Crime & Courts

Unsolved Carolinas: The Unexplained Death Of Geoff Hammond

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal.”

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When an affluent entrepreneur and author died suddenly in Beaufort County, South Carolina on June 14, 2017, the event spawned investigations, conspiracy theories and all manner of questions. Among them: How did a head wound the size of a golf club manage to go un-photographed and undocumented in incident reports? Were words posted on social media by a soon-to-be-widow the night before her husband’s death – the same words which appeared on a funeral invitation the very next day – a foreshadowing? Or did they point to something far worse?

This perplexing tale stretches from the moss-draped oaks of Bluffton, South Carolina to the sun-drenched streets of Boca Raton, Florida. It involves a man who was a towering figure in life – and who left an estate valued at nine figures in death.

Those who have dug into the case of Paul Geoffrey Hammond say it has been hindered by inherent biases, plagued by rampant inaccuracies, confused by inattention to detail and thwarted by jurisdictional problems. As a result, they contend a complete and thorough investigation into Hammond’s death has never been completed.

Nor do they believe one ever will be completed …

Known as Geoff, Hammond was a graduate of The Citadel, founder of multi-million-dollar corporations and the author of an espionage thriller. As it turns out, the final chapter of his life has all the elements of a best-selling fiction novel – although that chapter isn’t just a story. For his loved ones, it is a quest for answers. For the truth.

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Hammond’s death came as a shock to nearly everyone who knew him – friends, family members and colleagues. Yet, his wife and her sons did not appear at all surprised. The 69-year-old was in excellent physical condition. His sudden passing – which a pathologist attributed to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease – did not make sense, least of all to his physician. This conclusion, which in and of itself is not officially a “cause of death,” appears to have overlooked obvious signs of foul play. And as of this writing, authorities seem disinclined to take another look at the evidence.

Geoff’s medical doctor, Dr. Gaston Perez, was among the first to express his surprise at the news. Less than two weeks prior to his passing, Perez gave his patient a clean bill of health. Geoff had access to the best medical care money could buy. He did not drink or smoke – and there was no known family history of coronary heart disease.

By all accounts, Hammond was an impressive man – someone whose presence was often described as “presidential.” A former vice president with AT&T, he later founded Consolidated Services Incorporated (CSI) – a Florida-based facilities management company with annual revenues estimated at more than $73 million. He was the publisher of International Opulence – a luxury lifestyle magazine that catered to an exclusive clientele. In 2012, he published his first book – The Last Khan. A sequel was in the works when he passed away.

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Geoffrey Hammond – Top Cadet 1969 (Provided)

The Bluffton residence where Hammond died was a second home – or at least one of many second homes. His permanent residence was a $6 million home located in Mizner Lake Estates – near the Boca Resort in Boca Raton, Florida.

In addition to his numerous business interests and a handful of properties in Florida and South Carolina, Hammond owned four vessels, two Harley Davidsons, an enviable fleet of automobiles (including a Ferrari and a Maserati) and an art collection valued at $4 million.  

At the time of his death, his estate was estimated at more than $300 million.

***

‘WARM TO THE TOUCH’

Hammond’s wife, Jayne Hammond, told police she was the only other person at the 12 Hanover Way address that late spring day in 2017 when her husband was said to have collapsed and died. Calling 9-1-1 at 10:09 a.m. EDT, Jayne Hammond said her husband was on the floor and that she was not able to roll him over to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Jayne said she was not able to tell if Geoff Hammond was breathing – or if he had a pulse.

Those comments seemed somewhat strange coming from someone whose biography on CSI’s corporate website touted her experience as a registered nurse who graduated from UCLA. It also detailed her work history as a registered nurse at Bel-Air Memorial Hospital and director of administration at a heart center.

The Bluffton Fire Department (BFD) arrived at the home six minutes later – at 10:15 a.m. EST – with six responding personnel. They were greeted by the security chief from Colleton River Club, who opened the door for them and indicated they would find Geoff Hammond on the third floor of the residence.

