Bluffton woman was threatening to harm herself, ex-boyfriend before shooting, reports show
A week before a Bluffton woman shot a Hilton Head Island doctor and then killed herself, police received an anonymous tip about the woman’s intent to do so, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and a friend of the woman.
Lauren Church said she submitted the tip to Crime Stoppers of the Lowcountry on Aug. 28 after speaking to her friend, Jennifer Rudemyer, who told her that she had gone to Savannah earlier that day to buy a gun to kill her ex-boyfriend, Dr. Gaston “Gus” Perez, and herself.
Church, who lives in Chicago and says she has known Rudemyer for 10 years, said Rudemyer, 39, was unable to purchase the weapon.
“I didn’t really know what to say,” Church said Thursday about the conversation with Rudemyer. “I encouraged her many, many, many times to seek help.”
Church said she submitted this anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers at 10:07 p.m. CST Aug. 28:
“A friend Jennifer Rudemyer drove to Savannah today with the intention of purchasing a gun,” the tip reads. “She recently broke up with a long term boyfriend. She told me she had every intention of killing him then killing herself tonight. Thankfully she was denied the gun and the ex boyfriend is out of town. The ex boyfriend’s name is Gaston Perez. They have a pending restraining order hearing set for next week.”
Church said she also informed Perez, 60, about Rudemyer’s comments.
Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Capt. Bob Bromage confirmed Thursday the anonymous tip was received by Crime Stoppers immediately.
The Sheriff’s Office received it at 12:38 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Aug. 29, he said.
It was assigned to an investigator “within an hour,” and “is still being pursued at this point.” He said it is part of the larger, ongoing investigation. He declined to comment further about what specific actions were taken after it was assigned to an investigator.
Bromage said an additional Crime Stoppers tip was received after the double-shooting had happened. He declined to comment on the nature of that tip.
Bromage said the Sheriff’s Office is “the point of contact for Crime Stoppers,” but not every tip goes to them if it’s clear that another agency within the county should be sent a particular tip.
Church’s tip was not the only one police received about Rudemyer.
Bluffton Police responded to Rudemyer’s home around 9:30 p.m. Aug. 28 for a health and welfare check, according to a police report, after another out-of-state friend of Rudemyer, whose name is redacted in the report, told police that Rudemyer said she was “thinking of buying a gun.”
“I don’t know if I want to kill him or myself first,” Rudemyer told the friend, according to the report.
The friend, who is from New Jersey, said Rudemyer was having a “rough time lately due to a recent break-up with her ex-boyfriend.”
Police arrived at Rudemyer’s home to find the lights off and her vehicle in the driveway behind the house, the report said. A back door was “unsecured,” according to the report. Three officers entered the home and found Rudemyer lying in bed upstairs.
They suspected she was intoxicated, the report said.
“Ms. Rudemyer said she was fine and that everything was okay,” the report said. “After talking to her for several minutes Ms. Rudemyer did admit that she was having a rough time and she agreed that she wanted to be voluntarily transported to the hospital.”
She was taken to Hilton Head Hospital, the report said. No further details about the hospital visit are included in the report.
Bluffton Police spokesperson Capt. Joe Babkiewicz said there were no other reports about Rudemyer made through Bluffton police’s tip line in 2018.
He could not provide additional information about Rudemyer’s hospital visit. He said after EMS transports a person to a hospital, the police are no longer involved.
The Aug. 28 case was closed, according to the report.
Church said she is unaware of any other instance in which Rudemyer attempted to purchase a firearm. She does not know how Rudemyer obtained the weapon used Tuesday.
Bromage previously said that part of the investigation into the attempted murder-suicide is to determine where the handgun used in the shooting came from. The gun was recovered at the scene.
Church said she spoke with Rudemyer daily, and she did not mention anything about a gun after their conversation on Aug. 28.
“There were good days and bad days,” Church said of Rudemyer’s disposition before Tuesday. “She sounded really, really good this weekend.”
Church said she and Rudemyer were texting each other about 20 minutes before Rudemyer attempted to kill Perez outside of his home and took her own life. The conversation revolved around a hearing held earlier that day in which Perez was seeking a restraining order against Rudemyer.
Rudemyer told Church she did not attend the hearing because “she said she knew it would be granted and she didn’t really see a point in going.”
Perez was granted that restraining order just hours before being shot, Bluffton Magistrate Court administrator Stephanie Garst said previously.
According to screen shots of the text messages taken by Church, the last exchange between the two was at 5:55 p.m. EST.
The shooting happened at 6:15 p.m. outside of Perez’s Spanish Wells Plantation home, Bromage said previously.
Perez was shot four to five times, Perez’s family told The Island Packet on Wednesday.
Perez was flown to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah. Friends and family said Wednesday he was in stable condition.
Church said there was no indication in their last conversation that Rudemyer was going to take her life or attempt to murder Perez.
“It’s heartbreaking to me that it happened, because I think it could have been prevented,” Church said. “I didn’t know what else to do.”
That evening, Church said, she got on Facebook and saw an initial news story about a shooting on Widewater Road. At the time, no names had been released.
“I knew what street Gus (Perez) lived on and saw the headlines and immediately knew it was her,” Church said.
Church said she immediately called Rudemyer “many, many times.”
There was no answer.