Sheriff's Blog

Summary of the John and Elizabeth Calvert Missing Persons Investigation

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On March 4, 2008 at 6:40 pm, David White reported to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office that his sister (Elizabeth Calvert) and brother in law (John Calvert) were missing and were last seen in Hilton Head. White reported that it was uncharacteristic for the two to miss scheduled business meetings earlier that day. It was then reported by Nancy Cappelmann (Employee of the Calverts) that John and Elizabeth Calvert met Dennis Gerwing regarding the financial management of the Harbour Town Yacht Basin late in the day on March 3, 2008 and had not been seen since. The Calverts were to meet with Gerwing at an unknown location, which would later be established by Dennis Gerwing as taking place at the Club Group offices. Both John and Elizabeth Calvert were entered into National Crime Information Center (NCIC) as missing persons and alerts were sent regarding their disappearance on March 4, 2008. Elizabeth Calvert's Mini Cooper was found in the parking lot of Harbour Town Marina, while John Calvert's Mercedes Benz was missing and was entered into the NCIC. Nancy Cappelmann had reportedly checked the Calvert yacht named the “Yellow Jacket” docked at the Harbour Town Marina, where the Calverts resided locally, and determined that their brief cases were not present and their cat had been left unattended. Cappelmann advised that when the Calverts left town, historically they would ask her to tend to their cat on the yacht. Both White and Cappelmann advised that they were unaware of any travel plans for the Calverts. The Calvert's yacht was examined for evidence and it was apparent that no struggle or anything suggestive of criminal activity had occurred there. Dekalb County , Georgia law enforcement officials were contacted and checked John and Elizabeth Calvert's Atlanta residence which resulted in no contact with either of them.

On March 5, 2008 , the Calverts still had not been located and the investigation continued. Concerns grew as their businesses had been left unattended ( Harbour Town Yacht Basin , Harbour Town Power Boats and Harbour Town Resorts), which was unlike the responsible couple. Dennis Gerwing was interviewed by investigators of the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office at the Club Group ( Sea Pines Center ) on 03-05-08 and investigators immediately noticed a laceration on his right hand. Gerwing was questioned about his meeting with the Calverts on March 3, 2008 . Dennis Gerwing provided the following details regarding that meeting and his activities on the day in question:

  1. Gerwing stated that the Club Group had managed the businesses owned by the Calverts and his position with that company was Chief Financial Officer.
  2. Gerwing advised that on January 1, 2008 the Club Group had completely transitioned out of managing the finances of the Calvert's business accounts.
  3. Gerwing stated that John and Elizabeth Calvert were questioning his handling of the finances of their business accounts.
  4. February 24, 2008 , Gerwing met with Elizabeth Calvert regarding the finances (Escrows, boat slip assessments).
  5. Elizabeth Calvert contacted Gerwing after that meeting and requested to meet with him again on March 2, 2008 .
  6. Gerwing advised that Elizabeth met with him at the Club Group on March 2, 2008 . Gerwing asked her to meet with him on March 3, 2008 , so he could provide the questioned information collectively to both John and Elizabeth.
  7. Gerwing advised that John Calvert showed up at the Club Group at 6pm for the meeting on March 3, 2008 and Elizabeth arrived at approximately 615pm for the meeting.
  8. Gerwing stated that the meeting lasted 15 minutes and none of the issues that Elizabeth had brought up on March 2, 2008 had been discussed.
  9. Gerwing stated that at 630pm Elizabeth looked at her watched then announced that it was time for them to leave and at that point they left.
  10. Gerwing said he stayed at the Club Group office for 10 more minutes and then left.
  11. Gerwing stated that when he left, he observed Elizabeth Calverts' Mini Cooper in the front parking lot of the Sea Pines Center , but John Calvert's Mercedes was not.
  12. Gerwing advised that he was driving his GMC Yukon that day and that it was parked in the front parking lot at Sea Pines Center.
  13. He advised that he left Sea Pines and went the long way home (US 278 Business Route) towards Hilton Head Plantation. He stopped on the way at a gas station on Palmetto Parkway to get gas and purchase lottery tickets.
  14. He stated that he got home and ate a special diet meal and cut his hand on a broken wine bottle.
  15. He stated that he stayed home ( 8 Bent Tree Lane ) and left to go back to work at the Club Group offices at approximately 10pm in his Toyota Avalon. He said that he went to a pharmacy on the south end of Hilton Head to get band aids, as he did not have any at his house.
  16. Gerwing advised that he stayed at the Club Group until approximately midnight and then went home. He advised that he drove the Cross Island Parkway route on the way back to Hilton Head Plantation and drove through the back gate ( Squire Pope Road ).
  17. Gerwing stated that he brought his GMC Yukon in for service at an auto repair shop ( Palmetto Bay Road ) on March 4, 2008 at approximately 12pm and called a taxi to pick him up and bring him to the Club Group.

