When Joe Tobin went to clear Hurricane Matthew brush from his Spanish Wells Road property Christmas Eve, the last thing he expected was to look down and see a human skull.
“It was a beautiful day, so I went out there and was clearing a branch,” Tobin said Friday. “I hadn’t started for 30 seconds and I looked down, and I’m a surgeon, so I know what a human skull looks like.”
Tobin, an orthopedic surgeon with offices in Savannah and on Hilton Head, said he had been working to clear the 12 to 15 trees that fell during the hurricane in order to make the land look better for the patrons of the next-door Resurrection Christian Community Church.
The discovery prompted a Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office investigation into the remains, which turned out to be a full skeleton, according to Debbie Youmans of the Beaufort County Coroner’s Office.
Tobin found the skull late that afternoon on the heavily wooded one-acre lot that he’s owned for around 12 years, and he called the Sheriff’s Office immediately.
He said his first thought upon the discovery was of Elizabeth and John Calvert, who vanished from the island in 2008.
“There is no indication at this point that (the remains) are the Calverts,” Capt. Bob Bromage of the Sheriff’s Office said on Friday.
Bromage said, in this case, there has not been a flood of calls from the families of missing people in the area.
“We are researching missing persons from that area,” Bromage said. “We are waiting on forensic science results.”
The remains were sent for a forensic autopsy at the Medical University of South Carolina, and no results have been sent back to the coroner’s office, Youmans said.
She added that test results of this nature often take some time and can determine anything from how old the remains are to possible identification through DNA.
The cause and manner of death for the deceased person were not immediately apparent due to the condition of the remains, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release.