Details of Disappearance
John and his wife, Elizabeth, were last seen on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina at 5:30 p.m. on March 3, 2008. They lived part-time on their 40-foot yacht, the Yellow Jacket, which was docked at the Harbour Town marina. They also owned a home in the Brookhaven neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia.
Elizabeth worked as an attorney with the Hunter MacLean law firm in Savannah, Georgia, specializing in employee benefits and executive compensation. She had been with them for about a year; she previously worked for the United Parcel Service (UPS). John owned four Hilton Head Island businesses, including one that operated the marina, one that owned 125 rental properties, and two boating companies.
Both Calverts were prominent and well-liked members of the local community. They kept in close touch with their family and friends and both of them kept regular routines. It is highly uncharacteristic of them to leave without warning.
Elizabeth and John were reported missing on March 4, after they both missed business appointments. Their cellular phones and PDA devices have been turned off since their disappearances, which is uncharacteristic of them. Prior to vanishing, the Calverts had placed their pet dog in an Atlanta kennel. Their pet cat was found on the yacht.
Elizabeth received her pilot's license in 2006 and owns a small single-engine plane, which was found undisturbed on the tarmac at the island's airport after her disappearance. Several days after the disappearance, a dive team searched the marina, but the search turned up no evidence.
Authorities initially couldn't locate one of the couple's three cars, a silver 2006 Mercedes E-320 with Georgia license plates numbered GT-821B. Several days later, it was found in the parking lot of the Marriott hotel in the Palmetto Dunes resort, a gated community six miles from the Harbour Town marina. There were no clues as to the Calverts' whereabouts inside the vehicle. They didn't own or lease any property at the resort.
Dennis Ray Gerwing was the last person known to have seen Elizabeth and John together. A photograph of him is posted with this case summary. A certified public accountant (CPA), he was the chief financial officer of The Club Group, a realty group that manages property on Hilton Head Island. John had hired the group to do administrative, accounting and other services for his commercial properties.
In December 2007, John decided to end their business relationship with The Club Group and Gerwing was leading the transfer of services. He refused to cooperate with the police investigation. Several days after the Calverts disappeared, police executed search warrants on his home, office and two of his vehicles.
On March 11, Gerwing's lawyer found his body and two suicide notes locked in the bathroom of his condominium. He had lined his bathtub with a comforter and pillows and then slashed his inner thigh, his neck and his left forearm a steak knife. The time of death was approximately 4:00 a.m. on March 10, several hours before he was publicly named as a person of interest in the Calverts' disappearances.
Police described the suicide notes as nearly illegible, rambling and not very lucid. In the notes Gerwing admitted he stole money from the Calverts' businesses, but didn't say whether he was involved in their disappearances. Elizabeth and John had allegedly planned to confront them about the missing money at the March 3 meeting. One of their friends said he believed they probably would not have pressed charges but merely permitted Gerwing, who was himself wealthy, to simply repay any money he'd taken.
After his death, The Club Group was audited and they discovered Gerwing had embezzled $2.1 million from the Calverts' company and seven other companies, depositing the money in a secret account.
Gerwing purchased latex gloves and three large, heavyweight drop cloths after his meeting with the Calverts. When investigators searched his home, they found the holster for his .22 caliber Beretta pistol, but not the gun itself. Authorities consider him the prime suspect in the Calverts' disappearances. They think John and Elizabeth's bodies are buried hundreds of miles from Hilton Head, possibly along a dirt road.
Elizabeth is a graduate of Converse College and the University of Georgia law school. She sat on Converse College's board of trustees at the time of her disappearance. John graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in mechanical engineering. The Calverts married in 1988. They are childless and seemed to have a good marriage. Both of them were declared legally dead in November 2009. Foul play is suspected in their disappearances, which remain unsolved.