After the completion of the interview on March 5, 2008 , Investigators requested consent to search Gerwing's GMC Yukon, Toyota Avalon, Club Group office and personal residence. Gerwing allowed them to search and the following significant details were observed:

  1. The third row seat in the back of Gerwing's Yukon had been removed to move furniture as alleged by Gerwing, although his assertion of moving furniture was never substantiated through interviews of Gerwing's work associates and close personal friends.
  2. The vehicle was freshly vacuumed.
  3. There was a small pile of dirt in the kitchen area of Gerwing's residence, which was not characteristic of his otherwise tidy house.
  4. A shovel was located near the side door of Gerwing's residence. Gerwing stated that he had been repairing his irrigation system. There was no evidence of fresh digging anywhere in his yard.
  5. All trash containers in and outside of Gerwing's residence were closely examined for the broken wine bottle that Gerwing alleged caused the cut on his hand on March 3, 2008. There was trash from many days prior, but no broken bottle was found. There was no evidence of spilled or poured wine in the area that Gerwing stated that he broke the bottle.

On March 5, 2008 , within a few hours of the initial interview with Gerwing, his status changed from a mere witness to a person of interest in the disappearance of John and Elizabeth Calvert. He was contacted by telephone by investigators of the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office and asked to come to the Sheriff's office on March 6, 2008 for a follow up interview. In that conversation, Gerwing asked if he was now a suspect and reluctantly agreed to meet with investigators. He was to report to the Hilton Head Office on March 6, 2008 . That proved to be the last direct contact between Gerwing and the Sheriff's Office, as on March 6, 2008 , he had retained legal counsel to represent him in any further dealings with law enforcement. A local civil attorney initially handled Gerwing's representation, but a criminal lawyer was retained within 24 hours and denied BCSO Investigators any further contact with Gerwing, indicating that Gerwing had cooperated enough.

Further investigative activity resumed on March 6, 2008 . The Behavioral Science Unit from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division was contacted and two criminal profilers agreed to assist Beaufort County Sheriff's Office with investigative strategies and support. The Federal Bureau of Investigation offered their assistance as well. By this date, K-9 Unit personnel of the BCSO began ground searches of areas that would be readily available to Gerwing to dispose of two bodies, if in fact the Calvert's had been murdered. Searches in and around Sea Pines Plantation, including the Sea Pines Forest Preserve, wooded areas behind the Sea Pines Center and trash containers proved fruitless. In the days to follow, business associates of Gerwing's were interviewed at length and searches of areas on and around Hilton Head continued. The FBI aviation unit did an aerial search of Hilton Head and its waterways with no sign of the Calverts. Additional aerial searches of the area were done by the SLED Aviation Unit and the US Coast Guard. BCSO K-9 and dive units searched ground and water areas that might be used to conceal or dispose of two bodies in and around Harbour Town Marina, still with no sign of the Calverts. All of the rental villas managed by the Club Group were searched as well as every long term storage facility on Hilton Head. Locations of possible body disposal sites were suggested by SLED Behavioral Science Unit personnel, one member being on loan from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with a specialty of geographic profiling. Those areas were thoroughly searched.

On March 15, the Beaufort County Sheriff Office K-9 Units along with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office K-9 units and Dogs South K-9 Search and Rescue responded to a landfill in Jessup , Georgia , as it had been learned that the trash contents from Sea Pines Center had been transported there. At that location, a thorough search for the Calverts was conducted with no success.