The arrival of the security chief on the scene is not documented in any of the responders’ reports, nor was there any explanation of what prompted his presence on the scene. Jayne Hammond’s 9-1-1 call remained open until emergency crews arrived, but it doesn’t shed any light on when the security chief arrived.

Despite the security chief’s apparent familiarity with the situation, it is not immediately clear whether he attempted to administer CPR. All we know for sure is that Geoff Hammond remained in a prone position on the floor of his office – wearing only the black shorts he wore to bed – when responders reached him at 10:16 a.m. EDT.

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The BFD report described Geoff Hammond as “warm to the touch” and indicated he had suffered cardiac arrest. In other words, his heart stopped. The report further stated he had sustained an injury which was labeled “unintentional.” There was no further description of the injury, its severity – or where it was on his body. CPR began at 10:19 a.m. EDT and ceased four minutes later on the order of the on-call doctor at nearby Hilton Head hospital.

Beaufort County emergency responders arrived on the scene at 10:24 a.m. EDT and commenced advanced life support within a minute of their arrival, according to their incident report. Efforts to resuscitate Hammond ceased nine minutes later on the order of Dr. Charles Pruitt at Hilton Head hospital at 10:33 a.m. EDT.

At this point, Geoff Hammond was declared dead.

The EMS report indicated cyanosis – or a bluish coloring of the skin linked to oxygen deprivation – as being present “from clavicles superior through face and head.” The report (.pdf) indicated his head and face were “not assessed.”

The Beaufort County sheriff’s office responded to the 9-1-1 call with two officers who “secured the scene” and completed a death scene questionnaire. While this questionnaire was not turned over to FITSNews despite a Freedom of Information Act request, we obtained the document (.pdf) through other means. It noted Jayne Hammond was the last person to see the victim alive at 9:30 a.m. EDT – and that he was subsequently found unresponsive, lying prone on the floor of his office forty-five minutes later. The sheriff’s report indicated there was blood coming out of Hammond’s nose but failed to mention his obvious head injury.

When deputy coroner David Ott arrived on scene, he assumed responsibility for the investigation and the sheriff’s deputies departed the scene. According to their report, Hammond died a “natural death” and “nothing appeared suspicious.”

Jayne Hammond claimed her husband went to his office to crunch numbers, Ott noted in his report (.pdf). However, “there was no evidence of him working on his computer, paper work nor anything else.” The office was clean and undisturbed. Jayne told the coroner her husband never had chest pains or felt tired – even though it was a recent bout with fatigue that prompted him to visit his doctor less than two weeks earlier. During Ott’s conversation with Jayne less than an hour after Geoff died, she indicated his body would be taken to Carolina Memorial Funeral Home and then to Menorah Gardens funeral chapel in Florida.

Ott requested an autopsy. On the certificate of death dated June 16, 2017, the cause was listed as pending toxicology and autopsy results – while the manner of death was cited as a “pending investigation.” The mechanism of death was left blank. As for the sheriff’s office, it closed its investigation on June 15, 2017 – the day after Geoff died – without reviewing the results of the autopsy.

Investigators were not the only ones moving quickly. By 5:38 p.m. EDT on June 15, 2017, Geoff’s memorial card had already been printed.

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THE UNEXAMINED INJURY …

As noted above, there was a significant and obvious injury that was not documented in any of the reports from first responders, BCSO, or the coroner’s office – a gash on Geoff Hammond’s forehead. Loved ones who attended his wake and funeral reported being “aghast” at his appearance. Upon observing him in his coffin, they described a wound three to four inches long at an angle toward his hairline with an indentation a quarter-inch deep surrounded by bruising. Individuals who were interviewed by FITSNews remarked that the injury was the size and shape of a golf club iron.

Based on photos shared with FITSNews during our investigation, this is an accurate description.

The autopsy report was the first to mention the vicious looking wound, however no measurements were provided – and there was no further investigation into the cause of the injury or its potential impact on his death. No photographs were taken of the injury during the autopsy, according to BCSO.

