Federal authorities this week moved to dismiss a firearm charge against Eric Lee Roberts, the Rochester man who reportedly confessed to killing Nancy Moyer in 2009, after further investigation revealed the gun in question didn’t meet the illegal status that initially prompted the charge.
Detectives reported finding 17 guns in Roberts’ residence as they were searching for evidence in Moyer’s disappearance. Meanwhile, Thurston County prosecutors say they’ll hold off on filing charges in the Moyer disappearance until the full investigation is complete.
Roberts called authorities July 9, allegedly confessing to killing Moyer in 2009, and a subsequent search warrant was executed at his residence on July 10 in the 16500 block of Sheldon Lane SW in Rochester. Law enforcement authorities reported finding evidence that’s in the process of being tested in the Moyer investigation, along with guns that they suspected to violate state and federal law.
One gun, located in the house’s bedroom, was initially examined by an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and deemed to have an illegally short barrel.
When prosecutors announced they would wait to charge Roberts for Moyer’s disappearance until detectives finish their investigation, Roberts was promptly arrested on suspicion of gun-related violations and charged in Thurston County Superior Court.
He was later transferred to federal custody.
“We essentially deferred prosecution to federal authorities, they had put together the appropriate paperwork to initiate the criminal process and the federal authorities asked us to turn him over into their custody, which we did,” said Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Jeffery Lippert.
A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington on Tuesday charged Roberts with one count of possession of an unregistered National Firearms Act weapon. However, the charge was dismissed Thursday.
Emily Langlie, with the public affairs office of Western District’s U.S. Attorney, said further evaluation of the gun found the weapon didn’t meet the requirement of the charge.
“At this point, he is not facing any homicide charges in Thurston County and he’s not facing weapons charges in Thurston County and he’s not subject to pretrial incarceration in Thurston County at this point,” said Lippert, adding that the prosecutor’s office likely won’t comment on the investigation further, until the sheriff’s office presents investigatory findings resulting in charges.
Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza said there is still investigative work to be done on the guns recovered in Roberts’ house for possible violation.
“There is more evidence being looked at and examined,” he said.
Meanwhile, detectives continue delving into Roberts’ possible involvement in Moyer’s disappearance and presumed death. It’s a process that will take an undetermined amount of time to complete.
“The statements that Mr. Roberts has made, obviously, it really livened up this investigation, and we’re able to look at some things, but a lot of it takes some time. Especially the testing of the evidence,” said Snaza.
Roberts alleged confession proved to be the largest development in a case that sat cold for a decade. The developments that followed his initial arrest on suspicion of second-degree murder have proved disheartening to investigating law enforcement officers, Snaza said.
“The frustrating part of it is, here you get the hopes up of the family members, of the law enforcement community saying ‘hey, this guy made some statements.’ And how we reacted on it, maybe we should have held off on some of the statements we made as a law enforcement agency until we were able to prove some things, but it was just being really excited about a 10-year-old case and being able to solve it. And now we’re trying to figure things out again,” he said. “It just goes to show that all cases aren’t open and shut. However … we’re depicted in TV or whatever … real life is way different.”
Roberts, according to court documents, confessed on July 9 to unintentionally strangling Moyer with a scarf while the two were having sexual contact. He told detectives he had been using drugs and alcohol and didn’t realize at first that she was dead.
Roberts told detectives that he kept Moyer’s clothes, but disposed of the body, saying to detectives: “‘I don’t really want to incriminate myself any further, but IF (sic) I was going to get rid of a body on my property, it would be right there.’ Eric then pointed to the fire pit,” according to court documents.
Roberts recanted his statements the following day, saying he wasn’t sure why he told investigators that he killed Moyer.