Investigators were able to verify that Gerwing did bring his GMC Yukon in to the auto repair shop on March 4, 2008 and picked it back up on March 5, 2008 . A local taxi company verified that Gerwing did receive a ride from the auto repair shop to the Sea Pines Center at approximately 1pm on that same date. Local taxi companies were contacted and had no record of Gerwing being picked back up from the Sea Pines Center on that date or any dates surrounding the Calvert's disappearance.

On March 7, 2008 , John Calvert's silver Mercedes Benz was found in the parking lot of the Marriott Ocean Resort in Palmetto Dunes by a BCSO Patrol Deputy. Investigators responded to that location to secure the vehicle. SLED Crime Scene Unit was contacted and responded to process the vehicle for biological, latent and any other evidence that may assist in this investigation. The vehicle was towed to the Hilton Head Fire and Rescue station in Palmetto Dunes to provide a covered environment in which to process the vehicle. SLED Crime Scene collected and analyzed items which provided no information to suggest that anything criminal had occurred in John Calvert's vehicle. Elizabeth Calvert's vehicle was also impounded and searched the same date. The results of that search also did not provide any information to assist in this investigation.

With suspicion mounting that the Calverts were missing as a result of foul play, BCSO Investigators along with members of the SLED Crime Scene Unit obtained search warrants for the Club Group office, Gerwing's residence and Gerwing's two vehicles on March 8, 2008 . The searches were all conducted on that same date. The office, residence, GMC Yukon and Toyota Avalon were processed for biological and latent evidence. Items were processed, collected and analyzed, but no evidence linking the Calverts to Gerwing was found. A section of unused nylon rope was found in the trunk of Gerwing's Toyota Avalon, but the significance of the rope is unknown. Gerwing's business partner was interviewed during the execution of the search warrants and advised that he had left the Club Group at approximately 5:30pm on March 3, 2008 and had not seen either of the Calverts. He advised that he thought that Gerwing was inside the business alone when he left. He provided an alibi for his whereabouts after he left the Club Group on that date, which was verified. He indicated that he handled the sales and operations of the Club Group and Gerwing exclusively handled the financial end. He advised that he was not aware of any problems involving the Calvert's accounts, further stating that Gerwing was solely responsible for their accounts.

Efforts were made to corroborate Dennis Gerwing's statements made during his initial interview were as follows:

  1. Investigators reviewed video footage and Cross Island Expressway records to verify Gerwing's assertions of his whereabouts on March 3, 2008 . It was revealed that Gerwing did not travel home via US 278 business as stated, as his SCDOT vehicle transponder registered in an outbound lane of the Cross Island Expressway at 7:28 pm .
  2. It was revealed that Gerwing was at the pharmacy on Pope Avenue on March 3, 2008 at 715pm and purchased band aids. This is verified through video and receipt records. He left the pharmacy and came back in within a few minutes and purchased a small package of latex gloves, this again established by video and receipt records. Gerwing was observed to be talking on his mobile phone during that time at the pharmacy. Cellular phone records for Gerwing would reveal that this was the last call he made on his phone on March 3, 2008 , with the exception of receiving a text message at 7:39pm . His telephone was powered off and showed no activity after receiving that text message until March 4, 2008 at 11:12am , when he received another text message. This is supported by GPS data.
  3. Gerwing's SCDOT transponder was activated within a few minutes of being at the pharmacy on the Cross Island Expressway at 7:28pm . Approximately ten minutes later at 7:39 pm , Gerwing was observed on the surveillance video with his GMC Yukon at the gas station on Palmetto Parkway purchasing gas and a lottery ticket.

Gerwing alleged that he was home during these times and it was now established that he was not. He stated that he went back to Sea Pines after 10:00pm in his Toyota Avalon and it had now been established that he was driving the GMC Yukon hours earlier. This also shows that Gerwing was being deceptive with Investigators about the origin of the laceration on his right hand, as he stated that he bought the band aids after 10:00pm and was captured on video three hours prior to that purchasing them. Gerwing never mentioned buying the latex gloves. The search warrants executed at Gerwing's residence revealed several boxes of band aids, also discounting his reason for having to leave his residence to purchase band aids.