The dimensions of the narrow, carpeted office – and placement of the office furniture – make it highly unlikely that Geoff, who stood 6-foot-4, could have struck his head during a fall in such a way as to cause the injury. Furthermore, head wounds bleed profusely. The gash on Geoff’s head, if sustained in his office during a collapse, would have left obvious evidence. Yet, he was found in a prone position in a room described as clean and undisturbed. There is no mention of him lying in a pool of blood – or being covered in blood from the injury. The bruising observed around the injury and the statement that he had blood coming from his nose point to him being alive when it happened.

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Geoff Hammond’s head wound as depicted in an investigatory report. (Provided)

Despite there being at least some basis for potential foul play, there is no indication the Hammond home was ever searched – or that the room where Geoff was found was assessed as a potential crime scene. This is largely due to the assumptions of those responding – who determined there was nothing suspicious about his death.

When emergency crews and deputies arrived at the gated community and entered the home of the wealthy, older couple, they did not smell foul play. There were sufficient irregularities that should have caused any number of people to look further, but no one did.

Responders seemed comfortable with their initial assessment – and did not attempt to obtain any evidence or information which would have refuted it.

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UNRELENTING SUSPICIONS

In the aftermath of Geoff Hammond’s death, his adult daughter and only biological child – Tara Hammond Helman – tried to make sense of the unexpected loss that took place on her birthday. Grieving, devastated and seeking answers, Helman and Geoff’s siblings asked Jayne Hammond for access to Geoff’s medical history – and for information related to his cause of death. Their requests were denied.

Jayne’s refusal to share Geoff’s medical records – which later became a matter of court record – was not necessarily surprising.

Helman had been aware of her stepmother’s alleged disdain for her since she was young. It was no secret, she said in an interview with this author. According to her, the tension between the two women was such that Geoff often had to hide his relationship with his daughter from his wife. Geoff told Helman it was a matter of preserving the peace, she said.

His close friends and siblings often commented on Geoff’s strange relationship with Jayne – and how she seemed to have some kind of bizarre power over him. Their marriage of 42 years did not fit with everything else they knew of the stoic, intelligent man.

Geoff Hammond was the oldest of six children. His siblings were also in a state of shock over his death. Further confusing the matter, friends and family members were given different accounts of the events that transpired on the morning he died. They found Jayne’s conflicting statements about the time, place, and the cause of his death puzzling to say the least. As she told it, the place he collapsed varied to include his third floor home office, his bed, the exercise bike, the basement or the yard.

FITSNews reached out to Jayne Hammond for comment but we have yet to receive a response. Should that change, we will obviously share anything we receive from her with our readers.

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Sponsored by BAMBERG LEGAL, our Unsolved Carolinas series shines a spotlight on cases that have fallen off the front pages in the hopes of finding answers – and justice – for victims.

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Roger Pinckney, a Daufuskie Island author and one of Geoff’s close friends, was told Hammond died peacefully – that he was laid out on the floor, arms crossed, with a smile on his face. The gash on his head wasn’t mentioned. When he learned otherwise, many things about the circumstances surrounding Geoff’s death did not seem to add up to him.

Pinckney shared his thoughts with FITSNews in an interview conducted in March – less than two weeks prior to his own death on April 3, 2024.

“I knew him as a friend – and also a fellow writer,” Pinckney said. “ Geoff was very charismatic. When he walked into a room you knew he was highly intelligent, educated and – obviously – quite a fabulous businessman.”

When the investigation into Geoff Hammond’s death stalled, Pinckney suggested Helman reach out to FITSNews.

Pinckney’s father was the coroner of Beaufort County for 36 years. According to Pinckney, his father was “unimpeachable, unshakeable” in that position.

“He would never have let something like that slide,” Pinckney said.

Pinckney said he failed to see the same diligence from the authorities in their handling of more recent investigations. For Pinckney, Geoff’s case recalled the unsolved disappearance of 45-year-old attorney Elizabeth Calvert of Savannah, Georgia and her husband, 47-year-old businessman John Calvert of Atlanta – and the subsequent death of their accountant, Dennis Gerwing. The Calverts went missing from Hilton Head Island in March 2008 and have not been seen or heard from since. Days later, Gerwing – who deprived them of millions of dollars – died of 17 knife wounds, which local authorities determined to be a suicide.

