Man eyed in S.C. disappearances found dead

March 12, 2008 12:05:02 PM PDT
A man whom police named yesterday as a person of interest in the disappearance of an affluent Hilton Head couple has killed himself, authorities in South Carolina announced Wednesday. Dennis Ray Gerwing, 54, a Hilton Head business associate who police say was the last person to see John and Elizabeth Calvert alive on March 3, was found dead by his lawyer, Dan Saxon, in the bathroom of a resort condo, the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office told ABC News.

Gerwing left two notes behind, sheriff's office spokesman Neil Baxley said, but investigators wouldn't reveal the contents of the notes. An autopsy has been scheduled at the Medical University of South Carolina to determine Gerwing's cause of death. He had apparently been dead for several hours.

"Beaufort County Sheriff's Deputies, Hilton Head Island Fire/Rescue and Sea Pines Security units responded to the scene, a multi-unit, two story residential complex. Upon arrival Gerwing was found dead in an upstairs bathroom," the sheriff's office statement read.

The discovery of Gerwing's body followed an announcement Tuesday afternoon by the sheriff's office that the Hilton Head man was a "person of interest" in the Calverts' disappearance. Gerwing was an employee at The Club Group, a company that until December had handled administrative and accounting services for the Harbour Town Yacht Basin, a popular Hilton Head marina among the Calverts' local commercial holdings.

Tom Gardo, a Club Group spokesman, told ABC News that the Calverts struck a deal with the company two years ago to help them manage their properties until they were ready to do it themselves. They recently had spent an increasing amount of time in Hilton Head, a friend told ABC News last week.

"It was basic business stuff," Gardo said, adding that Gerwing had worked for Club Group for 21 years -- since the company was founded. "There was nothing in his history to suggest anything like this."

South Carolina investigators executed four search warrants Saturday, including searches of The Club Group business office, Gerwing's Hilton Head home, and two cars registered to him ? a Toyota Avalon and a GMC Yukon, according to the sheriff's office.

Saxon, Gerwing's attorney, did not return a phone call and e-mail from ABC News. A receptionist at his Hilton Head law firm, Novit, Scarminach & Akins, said Saxon would be in Beaufort for the day.

John and Elizabeth Calvert, 47 and 45 respectively, were last seen March 3, in the evening. They were reported missing by friends when they failed to show up for morning business appointments the next day. One of their vehicles, a 2006 Mercedes E320, was also missing.

Authorities searched the Calverts' 45-foot motor cruiser, Yellow Jacket, where they lived with their pets while in Hilton Head. Their private plane remained tied down at the Hilton Head Airport and their second car was secure. A search of the Calverts' home in an upscale Atlanta neighborhood turned up no evidence of the pair. Eventually, divers were brought in to search the waters around the boat.

A break in the case came Friday when the couple's Mercedes was recovered in the parking lot of a Marriott Hotel about six miles from the Harbour Town Yacht Basin in Hilton Head.

The Harbour Town Yacht Basin operates slips and offers charter boat trips. The couple also own a company that handles villa-style rentals on Hilton Head Island, a popular vacation destination known for boating, beaches and golf.

Elizabeth worked as a lawyer for UPS in Atlanta for 14 years, most recently as head of legal department operations, according to her attorney profile on the Hunter Maclean law firm Web site. She also served on the board of trustees for the Georgia Conservancy and Converse College, her undergraduate alma mater.

John is described as 5 feet 6 inches tall with blue eyes and gray hair. His wife is 5 feet 4 inches tall with brown eyes and brown hair.