Video surveillance from a restaurant in Sea Pines Center captured Gerwing going to and from the rear parking lot of Sea Pines Center numerous times on March 3, 2008 and last showing him at 1am on March 4, 2008 . These times documented by the video, strongly contradict Gerwing's statement.

A female employee of Gerwing was interviewed March 10, 2008 and advised that on March 3, 2008 at approximately 3:00pm , she was asked by Gerwing to follow him to the Hilton Head Air Service (private strip), so he could drop off his Toyota Avalon. She stated that she followed Gerwing and he first stopped at his Hilton Head Plantation residence, where he went in the house for less than one minute, then came back out. She did not think that there was any other vehicle in his driveway during that brief stop, as she had in fact pulled in his driveway and then backed out while waiting for him. She followed him to Hilton Head Air Service parking lot. She stated that he parked his Avalon and then got into her vehicle. She further stated that Gerwing advised that he had friends coming in later that night and he was leaving the vehicle for them to drive. She stated that they drove East on US 278 towards Sea Pines and he asked her to stop at a hardware store. She advised that he went in the store for a few minutes and he came out with three drop cloths. When she asked what they were for, Gerwing told her they were for painting. She advised that they drove back to the Sea Pines Center and he carried the three drop cloths into the Club Group. She knows this, as she asked Gerwing if he needed help carrying the drop cloths and he told her that he would carry them himself. She stated that they both walked into the rear entrance of the Club Group. She stated that at approximately 5:30pm , Gerwing advised her that John Calvert was arriving and he needed her to go pick up reports from the Harbour Town Resorts and she could bring them back in the morning. She was under the impression that he did not want her in the office during the meeting with John Calvert. She stated that she left and saw John Calvert getting out of his Mercedes in the front parking lot and then walking towards the front entrance of the Club Group. She did observe that he was not carrying his brief case, which he usually took into the Club Group. She stated she left and Gerwing called her sometime around 7:00pm , where Gerwing advised that he met with the Calverts and was on his way home. She stated that Gerwing advised that the meeting with John Calvert went fine and stated that after the meeting, he went to find her at the Harbour Town Resorts. She could not remember which, but Gerwing told her that either he called or physically spoke to particular employee at Harbour Town Resorts and asked if she was there and was told she had already left. She stated that nothing in the conversation appeared suspicious. The employee advised that Gerwing showed up at the Club Group in the early afternoon on March 4, 2008 and there was no conversation about why he was late. She stated that Gerwing asked her to pick him up at his residence on March 5, 2008 , so he could pick up his vehicle at the auto repair shop. She stated that she picked him up at his residence that morning and brought him to the auto repair shop, where he picked up his GMC Yukon.

The particular Harbour Town Resorts employee mentioned by the Club Group employee was interviewed and indicated that she remembered the Club Group employee coming in on March 3, 2008 in the late afternoon to print out reports. The Harbour Town Resorts employee also advised that she was certain that Gerwing did not come in looking for his employee and did not call looking for her on March 3, 2008 .

After that interview, Investigators went to the hardware store and reviewed the video surveillance footage from March 3, 2008 . Dennis Gerwing was in fact observed walking into the store and purchasing three heavyweight 9'x12' drop cloths. Gerwing paid cash in that transaction and was in the store between 4:15pm and 4:17pm . The same type of drop cloths were still in stock and were examined. The drop cloth material and size (identical to the three purchased by Gerwing) appeared more than capable of concealing a human body.

Neither the three drop cloths nor the box of latex gloves purchased by Gerwing were ever recovered during the searches of his business, home or vehicles. Neither was their packaging. No persons interviewed were aware of any reason that Gerwing would need drop cloths or gloves, as he was not in the process of painting or any other activity that would require those items.

