Ga. Mysteries: Couple vanishes from Hilton Head Island

John Calvert's brother is offering $10,000 for anyone with information about this Georgia mystery.

BROOKHAVEN, Ga. -- More than seven years ago, a well-heeled Georgia couple vanished from Hilton Head Island. John and Elizabeth Calvert went missing shortly after meeting with their financial manager. They were declared legally dead in 2009, but their bodies were never found. No one has been charged in their disappearance. The community is still searching for answers to this Georgia mystery.

The Victims

The Calverts split their time between a home in Brookhaven and their yacht, the Yellow Jacket, on Hilton Head Island, S.C. John, 47 when he disappeared, owned a marina yacht basin business; Elizabeth, 45, was an attorney with a Savannah law firm.

On Monday, Mar. 3, 2008, the Calverts were scheduled to meet with Dennis Gerwing, CFO of the Club Group, which managed the financials for John's business. The Calverts were in the process of taking over the company's money, and Elizabeth had noticed that about $100,000 was missing.

Witnesses saw John enter the Club Group at around 5:30 p.m. Elizabeth arrived later; shortly before the meeting, she called a friend to say she suspected Gerwing of stealing money from the business.

No one ever heard from the Calverts again. Elizabeth's brother reported them missing the following evening after he could not get in touch with them.

The Person of Interest

Police immediately honed in on Gerwing, the last person to see the Calverts alive. He was interviewed the day after John and Elizabeth were reported missing.

"He retained a lawyer on the 6th, following the interviews investigators did on the 5th," Beaufort County (S.C.) Sheriff's Capt. Bob Bromage said. "His story was not going to hold up because he was on video surveillance at different locations buying drop cloths he conveniently left out of his conversations with detectives."

Bromage said Gerwing purchased three large vinyl drop cloths from Grayco Hardware, just hours before his meeting with the Calverts. He told one of his employees he used the cloths to cover the furniture in his office when he painted. His friends and associates later told police Gerwing never painted or performed any type of manual labor.

During the interview, investigators noticed a cut in the web of Gerwing's hand. Bromage described it as the kind of injury that can occur from cocking a gun. Gerwing told police he cut his hand on a broken wine bottle. Investigators searched his home, but did not find any pieces of a bottle in the trash. However, they did find a small brown holster, which they later learned belonged to a Beretta .22 semiautomatic pistol a friend gave Gerwing.

"The .22 is highly suspicious because it doesn't leave a lot of spatter," Bromage said. No DNA evidence was ever uncovered in Gerwing's home or office.

Police also followed up on Gerwing's claim that after cutting his hand, he stopped at CVS to buy Band-Aids. Surveillance cameras inside the store captured images of Gerwing purchasing the Band-Aids, then returning to CVS a few minutes later and buying latex gloves. The gloves and the drop cloths were never recovered.

Despite the evidence against him, Gerwing was not charged -- because on Mar. 11, 2008, he was found dead in the bathroom of the villa where he was staying while police searched his home. According to the investigation, he lined the bathtub with a comforter, climbed in, slashed his legs and neck with a steak knife, and bled to death.

In a suicide note discovered with his body, Gerwing admitted to stealing money from his clients, including the Calverts. He did not say he killed the couple, but did not deny it either.

"Dennis Gerwing holds the key to this, and unfortunately he committed suicide and, as he said in his note, took himself out of the game," Bromage said.

The Investigation

Officials continue to investigate the mystery of what happened to the Calverts and who else may have been involved in their disappearance. Is Gerwing responsible? Did he act alone? Are there others out there who may have the information investigators need?

"There were people and there still are people in the Calvert investigation that we're suspicious of," said Beaufort County Sheriff PJ Tanner. "Not persons of interest like Dennis Gerwing, but they just didn't fit."

Gerwing's phone was turned off during his meeting with the Calverts and was not turned back on until the next day -- 11 hours later.

"My feeling has always been (the Calverts) are three, four, five hours from here because there is an 11-hour window where Dennis Gerwing's phone is powered off and we couldn't find him," Tanner said.

In October 2011, the FBI Field Office in Columbia, S.C., received a letter and a detailed map from an anonymous tipster in the Los Angeles area. The note claimed John and Elizabeth Calvert's remains were buried in a wooded area of Eastover, S.C. Investigators combed the area for days, but found nothing.

Still, Sheriff Tanner holds out hope the Calverts' bodies will be recovered.

"I still think we're going to find the Calverts," he said. "Unfortunately, the Calverts are deceased, but I still say we're going to find them. It's just a matter of time."

John Calvert's brother is now offering a $10,000 reward for information in the couple's disappearance.

Do you know what happened to the Calverts? Anyone with information in their disappearance is encouraged to call Midlands (S.C.) Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC. Tipsters can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.


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