Pinckney strongly believed there was a financial motive for someone to cause Geoff’s death. He pointed to the 9-1-1 call as evidence something was amiss.

***

(FITSTube)

One consistent part of the story Jayne Hammond shared about her husband’s death was that she was alone when he collapsed. Nonetheless, other voices can be heard on the audio recording of the 9-1-1 call – and no attempt has been made to identify or interview those potential witnesses.

Those closest to Geoff Hammond knew the Citadel graduate to be a creature of habit. He was a disciplined and orderly person. He exercised daily. Even in retirement, he rose from bed early each morning around 6:00 a.m., got dressed and had coffee and breakfast.  Yet, when he died, he was found in his home office in the shorts he wore to bed.

Less than twelve hours before calling 9-1-1 – on the night before Geoff died – his wife posted something on Facebook that would figure prominently in his funeral arrangements.

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal.”

These same words appeared on Geoff’s funeral notification and memorial card.

Was this some bizarre premonition? A strange coincidence? Or potentially part of something more sinister?

***

AN UNCOMFORTABLE MEMORIAL …

Doubts held by friends and family members intensified during Jayne’s handling of her late husband’s funeral arrangements. For starters, instead of involving relatives, she contacted her personal jeweler in Florida to arrange his funeral.

Meanwhile, the obituary for this impressive, self-made man was inflated – falsely stating he was a captain in the U.S. Air Force, among other unnecessary and inaccurate embellishments. Meanwhile, many of his actual accomplishments were noticeably absent. Much to the dismay of his family, Geoff – who was always a classy dresser – was placed in his coffin clad in ill-fitting clothes that appeared “tattered.” Adding insult to injury, the memorial service for Geoff – a lifelong Catholic – was held in a “dilapidated” Jewish cemetery with a hideous past.

In 2003, Menorah Gardens and Funeral Homes paid out $100 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that their South Florida cemeteries oversold plots, misplaced the dead and tossed bones into the woods. As recently as 2016, they were sued for burying people of other faiths alongside people of Jewish faith – in defiance of Jewish tradition and unbeknownst to the loved ones making their arrangements.

To family members, it seemed obvious Geoff was not the one who selected his final resting place. In interviews with FITSNews, they described his funeral ceremony as a “big middle finger” – disrespecting the man they loved and admired.

Jayne Hammond’s reported behavior at the funeral was also described by witnesses as odd. According to those interviewed by FITSNews, she showed those in attendance round bruises on her wrists that looked like fingertips – claiming to have sustained them while she attempted to roll her husband’s body over. She also claimed to have jumped on Geoff’s back in an attempt to revive him. When her cell phone rang during the middle of a prayer, Jayne allegedly joked that she “thought Geoff was calling.”

Those present at Geoff’s memorial services believed to their cores something was very wrong – and that something dreadful happened to cause his sudden and unexpected death. Further bolstering these suspicions was a series of events that occurred around the same time. Within days of his death, the house and car that Geoff loved – and the businesses he worked so hard to build – were in the hands of people he did not like or trust.

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THE UNLIKELY INVESTIGATOR …

After her father’s passing, Tara Helman reached out to her stepmother to ask for a personal possession of her father’s – a memento to remember him by. According to emails provided to this media outlet, Jayne Hammond initially offered up her late husband’s letterman sweater – an item that held little value for anyone but Helman. Jayne Hammond sold the couple’s Boca Raton home a week after his death – and was there overseeing the “big move” during the email exchange with her step-daughter. Jayne promised to leave the sweater with her son so Helman could pick it up.

Twelve minutes later, though, Jayne sent Helman another email, scolding her for not inquiring about how Jayne was doing and calling Helman’s tears at the funeral “phony”.

“Forget the sweater; it means more to me than it ever would to you!” Jayne wrote.

