Crime & Courts

Unsolved Carolinas: The Death of Geoff Hammond, Pt. II

“What made his heart stop beating?”

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If you missed the first part of our ‘Unsolved Carolinas’ investigation into the unexplained death of Geoffrey Hammond, you can find the full story along with source material links here. Our video, ‘Unsolved Carolinas: Was Geoffrey Hammond Murdered,’ is available on our YouTube channel

When affluent entrepreneur Geoffrey Hammond died suddenly in his Bluffton, South Carolina home on June 14, 2017, he reportedly collapsed shortly after going to work in his office on the third floor of the residence. The information about when and where Geoff collapsed and died came from his wife, Jayne Hammond, who told police she was the only other person in the home at the time of his death.

Jayne told first responders her husband awakened that morning at around 9:30 a.m. EDT – hours later than was his custom. In another departure from his normal routine, Hammond – whose typical lazy day attire was business casual – was found wearing only the shorts he wore to bed and had a nearly empty stomach instead of his daily portion of coffee and breakfast.

Emergency medical personnel found Geoff laying face down on the floor of his home office with an enormous gash on his head – yet this injury was not documented in their reports (.pdf) and the room, which was described as clean and undisturbed, showed no evidence of him working on anything.

More importantly, there was no evidence to suggest he had sustained a major head injury there.

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A private investigation into Geoff’s death pointed to a possible conspiracy to take over his fortune – but there is also substantial evidence to suggest Geoff’s death could have been caused by nefarious means.

Obviously, allegations of murder – and a conspiracy to commit murder – are much harder to prove than alleged financial crimes. That is especially true in this case. Inconsistencies in reports from first responders, the failure of law enforcement to properly assess the death scene and deficiencies in the autopsy report have led to a clouded picture of what may have really happened to Geoff Hammond.

Further confusing the matter is the inconsistent narrative of Geoff’s death as reportedly shared by recently-widowed Jayne with any number of friends, family members, associates and employees of the company Geoff founded.

Atop the list of Jayne-related evidence that does not add up is the audio recording of her 9-1-1 call – in which at least one other person’s voice could be heard on the recording. This is significant not just because Jayne insisted she was alone – but also because it would mean there were other witnesses to what transpired who should have been identified and interviewed.

(Click to View)

(FITSTube)

The 9-1-1 recording is also important – particularly to Geoff’s loved ones – because it has always been Jayne’s contention that since she was alone and unable to roll Geoff over it was impossible for her to attempt the administration of cardio pulmonary resuscitation. 

Had someone else been present at the Hanover Way address when Geoff collapsed, why didn’t they attempt CPR – or at least roll him over and check to see if he had a pulse and if he was breathing? This is one of many questions left unanswered when the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) closed the investigation into Hammond’s death as unfounded on February 23, 2024.

Seven years later – with the initial opportunities for information gathering long gone – it is likely the truth can only be revealed through a more thorough examination of the evidence in the hopes of specifically determining the cause of death.

While the pathologist who performed the autopsy concluded Geoff died from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, that alone is not a cause of death. It requires a mechanism like a stroke or heart attack to become fatal. No such condition was identified or suspected in Geoff’s death. The massive head injury that Geoff’s loved ones observed at his wake was barely mentioned in the autopsy report. The sight that left them “aghast” was not documented with measurements and there are no photographs of the head injury available from the autopsy.

The BCSO report stated there were only three photos available from the autopsy – and none of them show the head injury.

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According to BCSO, the three photos show an individual “fully clothed” – which Geoff was not. He arrived at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) for the autopsy wearing only the black shorts he wore to bed.

FITSNews submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for these photos – but it was denied. BCSO is within its rights to refuse to share these photos because autopsy records are not subject to disclosure according to South Carolina law – even though they are most often prepared at taxpayer expense (.pdf).

Ultimately, Geoff died of cardiac arrest – meaning his heart stopped. But why? What made his heart stop beating?

Evidence obtained by private investigator Joseph Dalu of Premier Group International, who has been working this case pro bono for years suggested there are three potential causes of death that have yet to be ruled out.

Medical experts cited in Dalu’s investigative report independently reviewed the autopsy report and arrived at a different conclusion.

“Geoff 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,” the report said.

There is evidence of all three of these specific medical events in the original documentation of the case – the autopsy report, reports from first responders, and the investigative report from BCSO.