Fuel logs were obtained from Signature Flight Support, who manages the private sector air port on Hilton Head, where Dennis Gerwing parked his Toyota Avalon in the afternoon of March 3, 2008 . John and Elizabeth Calvert's plane was parked at the airport as well. It was determined that the tower does not keep written documentation of all private aircraft that land or depart from the airport. They talk to the pilots and provide clearance for take off or landing. The fuel logs from Signature were the most likely record of airplanes that were active at the airport during the time that Gerwing's vehicle was parked at the airport. Tail numbers were taken from the fuel logs and cross referenced through the FAA registry. Several of the aircraft were eliminated as they were either owned by a government agency or a large corporation. There were 17 aircraft remaining in question. Actions were taken and the pilots and passengers were identified for those aircraft. The parties were interviewed in regards to the disappearance of the Calverts. No one had any knowledge of Dennis Gerwing, John or Elizabeth Calvert, aside from what was learned through the media.

On March 11, 2008 at 3:00pm , a request for a health and welfare check at Swallow Tail Villas was called in to emergency dispatch. Persons interviewed at the scene advised that Gerwing was believed inside the second floor master bedroom and was not responding. Hilton Head Fire and Rescue noted that the bathroom door was locked and were able to gain entry. Dennis Gerwing was lying in the bathtub covered in blood and was obviously deceased. A complete examination of the death scene was conducted by BCSO Investigators, SLED Behavioral Science personnel and a Pathologist. The death scene was contained in the master bathroom. There was blood spatter with 360 degree direction surrounding the body. Significant findings at the scene were the blood spatter and bare foot impressions in the blood leading to and from the sink to the bathtub. No spatter or blood transfer was noted in the master bedroom, indicative of the bathroom door being shut prior to and not being opened after the infliction of the wounds. Gerwing was barefoot in the bathtub. The blood spatter had no voids that would be suggestive of a second person being in the bathroom or near Gerwing at the time the wounds were inflicted. Based on the amount of blood covering a large area of the bathroom floor, it is highly likely that if someone else were involved there would have been transfer outside of the bathroom. A kitchen knife was found in the tub to the right side of Gerwing. A handwritten note was found on the sink in the bathroom and some writing was observed on the bed sheet on the bed in the master bedroom. The note indicated that he (Dennis Gerwing) was solely responsible for the financial theft from accounts managed by the Club Group. It detailed that the money was gone and provided a solution to sell his property recoup the money. A specific area that was crossed out on the note read “it all happened at SPC ”, believed to mean Sea Pines Center . It is believed that this is referencing the disappearance of John and Elizabeth Calvert. The note and bed sheet writings were compared to known handwritings of Dennis Gerwing by a SLED Questioned Documents Examiner and it was established that the note and bed sheet writings were authored by Dennis Gerwing. A complete forensic autopsy and toxicological studies on Gerwing were performed that the Medical University of South Carolina on March 12, 2008 . The Pathologists concluded that Dennis Gerwing's wounds were self inflicted. Toxicological analysis revealed a high level of Benadryl was in Gerwing's system at the time of his death. Benadryl is reported to have a depressant effect at the level found in Gerwing. Independent of law enforcement, a Forensic Pathologist was hired by the family of Dennis Gerwing to review the death scene investigation and autopsy findings. With the full cooperation of the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office and the Medical University of South Carolina, that independent Pathologist concluded that Dennis Gerwing took his own life, referring to his death as a “Motivated Suicide”. Since Gerwing's suicide, the investigation has continued.

The suicide came on the heels of the announcement of an audit of the Club Group accounts would be done due to the allegations of misappropriated funds. Later, the audit of the Club Group accounts revealed that Gerwing had stolen over two million dollars from various entities that the Club Group managed. Financial audits of Dennis Gerwing's personal accounts were done as well as audits of his associates accounts in an effort to determine where and what the Club Group money may have been used for. The money was used by Gerwing for various personal vices, loans and expenses.

Gerwing's laptop computers and Blackberry mobile telephone were examined by SLED forensic analysts, yielding no information on the whereabouts of John and Elizabeth Calvert. One e-mail was located during this investigation that was sent from Gerwing's e mail account to a confidant, after Gerwing's February 24th business meeting with Elizabeth Calvert. He referred to Elisabeth as the “viper” and indicated that he “came out on top” and “that's what the old ego needed”.

