Originally Published January 21, 2013
Chad Moretz died in a standoff with police. They found his missing friend’s remains in the wall of his squalid home. Now it seems that what neighbors suspected, and the Moretz family knew, police never even guessed at. In a case of violence begetting more violence, Moretz was not the only victimizer, nor his friend the only victim.
Police had responded to calls about Savannah-area resident Chad Moretz at least four times in the previous 18 months. Once for chasing his wife with a machete, again for threatening to kill a man and the man’s family with a handgun when he was refused a ride, the third time for stabbing a dog with a pocket knife after it bit him, and a fourth incident in December 2012 involving threats. On January 11, 2013, following up on a tip, police came knocking on his door to ask if he had seen his friend Charles Ray, 35, who had been missing since New Year’s day. To their surprise they were held at bay by an armed Moretz in a four-hour standoff, which ended when SWAT snipers killed him as he walked onto his porch, armed with his AR-15 assault rifle, a handgun holstered in his belt.
In order to truly appreciate the strangeness of this tale, one has to go back to 2009 when Chad Moretz’ father, Jeffrey Moretz, then 52, was arrested on charges of assault with a deadly weapon after he opened fire on Chad and Chad’s wife Kimberly. Jeffrey claimed that his son was verbally abusive and had anger management issues. Chad claimed that his father had tried to kill him. Since then Chad had been arrested over a dozen times in Ohio, Florida and Georgia. After the incident, Chad’s mother Christine, then 51, assured the court time and again that she had nothing to fear from her husband, that he posed no threat to her, and ultimately he was allowed to move back into the family home. By 2011, however, Christine was very afraid of her husband, according to those who knew her, and some even said that she predicted that he would eventually kill her.
On July 5, 2011, her prediction came true. Though Jeffrey had filed for divorce two weeks earlier, his belief that she was having an affair prompted him to grab his gun, follow her to Physicians Regional – Pine Ridge Hospital in Naples, Florida, and enter the room where she was visiting a friend. Christine reportedly said, “Don’t start here,” to which he replied that he wasn’t starting, he was finishing. He fatally shot Christine in the head and immediately turned the gun on himself. After her death Christine’s family and friends conceded that Jeffrey Moretz had been controlling. He was treated, placed in intensive care and survived. He is expected to go to trial later in 2013.
Investigators soon discovered that Christine Moretz was indeed having an affair with a younger man, Christopher Serna, 34, who was, according to his family, very upset and shaken by her murder. Chad too was upset and shaken and moved to the Savannah, Georgia, area where only three weeks after Christine’s murder, he was reportedly seen chasing Kimberly Moretz with a machete outside their home. Kimberly denied the charges.
Also three weeks after Christine Moretz’ murder, on July 26, 2011, a bloody Serna was found shaking, in shock outside his apartment, and the butchered decapitated body of his girlfriend of one week, Suzanne Bishop, found in his bathtub. Serna was treated for minor injuries and arrested for her murder. His trial for second-degree murder is pending in 2013.
Bishop and Serna had gone on one date six months earlier. In the interim Serna had dated Christine Moretz and Bishop had dated Serna’s uncle, Alexander Amador. The night of Bishop’s murder Serna’s family told police that they had warned the grieving Serna to stay away from Bishop, who acted “crazy” and called him “all the time,” according to his mother. Serna got together with Bishop a week before her murder, when she and Amador broke-up after a fight that resulted in her arrest for battery.
When police arrived to talk to Moretz, his brother-in-law Kevin Lambert answered the door warning, “Chad’s in here. He’s got a rifle. He’s going to kill y’all.” The standoff began when they pulled Lambert out of the way to safety. During the standoff one of Moretz’ siblings, who somehow knew where Ray’s body was, called police informing them that they would find Ray’s remains in a storage unit in Jasper, South Carolina. They did find Ray’s torso, but his head and hands were gone, removed with a saw. Those were only retrieved after Moretz was dead. Police entered the foul-smelling home and found Ray’s decomposing severed head and hands in a hole in the wall behind one of the kitchen cabinets.
This bizarre ending to a bizarre story doesn’t begin to explain why Chad Moretz did what he did, but investigator David Ehsanipoor did sum up the case nicely, “I don’t believe there was a motive. … It wasn’t a drug deal gone bad or a love triangle. Chad was just crazy.”