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Police: Man in missing couple case kills self

The Beaufort County sheriff says a business associate of a missing couple apparently committed suicide by slashing his inner thigh with a knife, deepening the mystery surrounding the case.
John and Elizabeth Calvert, shown in a July 2006 photo provided by Hilton Head Monthly Magazine, have been missing for 10 days. Caroline Hilty / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Beaufort County sheriff says a business associate of a missing couple apparently committed suicide by slashing his inner thigh with a knife, deepening the mystery surrounding the case.

Sheriff P.J. Tanner released few other details at a news conference Thursday about the disappearance of John and Elizabeth Calvert, who disappeared from their part-time home on this resort island about 10 days ago.

Investigators found the body of Dennis Ray Gerwing, 54, in a condominium Tuesday shortly after the sheriff's office identified him as a person of interest in the case. Two suicide notes were found, but Tanner refused to discuss their contents.

Asked if he believed the Calverts were dead or alive, Tanner says investigators were looking at worst-case scenarios and hoping for the best.

Severing ties
The Calverts had been in the process of severing their ties with the company Gerwing worked for when they disappeared March 3. Gerwing, who authorities believe was the last person to see the couple, was found dead in his condominium Tuesday.

Investigators said Gerwing had not been cooperating with authorities. They had searched his home, vehicles and office Saturday but would not say whether they found anything related to the couple's disappearance.

John Calvert, 47, and his 45-year-old wife run several businesses in the area, including managing boat slips at the marina where they live. Elizabeth Calvert also practices law with a firm in nearby Savannah, Ga.

They live part time on their 40-foot yacht in the gated Harbour Town community, known for its candy cane-colored lighthouse that is a backdrop for a professional golf tournament each spring. They also have a home in Atlanta.

Gerwing was chief financial officer of The Club Group, which the Calverts hired more than two years ago to run administration, accounting and human resources. In December, the couple decided it no longer needed the company and Gerwing was leading the transition out.

A spokesman for The Club Group wouldn't comment Wednesday about Gerwing's relationship with the Calverts, or say if anyone else in the company had dealings with them. The company said it had 21 years of business on Hilton Head Island without any allegations of wrongdoing.

'Obviously saddened'
"Everybody is obviously saddened," said the spokesman, Tony Gardo. "It's a sad situation."

There was no answer at the condominium where Gerwing's body was found Tuesday night by his attorney. The blinds were drawn shut. The two-story, wooden building sits nestled with dozens just like it in a development across the street from the Sea Pines Center, where Gerwing's offices are located.

The case has been the talk of this slipper-shaped 12-mile island near the Georgia border, which is filling with tourists taking the opportunity to bask in the first warm rays of spring. The couple's 40-foot yacht, The Yellow Jacket, has become an attraction, with passers-by stopping to take pictures.

"It's something very, very surprising in a very quiet community, when something like this happens," said Jack Noyse, a 66-year-old retiree from Ontario.

Tony Gibus, a friend and employee of the Calverts who had been acting as a spokesman for the couple, said he is scaling back his comments to concentrate on running the couple's company.

"It's been a week, and I haven't been able to concentrate on business," Gibus said. "John and Liz would want this business to keep continuing as it is."

Authorities say the Calverts' cell phones had been turned off. A small airplane owned by Elizabeth Calvert, a pilot, was found undisturbed on the tarmac at a local airport. A silver 2006 Mercedes belonging to the couple was found Friday, but authorities said it offered no clues to the couple's whereabouts.