All telephone contacts that Gerwing had up until 7:39pm and starting the following day were identified and interviewed. It was established that when Gerwing was at the pharmacy on Pope Avenue on the telephone captured by the video that he was talking with his Club Group employee.

The time line established by video, telephone and receipt records indicate that Dennis Gerwing's whereabouts were unknown for a period of time beginning shortly after 1:00am on March 3, 2008 until approximately noon on March 4, 2008 , when he dropped his Yukon off for maintenance.

On March 12, 2008 , a contract employee of the Club Group advised that she received a telephone call from Dennis Gerwing on March 3, 2008 at approximately 1:30pm asking her if she planned to come in that day. The contract employee stated that she told Gerwing that she did plan on being in later that afternoon. She advised that Gerwing informed her that the computers were going to be taken down for maintenance and advised that if she was coming to the Club Group it would be better earlier than later. She stated that she asked Gerwing what time the computers would be shut down and he advised around 4:30pm . Since her work requires the use of Club Group computers, she advised Gerwing that she would come in on March 4, 2008 instead. She stated that Gerwing replied that it was fine a probably a good idea. She stated that she established that the computers were not taken down for maintenance on March 3, 2008 through one of Gerwing's assistants and now believed that Gerwing was attempting to keep her out of the office on that date. Because she is not on a schedule at the Club Group, often works late and shows up without notice she believed were the reasons for Gerwing's call. She stated that she and Gerwing were not on friendly terms, so the telephone call stood out to her.

Interviews of associates and friends of both Dennis Gerwing and John and Elizabeth Calvert were conducted over several months. Polygraph examinations were conducted on seven of those people regarding their knowledge of the disappearance of the Calverts. None of the examinations assisted in establishing the whereabouts of the Calverts or what may have happened to them.

Aside from Dennis Gerwing's associate who witnessed John Calvert arrive at the Club Group, another professional who works at Sea Pines Center had a conversation with John Calvert prior to his meeting with Gerwing. He appeared to be in good spirits at the time. Elizabeth Calvert was not with him. Elizabeth Calvert's location was tracked by her cellular phone records (tower locations) as well as the Cross Island Toll records and Sea Pines Security gate video. Elizabeth Calvert passed through the Cross Island toll plaza at approximately 5:23pm . At approximately 5:40pm she was seen boarding the Yellow Jacket in Harbour Town . Elizabeth Calvert changed her clothes prior to the scheduled meeting with Dennis Gerwing as her work attire from that day was found hanging neatly in the boat. Elizabeth Calvert attended the meeting at the Club Group according to Dennis Gerwing's statements.

No witnesses have been identified or have come forward to establish that John and Elizabeth Calvert ever left the Club Group offices. Dennis Gerwing stated that they left together and went to dinner. This is not a likely scenario as the Calverts frequented the same restaurants and always paid with a credit card. There has been no activity on John and Elizabeth Calvert's credit card accounts since March 3, 2008 . Their mobile telephones have not been utilized since March 3, 2008 , near the time of their meeting with Dennis Gerwing at the Club Group. The last activity on Elizabeth Calvert's mobile telephone was at 5:27pm on March 3, 2008, identified as an incoming call from John Calvert. John Calvert's last mobile telephone activity was a call to his voice mail at 5:28pm on that same date. There has not been any contact with family or friends. Their cellular phones, brief cases and a computer are missing and have not been recovered.

It has been confirmed through appropriate government agencies that the Calverts were not placed in a witness protection program as speculated by many. Hundreds of teletypes from throughout the Country about unidentified deceased persons have been reviewed with no success. The United States Marshall's Service sent alerts to 186 cooperating countries regarding the disappearance of the Calverts. It will ensure that if the Calverts enter or leave another country, that the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office will be notified.

The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate all leads that arise. The investigation into the Disappearance of John and Elizabeth Calvert remains open. This report was prepared in November of 2008 by Staff Sergeant Angela Viens and Captain Bob Bromage at the direction of Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner.

SLED Death Scene Profile Analysis