year, Roberts said he didn’t remember confessing to anything. James Baysinger, creator of Hide and Seek, started digging into the cold case in March of this year.

“I just have no recollection of that,” Roberts said on the podcast after Baysinger pointed out that detectives have Roberts on record saying he killed Nancy Moyer. Later in the interview, Roberts said he thought prescription drugs he was taking could have been the reason he called the police.

Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier also took part in the interview. Baysinger said he invited Fournier because he knew he could be walking into a dangerous situation. The interview, he said, lasted more than 4-1/2 hours.

In the interview with Baysinger and Fournier, Roberts said he never had sex with Moyer, that she had never set foot on his property to his knowledge, and that detectives were making parts of the story up. For one, he said he never said anything about a scarf.

“I don’t even know where that came from,” Roberts said about the scarf. “That was made up. There’s a lot of s--- made up from the f-----g media ... a lot of people ... are just making s--- up. It just never f-----g happened.”

As for the comment about where he’d get rid of a body on his property, Roberts told Baysinger that he was referring to himself, and that he had wanted to be cremated in the fire pit at one point. He also repeatedly mentioned that he had called the police earlier the day of the confession because he thought he saw someone on his property.

Baysinger told The Olympian he walked away feeling that Roberts was “talking in circles.”

“He’s saying a lot of things that, since the conversation, aren’t lining up,” Baysinger said. “He’s all over the place.”

The episode with Roberts aired Aug. 23 and ended with Roberts agreeing to take a polygraph test with Baysinger. Baysinger said he’s in contact with a polygrapher to schedule that, and that he hopes to wrap up that final episode of Hide and Seek’s first season next month.

Meanwhile, the investigation continues

Lt. Ray Brady with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office told The Olympian the Moyer investigation is “open and ongoing” and that the office is still working with the State Patrol crime lab, where Sheriff John Snaza said at a press conference that evidence recovered from Roberts’ property was sent.

Brady said Roberts “remains a person of interest.” The house on Sheldon Lane Southwest, Brady said, was released back to Roberts.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Scott Jackson told The Olympian prosecutors need the investigation to be complete before they can make a good decision on whether to charge Roberts.

“The police arrest based on probable cause,” Jackson explained. “Our charging and conviction standard is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ Those are two different standards.”

In part, he said there needs to be evidence independent of the confession that ties Roberts to the crime.

“We want to make sure we’ve got everything that there is to have before we go forward,” Jackson said.

If, ultimately, prosecutors do move forward with charges, Jackson said the next step would be to seek an arrest warrant from a judge.

In the meantime, Bill Moyer said “the whole family feels like it’s in a holding pattern until they determine they can move forward.”

“I’d love to see him behind bars,” Moyer said. “I think the whole family would love to see him being held until a judgment can really be made of, ‘Is he really the right person?’”

Sara Gentzler joined The Olympian in June 2019. She primarily covers Thurston County government and its courts, as well as breaking news. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Creighton University.
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