SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — On the night of March 3, 2008, John and Elizabeth Calvert vanished in other-worldly fashion from Hilton Head Island, never to be seen again.
If there had been a soundtrack to the moment of their disappearance, it might have been the soft sound of an air lock closing, followed immediately by the cold silence of empty space once occupied.
They were here, and then they weren't. It was if someone had airbrushed them off the landscape of their lives.
And they were, by all accounts, good lives.
John, 47 at the time of his disappearance, and Elizabeth, then 45, split time between their Atlanta home and Harbour Town, S.C., where they lived on their 40-foot Hatteras yacht, the "Yellow Jacket."
John, a Georgia Tech graduate who spent most of his career in the field of energy, managed the couple's businesses, which included Harbour Town Yacht Basin and Harbour Town Resorts.
Elizabeth was a lawyer with the Savannah-based law firm HunterMaclean, which she joined in the fall of 2007 to specialize in employee benefits and executive compensation.
"She was just first class, as a person and a lawyer," said John Tatum, a partner at HunterMaclean. "The law firm had a retreat the weekend before she went missing and Liz, being a pilot, had flown her plane down to Brunswick and back on Sunday. She didn't come into the office on Monday morning. That was the last time we ever saw her."
Her colleagues are not alone.
Five years after the Calverts vanished, the whereabouts of the couple and what happened to them on that Monday night remain a mystery, with their families no closer to having their questions answered.
In 2009, they were declared legally dead without their bodies ever being found.
And South Carolina law enforcement agencies are no closer to solving the case.
Those are the facts. They are not in dispute.
Also not in dispute: The Beaufort County Sheriff's Department, in the first 48 hours of the investigation, believed they had zeroed in on a prime suspect in accountant Dennis Gerwing.
Gerwing was a longtime island resident, a leader of the high life, a connoisseur of fine wines and expensive luxury possessions.
He was a business associate of the Calverts, a financial manager until January 2008 of their four businesses through his position as chief financial officer of the Club Group.
He also was the last person known to have seen the Calverts, admitting to investigators he met with the couple that Monday evening at the Club Group's offices at the Sea Pines Center to discuss concerns by Elizabeth Calvert — concerns that were later confirmed — that he had stolen money from the couple's business accountants.
"Elizabeth was absolutely convinced there was a problem," said Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner. "Dennis did not like Elizabeth. There was tension between those two. And he knew it."
Investigators interviewed Gerwing on March 5.
He arrived for the interview with a fresh cut on his hand, which investigators said he explained away by saying he had cut it opening a bottle of wine the night of March 4.
In totality, police said, Gerwing spun a tale of his March 3 activities and movements following his meeting with the Calverts, a tale that quickly unraveled.
In instance after instance, Gerwing told them one thing and investigators, upon checking, unearthed something else.
"He lied enough in the first interview to give us ample time to run down a lot of stuff," Tanner said.
Video footage, according to investigators, showed Gerwing lied about his whereabouts and the routes he traveled during the night of March 3. Other footage at a pharmacy showed him buying bandages roughly 24 hours before he claimed he cut his hand. It also documented his return to the store to buy latex gloves.
Later, investigators pulled video of Gerwing buying three large drop cloths on the afternoon of the day the Calverts went missing.
The gloves and drop cloths were never found in searches of Gerwing's homes and businesses.
Investigators believed it was just a matter of time before they completely discredited Gerwing's story. They called Gerwing only hours after his initial interview and asked him to return to the sheriff's office on March 6 for a polygraph.
Instead, Gerwing hired a lawyer.
"We never talked to him again," said Capt. Bob Bromage of the Beaufort County Sheriff's Department's criminal investigations branch.
On March 11, Gerwing was found covered in blood in the bathtub of a second-floor unit at the Swallow Tail Villas, dead from what investigators and two autopsies later concluded were self-inflicted knife wounds.
He left a handwritten note on the sink admitting sole responsibility for the approximately $2 million he defrauded from Club Group clients, including the Calverts.
Investigators said part of the note was crossed out, but still legible. It said: "It all happened at SPC."
They believe that referred to Sea Pines Center and what happened to the Calverts.
But they don't know for sure.
"When Dennis Gerwing killed himself," Tanner said, "That was the beginning of the frustration for us."
It is a frustration that continues to this day.
"We're in a waiting period right now," Tanner said. "We've collected as much evidence as we could locate. But there's still evidence."
By that, of course, he meant the Calverts' remains.
There was one glimmer of hope.
In October 2011, the FBI office in Columbia, S.C., forwarded to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Department an anonymous letter bearing a California postmark on its envelope.
The envelope contained a satellite photo and GPS coordinates of an old hunting club in the woods of South Carolina's Richland County and information that the Calverts' remains would be found there.
Investigators, with the help of archaeologists from the University of South Carolina, spent several days searching the site without discovering human remains.
"We felt that was the break we'd been looking for," Tanner said. "It was frustrating when we found nothing."
The letter also promised additional information would be forthcoming. So far, nothing has arrived.
The central questions, of course, are: What happened to the Calverts and where are they now? Five years after their disappearance, no one realistically believes they are alive.
"There's this nag in your gut that says while we know what has happened to them, it is more that we don't know where they are," Elizabeth's brother, David White, wrote in an email response to an interview request.
White and the Calverts' remaining family and friends held a memorial service and honored the couple with a granite bench at the Six Oaks Cemetery on Hilton Head Island.
They created scholarships at the couple's respective alma maters — Georgia Tech for John, Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C., for Elizabeth.
They established the Calvert Reward Fund, designed to distribute money to anyone providing useful information that helps investigators determine what happened to the Calverts or where their remains might be.
White said the balance of the fund stands at $10,000.
So far, those funds remain untouched by potential tipsters.
"Liz and John's lives were taken from us in a hideous way," White wrote in his email. "And they are still out there somewhere, without the dignity of a Christian burial."
Investigators said Gerwing powered off his phone for about 11 hours starting the night the Calverts went missing and continuing into the next day.
That has led investigators to believe he shut off the phone to evade GPS detection as he traveled within a roughly five-hour radius of Harbour Town.
They theorize the remains are buried somewhere within that radius.
"I believe they're somewhere off the beaten trail," Bromage said. "Eventually, the bodies will be found by a hiker or hunter."
There's another possibility: Gerwing had an accomplice who might still be alive and who may come forward at some point to detail what occurred that night and where the Calverts are now.
"We have not identified anyone throughout the investigation as a second party," Tanner said.
But he conceded the possibility, especially since it would help explain Gerwing's untraceable movements on the day and night of March 3, as well as how John Calvert's car ended up at the Marriott Resort at Palmetto Dunes.
"Cab services and taxis in Hilton Head didn't pick anyone up," Tanner said. "That would lead anyone to believe that there was a second party, which very well could be."
And that, in the end, he said, is how they may solve the case of the missing Calverts.
"You just hope someone with some loyalty to Dennis Gerwing at some point will decide, 'OK, well, he's dead.'"