Let’s break them down one-by-one …

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POISON

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When Geoff Hammond visited Dr. Gaston Perez on February 16, 2017, he was in good health with no complaints – no chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea or heartburn. His blood pressure was normal. Perez prescribed Crestor as a precautionary measure to manage his cholesterol. Later investigative efforts would reveal Geoff never filled the prescription.

In April 2017, Geoff began experiencing fatigue. Two months later his symptoms had increased, so he scheduled an appointment with Perez – who was also Jayne’s physician. Perez ordered extensive bloodwork in search of a reason for Geoff’s fatigue. Labs were performed to check his cholesterol levels and to check for diabetes, lupus, and celiac disease. Perez also checked Geoff’s thyroid and testosterone levels. All of the bloodwork came back normal and without reason for concern. BCSO reported Perez found no explanation for Geoff’s fatigue. No further testing or appointments were scheduled. Perez told Geoff to come back if his symptoms worsened.

There was one finding of note in those lab results that did not concern Perez at the time – a slight elevation in eosinophils – a kind of disease-fighting white blood cell. An elevated count could indicate cancer, a parasitic infection or an allergic reaction. Since Geoff did not have cancer or a parasitic infection, the detected elevation could mean that he was experiencing an allergic reaction.

After Geoff’s death, the cause of the allergic reaction was not explored. Dalu’s report noted postmortem toxicology testing was not requested for specific toxins, poisons or prescription medications.

The autopsy report documented Geoff’s stomach contents – which consisted only of an “undetermined” pink-tan fluid – but performed no testing to determine the origin of this unknown substance.

In a recent interview, David Broome, the Hammond’s Bluffton, S.C. handyman, discussed information he provided to BCSO about what he observed on a visit to Geoff’s Hanover Way residence about a month before he died. Broome and Geoff were having coffee when Jayne insisted on mixing Geoff a “healthy” drink. Geoff was already drinking coffee – and indicated he did not like the drink she had incorporated into a daily habit. However, Broome said Jayne persisted until Geoff drank it to appease her. Jayne also offered the concoction to Broome – which he declined.

BCSO detective Seth Reynells concluded that since Jayne had offered Broome a drink, a “reasonable person” would conclude Jayne was “not plotting to poison David Broome at the same time as her husband”.

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However, Reynells did follow up on these suspicions – obtaining a list of the prescriptions Dr. Perez had written for Jayne. While the BCSO report released to FITSNews downplayed these findings, Jayne’s prescription drug history revealed she had been prescribed a “robust” list of medications – particularly since she had undergone heart surgery in February 2017. Reynells told Dalu that any combination of Jayne’s prescriptions – if given to Geoff surreptitiously – could have resulted in extreme fatigue or a catastrophic medical event like cardiac arrest.

BCSO’s report stated prescription medication would have been detected and identified in the toxicology results from the autopsy. However, a generic toxicology screening would not have been looking for specific medications – and the list of medications to look for wasn’t made available until years later.

FITSNews reached out to Dr. Perez but as of this writing we have not received a response.

Given the golf-iron sized gash on Geoff’s head, those concerned over his sudden demise were not thinking of poison. Dalu’s report documented an interview with one of Geoff’s family members in which they described a conversation that took place shortly following his death. In that conversation, Jayne made a disturbing, “unsolicited” statement.  

“Tara thinks I poisoned Geoff!” Jayne allegedly said referencing her step-daughter Tara Hammond Helman.

That random comment stuck with family members. They found it “disturbing”.

Jayne brought this up again during her February 2024 interview with BCSO. According to Reynells’ notes on the interview, Jayne “stated her husband’s body was sent to MUSC for a full autopsy and tox screen. Hammond advised there was no foul play indicated and the only thing of note was a pinkish fluid in her husband’s stomach which she advised was later determined to be Tums antacids.”

Jayne’s focus on the fluid in Geoff’s stomach – with no mention of his obvious head injury – is baffling. To date the fluid has never been tested – and it seems unlikely that such testing would be possible in the future. BCSO noted that samples collected during autopsy are subject to destruction after six months.

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ASPHYXIATION

There are a few details included in the report of Beaufort County Emergency Medical Services – and the autopsy – that could be interpreted as possible evidence that someone tried to suffocate Geoff.

The EMS report made note of cyanosis – from Geoff’s clavicles to his head. Cyanosis is discoloration caused by a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream.