When Helman received a copy of her father’s will several weeks later, it was delivered by a corporate attorney employed by Jayne – not the attorney who drafted the will for her father. Not only was Helman inexplicably left out of his will – so was every other living member of his biological family.

The only beneficiaries? Jayne Hammond and her sons from two prior marriages.  

Compounding Helman’s anguish, she recalled the last face-to-face talk she had with her father – a cryptic conversation in which she said he expressed discontent with his marriage. As her suspicions grew, Helman became painfully aware she needed someone to independently investigate the circumstances surrounding her father’s death.

Watching Dateline in December 2018, Helman admired the way private investigator Joseph Dalu found answers for the family of Chris Smith – a missing entrepreneur. The Dateline episode featuring the retired police detective was entitled In a Lonely Place. Hired by a property owner to locate the missing man, Dalu and his team uncovered evidence which revealed Smith’s disappearance was orchestrated to cover up his murder.

When Helman reached out to Dalu at his agency Premier Group International, her expectations were low. If he responded at all, she hoped he could refer her to someone closer to her Florida home who would look for answers.

To her surprise, Dalu took her case – pro bono – and traveled to South Carolina and Florida in pursuit of the answers to her questions. Following Geoff’s death, Jayne moved out of the couple’s Bluffton, S.C. home and put the property up for sale. Dalu contacted a real estate agent and arranged to see the house. Two years after Geoff’s death, Dalu visited the house – which was mostly empty.

In the closet of the master bedroom, though, Dalu found Geoff’s letterman sweater and “a couple of pairs of shoes”.

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UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY …

Joseph Dalu (Premier Group)

Dalu’s comprehensive investigation into Geoff Hammond’s death is documented in a 75-page report with exhibits, interview summaries and contact information for involved parties, expert analysis, a timeline of related events, and a list of recommendations.

“Our investigation uncovered criminal violations committed in both South Carolina and Florida for homicide, conspiracy to commit homicide, fraud, forgery, and tax evasion surrounding the death of Paul Geoffrey Hammond,” the report (.pdf) said.

In September 2020, Dalu provided all the relevant information to BCSO in a meeting with detective Seth Reynells. The report’s voluminous supporting documentation filled two binders. In addition to reviewing the existing medical evidence, Dalu’s report cited a trail of public records across two states revealing how the re-distribution of Geoff’s estate began days before his death when – allegedly unbeknownst to Geoff and without his authorization – the corporation he founded changed banks. This released the Hammond’s Boca Raton home – which had been held as collateral on the corporate line of credit – from obligation.

Who made the change? According to the report, it was effectuated by David Hammond – Geoff’s adopted son and Jayne’s oldest son from a prior marriage. David had previously been fired from the company by Geoff – over Jayne’s protests – because he had become a liability, the report alleged. Court records show multiple sexual harassment lawsuits were filed against Hammond – and CSI – by former female employees. A wrongful death lawsuit also contributed to the corporation’s mounting legal bills and settlement expenses. Geoff told a trusted friend David was incompetent – yet days after his death David moved into Geoff’s office and took over. Multiple sources told us Geoff would have never trusted David to change the bank accounts – or assume leadership of the business.

David Rosenberg (Provided)

FITSNews reached out to David Hammond for comment but as of this writing we have received no response.  

According to the report, the alleged financial ruse continued with the sale of the Boca Raton property on June 23, 2017 – six days after Geoff died and three days after his funeral.

This property was purchased by a limited liability company created on June 9, 2017 by David Rosenberg – Jayne Hammond’s personal jeweler and the same person who planned Geoff’s funeral.

Business insiders were aware a rift between Geoff Hammond and Rosenberg had developed in April 2017 resulting in Geoff allegedly banning Rosenberg from advertising in the pages of his magazine – or attending any of the glamorous, exclusive parties hosted by International Opulence. In interviews with FITSNews, they said Geoff would have never allowed Rosenberg to plan his funeral – or take over the ownership of his beloved Ferrari and his palatial Boca Raton home.

