Victim of 2016 homicide remembered on what would have been 28th birthday
Published 1:02 am Friday, March 2, 2018
MONTEREY — As two-dozen balloons drifted into the cloudy, evening sun, Duell Moreland’s family and friends mourned his passing and, more than anything, prayed for answers.
Thursday was Moreland’s birthday — were he still alive, he would have turned 28. Instead, his family gathered around his grave and sang happy birthday as the balloons disappeared.
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Moreland was the victim of a homicide, found in a shallow grave by his grandfather, Buddy Tiffee, on April 29, 2016, after Moreland had been missing for more than 30 days.
At his grave Thursday, friends and family members gathered to remember Moreland and to remind the world that his death has gone unsolved and unpunished.
“I won’t let this die,” said Kim Murrell, Moreland’s mother, who organized the remembrance. “I know it’s been two years, but if I don’t keep it renewed, it could just slip away.”
In the two years since his death, a Monterey man was charged with second-degree murder in Moreland’s death, the same man was released after a grand jury delivered a no true bill, and a family has mourned.
Nothing has really changed, said Sandra Tiffee, Moreland’s grandmother.
Tiffee said she gets up every day knowing her grandson was brutally, painfully murdered, that his body was left to rot and that the person she believes was responsible for his death walks free.
“I looked for him for 33 days,” Tiffee said. “But in my heart, I knew he wasn’t coming back.”
Two months after Moreland’s body was found, Hartwell Layne Tiffee was charged with second-degree murder.
Because Tiffee’s father, Red Tiffee, is a police juror in Concordia Parish, Concordia Parish District Attorney Brad Burget was recused. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry took over the case.
After a no true bill was returned by the grand jury — meaning jurors did not find enough evidence to prosecute the charges — the case has been stagnant, Sandra Tiffee said.
Moreland’s family has been critical of the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office for what the family sees as flaws in the investigation — evidence that was never collected, a perceived reluctance to investigate and, most of all, a lack of conviction.
CPSO Chief Deputy David Hedrick said he could release no new information on the case, as it is still under investigation.
“I cannot comment on the case at this time except that it is being actively investigated,” Hedrick said. “I cannot comment on the existence of any new information.”
Elizabeth Denny, Moreland’s cousin, tied a note to her balloon before she let it fly. The note told Moreland that she loved him, that she missed him.
The family let their balloons go as they sang happy birthday in the quiet graveyard. As the song ended, Buddy Tiffee put an arm around Sandra, who cried quietly.
After the ceremony was over and the sun crept below the horizon, several members of the family stayed talking, decrying the injustice of a murder unsolved.
“You get hurt, and when the hurt leaves, you get angry,” Denny said. “I think the worst is not knowing.”
She paused, looking down toward Moreland’s grave.
“I changed his diapers, you know?”