The autopsy report noted a neck injury that was not photographed or more fully described. It also made note of a hemorrhage on Geoff’s tongue which is often associated with lethal neck compression.

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BLUNT FORCE TRAUMA

As mentioned, the head injury that came as such an unpleasant surprise to the loved ones who attended Geoff’s wake was not documented in the reports of first responders who arrived at the scene of his death. It is mentioned – but not described – in the autopsy report. Yet, it is clear Geoff suffered blunt force trauma – based on the statements of people who attended his wake and funeral which were further confirmed by a photo Jayne provided to Dalu.

The impact this trauma could have had on Geoff’s death was not explored.

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DALU: ALL OF THE ABOVE

Dalu, who has performed the most extensive investigation into the suspicious death of Geoff Hammond, has his own theory. In a recent interview with FITSNews, Dalu said he believed poison, asphyxiation, and blunt force trauma all contributed to the death of Geoff Hammond.

“There’s so much evidence there that I really feel strongly I’d be surprised if he actually did die of natural causes,” Dalu said.

Geoff began experiencing symptoms of fatigue in April 2017 – which could have been attributable to some manner of poisoning or drugging.

During the month of April 2017, Geoff announced to his staff that the jeweler who two months later planned his funeral – David Rosenberg – would no longer be advertising in International Opulence, the quarterly luxury lifestyle magazine he published. Nor would Rosenberg be welcome at the magazine’s posh events. David Hammond, Geoff’s adopted son and Jayne’s son from her first marriage, cancelled the real estate listing for the Hammonds’ Boca Raton residence – and the contract with a real estate broker to sell the residence – only to turn around and privately list the property for sale. And, “International Iceman” Rosenberg took over the ownership of the Heart of Maldives, the rare diamond which was later exchanged in the real estate transaction for the Boca property.

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David Rosenberg (provided)

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Also around this time, Jayne’s younger son, Todd Patterson, moved to South Carolina to be near his mother – unbeknownst to Geoff. Dalu’s report said Patterson formerly worked for Geoff’s company CSI, but was fired after embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars. When Jayne subsequently compelled Geoff to rehire Patterson, he was caught embezzling again – and again his employment was terminated. It was common knowledge among friends and family members that Geoff could not stand Patterson and refused to be around him. On the day Jayne called 9-1-1, Patterson was in the Hanover Way residence – texting Tara about her father’s death. Days later at the wake and memorial services, family members were informed he had been living in South Carolina.

On the night of June 13, 2017, Dalu believes the other two potential causes of death were introduced after the couple went to bed – although the specific order of events is unknown.

Dalu uncovered evidence that in the months leading up to his death, Geoff was growing discontent with his marriage and that he was ready to pursue a divorce.

Dalu said he does not claim to know with all certainty what transpired in the house before Geoff’s body was found, but he is certain more work needs to be done to get to the truth. Based on the extensive evidence he uncovered and presented to law enforcement, Dalu strongly believes the details of Geoff’s death need to be fully investigated by an agency with the authority, resources and will to pursue search warrants, interviews with suspects, exhumation and a second autopsy.

“They should have done a thorough investigation, and they haven’t done that,” Dalu said.

He was surprised when BCSO closed the case as unfounded and said he finds the department’s lack of effort disappointing. He believes the Boca Raton police dropped the ball out of laziness. Even so, he was counting on BCSO to see the case through to a definite conclusion – whether it resulted in criminal charges or not.

“I guarantee you if whatever happened in this investigation happened to a politician, a high-ranking police officer or commander, a public official, a celebrity – I can almost guarantee that there would be some thorough investigations being conducted,” Dalu said. “Are we saying the citizens of Beaufort County aren’t worth the time and effort?”

If you have any information that could illuminate the circumstances surrounding Geoff Hammond’s death, we urge you to reach out to Dalu via Premier Group International. Your input could be instrumental in bringing closure to this perplexing case.

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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. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Callie Lyons (provided)

Callie Lyons is a journalist, researcher and author. Her 2007 book ‘Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal’ was the first to cover forever chemicals and their impact on communities – a story later told in the movie ‘Dark Waters’. Her investigative work has been featured in media outlets, publications, and documentaries all over the world. Lyons also appears in ‘Citizen Sleuth’ – a 2023 documentary exploring the genre of true crime.

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1 comment

Julia Keenan Top fan May 17, 2024 at 11:43 pm

This is far more fascinating than the Murdaugh murders. Well done. Hope you continue to find justice.

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