FITSNews reached out to Rosenberg for comment but as of this writing we have received no response.

Ironically, Dalu located some of the details of this questionable transaction in the 2017 Fall and Winter editions of International Opulence magazine. The edition released after Geoff Hammond’s passing included a six-page spread about Rosenberg, the self-proclaimed ‘International Iceman’ – who had been recently banned from the magazine.

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UNDETECTED DECEPTIONS

Geoff Hammond’s Boca Raton home had been listed for nearly $6 million. The deal was represented on paper as a financial transaction in which $2.7 million was paid for the real estate, however Dalu’s investigation discovered that Jayne Hammond exchanged the house – along with Geoff’s prized 2008 Ferrari (valued at $263,500) – for $2.7 million and a rare diamond valued at several million dollars. Dalu’s report detailed how the parties appear to have artificially undervalued the house – and skirted payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes.

Despite the transaction, the rare diamond – called the ‘Heart of the Maldives’ – reportedly remains on display at Rosenberg’s Boca Raton shop.

The information provided to BCSO by Dalu was also provided to the Boca Raton police so they could pursue evidence of alleged crimes within their jurisdiction – including fraud, forgery and tax evasion. The investigative file (.pdf) from Boca Raton was obtained by FITSNews through a FOIA request.

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According to Boca Raton police, Jayne Hammond – as Geoff’s surviving spouse – had full legal authority to assume ownership of the Hammonds’ primary residence and to sell it under whatever terms she deemed appropriate. They further advised that allegations of tax evasion should be referred to tax authorities.

Police seemed to dismiss conclusions reached by forensic document examiner Dr. Roy Fenoff – who detected a number of apparent forgeries (including one on the Ferrari title). They determined these allegations were invalid based on Jayne Hammond’s statement that the documents in question were signed by her late husband in Florida on June 10, 2017 – just four days before he died. Rosenberg provided a similar statement, telling police Geoff Hammond signed the title to the Ferrari in his presence at the Hammonds’ Mizner Lake Estates residence. As for the diamond, Rosenberg said it was “gifted” to Jayne Hammond. Florida police also heard from CSI’s corporate attorney, Barry Weiss, who said he assisted in drafting the Ferrari title documents at Geoff Hammond’s request.

Had steps been taken to verify this information, investigators would have learned the Hammonds were in South Carolina on June 10, 2017. They didn’t take those steps, though, and the case was closed.

After providing his report to law enforcement, Dalu said he anticipated developments in the case. Instead, he and Helman were met with disappointment and frustration. In an interview with FITSNews, Dalu said the case suffered from demographic bias – leading to the initial assumption that Geoff Hammond’s death was the result of natural causes.

“I would be satisfied if they completed the investigation and couldn’t get enough for a criminal complaint or the prosecutor wouldn’t sign off on it or the case was filed and suspects were found not guilty,” Dalu said. “At least do the investigation. Because where do people go when they can’t afford me? They depend on law enforcement to do this.”

On June 14, 2023 – Helman’s birthday and the sixth anniversary of Geoff’s death – Dalu sent a thirty-page supplemental report to the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) asking the agency to investigate the case. 

He is still waiting for a response …

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UNFOUNDED …

Geoff Hammond investigation files. (Premier Group)

On February 7, 2024, FITSNews sent a FOIA request to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office requesting the investigative file on the Hammond case. The following day, we received a redacted copy of two pages of the incident report – but were advised nothing further could be provided about an active investigation.  

Two weeks later, on February 22, 2024 – as FITSNews was about to publish a detailed story about the circumstances surrounding Geoff Hammond’s death – BCSO announced it would be closing the investigation and releasing the file.

This announcement came as a surprise to Helman and Dalu – neither of whom said they were notified the case was to be closed. When they last sat down with BCSO detectives to discuss the case, there were told plans were underway to obtain new evidence. However, following up on those “plans” became impossible when communication ceased without explanation, they said.

According to them, Reynells failed to respond to any of their subsequent calls or emails.  

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UN-INVESTIGATED EVIDENCE …

The report announcing the closure of the investigation was released to FITSNews on March 6, 2024. According to the document (.pdf), the case was reopened following an initial meeting with Helman and Dalu in 2020.

In August 2021, detectives found there was sufficient probable cause to pursue a search warrant for phone records related to the case. There was also talk of pursuing exhumation so a second autopsy could be performed to establish cause of death. At that point, detectives agreed there was little information available – and at least a few reasons to be suspicious.

The main concerns identified by BCSO detectives included questions about Geoff’s will and whether it had been altered, a lack of information about the death scene, problems with the autopsy report and the mysterious 9-1-1 call.

It also took note of inconsistencies in statements made by Jayne Hammond.

***

An excerpt from the last will and testament of Geoff Hammond. (Provided)

Despite concerns over the authenticity of the will – including Fenoff’s assessment that the document provided to the probate court was not an intact, original will – the expert analysis was dismissed and BCSO determined these allegations were not within their jurisdiction.

In BCSO’s report, Reynells acknowledged hearing the sound of other voices in the audio recording of the 9-1-1 call. Dalu engaged Focal Forensics – a group of digital evidence experts – to forensically examine the recording. By enhancing the audio and isolating two sections of the 9-1-1 call, Focal Forensics positively identified other human voices – and determined they were coming from the same physical location as the caller. However, it was impossible to make out the substance of their conversation.

According to Dalu, BCSO took no action to identify the individuals speaking – or to interview them as potential witnesses. On February 23, 2024, after advising FITSNews that the investigation was to be closed as unfounded, Reynells interviewed Jayne Hammond over the phone – advising her of our FOIA request.

This is Reynells’s summary of that interview:

(BCSO)

Ultimately, despite all the questions about the death scene, the autopsy, and the 9-1-1 call, Reynells concluded there was insufficient evidence to continue the investigation into Geoff Hammond’s death. As for the evidence of other alleged criminal activity provided by Dalu, BCSO determined such matters did not lie within its jurisdiction.

In March 2022, a second meeting took place between detectives, Dalu and Helman – and three other individuals with similar concerns – all providing evidence from their various perspectives and geographic locations. Not only is this second meeting not documented in the BCSO report – two of the individuals who provided statements were not named in the report – including a business associate and one of Geoff Hammond’s siblings.

The report also failed to note the reason behind BCSO’s sudden change in direction. The last email Helman received from Reynells indicated he was working out the logistics of exhuming Geoff Hammond’s remains for a second autopsy to determine cause of death. After that, all communication ceased. The BCSO report provided to FITSNews fails to fully explain how BCSO made the jump in logic from actively pursuing the investigation to their ultimate conclusion that there was no reason to proceed.

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UNDOCUMENTED AUTOPSY

Questions have also been raised about the original autopsy (.pdf) performed by Dr. Nicholas Batalis on June 15, 2017 at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). Only three photos were made available from the autopsy – none of which depict Hammond’s head injury. They do show an individual fully clothed, according to BCSO, which is odd considering Geoff was only wearing shorts at the time of his death.

FITSNews reached out to Beaufort county coroner David Ott on three separate occasions asking for information about the autopsy report. As the deputy coroner, it was Ott who visited the scene on the day of Geoff Hammond’s death and asked for the report to be completed. Since that time, he has been elected to the office of county coroner. FITSNews asked Ott why there were only three autopsy photos available and why they show an individual who is fully clothed. We also asked why the head injury was not photographed or investigated.

So far we have received no response …

Further, three independent medical experts reviewed the autopsy and found it lacking – particularly as it relates to the stated cause of death – atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. As previously noted, the disease alone is not a cause of death. It requires a mechanism – like a stroke or heart attack – to become fatal. No such mechanism is named or suspected in Geoff Hammond’s case. Instead, medical experts concluded Hammond “suffered a cardiac arrest which may have been the result of at least one of three specific medical events; asphyxiation, poison, or the result of blunt force trauma.”

Dr. Nabeel Kouka also reviewed the autopsy report and identified several deficiencies. Specifically, a pink-tan substance found in Geoff’s stomach was not tested, evidence of injuries to his head and neck were noted – but not fully described or x-rayed. Also, no further examination was performed to determine the cause of the injuries, and the pathologist did not document the noted injuries with photos. As for the cause of death, Kouka said the pathologist’s conclusion that Hammond died from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is vague and fails to take into account his head injury.

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UNCOMMON SENSE

One of the individuals present at the March 2022 meeting with BCSO detectives was troubled to learn that important excerpts from his statement were missing from the agency’s investigative report. David Broome was the Hammond’s handyman in Bluffton, S.C. Over the years he worked for Hammond, the two became friends who spent time together and exchanged Christmas gifts.

“He was a good guy – straight up,” Broome said. “Healthy as a horse.”

Broome was informed of Geoff Hammond’s death via a phone call from Geoff’s phone. He was expecting to hear Geoff’s voice, but instead it was Jayne Hammond bearing the sad news. Only according to Broome, she didn’t sound sad. According to Broome, she showed no emotion at all. Also, what she said was troubling.

According to Broome, Jayne Hammond told him EMS attributed Geoff’s death to an aneurysm – and said there would be an autopsy “to make sure I didn’t kill him.”

“That struck me as real bad wrong,” Broome said.

In his interview with BCSO, Broome shared his suspicions about Jayne Hammond – including specific allegations related to her potential involvement in his death. These allegations were included in the BCSO report. However, Broome also told detectives about a series of trap doors and hidden passageways located throughout the Hanover Way home – doors and passageways that would have enabled someone to hide or move from room-to-room undetected.  One such hidden passageway was in Geoff’s office.

Who could that “someone” have been?

The Premier Group’s investigative report named Jayne Hammond’s second son, Todd Patterson, as “a possible co-conspirator” in Geoff Hammond’s death – raising a host of allegations related to the nature of his relationship with the late entrepreneur as well as his proximity to the home at the time of Geoff’s death. Be on the lookout for a follow-up report related to this aspect of the investigation.

Following the March 2022 meeting with Broome – during which detectives were told about the secret rooms – permission was received from the new owners to visit the Hammonds’ former residence. If such a visit was undertaken, it was not documented in the investigative report.

Broome and others are left with an abiding conviction that the investigation should have gone further – and the fact that it did not is suspicious. Specifically, Broome believes there are too many red flags for detectives to close the case without an exhumation and second autopsy.

“Anybody that has got any common sense at all would know that something was wrong there,” Broome said.

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ABOUT THIS SERIES …

Unsolved Carolinas – sponsored by our friends at Bamberg Legal – is a series by FITSNews devoted to shining a spotlight on cases which have fallen off the front page. We hope to tell the stories of those individuals who are seeking answers and justice on behalf of their lost loved ones. We will dive deeper into their stories, get to know them through their families and friends and hopefully help find answers for those they have left behind.

In every unsolved case, someone out there could know something that provides a missing link – a critical clue that could bring peace to a family in pain and help them write the next chapter of their stories (even if it is the final chapter). If you know someone who is missing – or has been a victim of an unsolved homicide – email their story to research@fitsnews.com.

The more stories we share, the more hope we can spread …

As for this story, anyone with information that could help lead to answers about the suspicious death of Geoff Hammond should contact Premier Group International through the agency’s website.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Callie Lyons (Provided)

Callie Lyons is a journalist, researcher, and author whose investigative work can be found in media outlets, publications, and documentaries all over the world – most recently in the Parisian newspaper Le Monde and a German documentary for ProSieben. Lyons also appears in Citizen Sleuth – a 2023 documentary exploring the genre of true crime.

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WANNA SOUND OFF?

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1 comment

Wasntme Top fan April 29, 2024 at 8:52 pm

This is like a really a hard story to swallow..although would make a best selling book! Its hard to believe that with the proof provided no one in law enforcement cares. SLED is about worthless between this and the many other stories surrounding them. Wow..just wow

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