Bluffton woman was threatening to harm herself, ex-boyfriend before shooting, reports show
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — In the weeks before he was shot by his ex-girlfriend who then killed herself, a Hilton Head doctor told police he feared for his safety, according to a series of reports from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and the Bluffton Police Department.
Dr. Gaston Perez, 60, who was shot multiple times by ex-lover Jennifer Rudemyer, 39, on Sept. 4 outside his home, told police before the shooting that he was afraid of what might happen to him.
Both police agencies were aware of a troubling pattern of behavior between the two prior to the shooting, according to the reports.
That pattern included threats made by Rudemyer to shoot the doctor before he moved into a new house.
“I’ll shoot you before you get in the front door,” she threatened in one text message.
Collectively, the agencies have six incident reports involving Rudemyer and Perez taken between April 29, 2017, and the Sept. 4 attempted murder-suicide.
Five of those reports were filed three weeks before the shooting.
‘You stole my spirit’
The couple had been dating off and on for eight years until about a month before the shooting, according to the reports.
The influx of reports began Aug. 12 when the Bluffton Police Department responded to calls involving the former couple twice in the same day.
The first was just before 11 a.m. when Perez told officers Rudemyer had sent him “disturbing text messages” and that she’d been “showing up to places he visits, possibly following him,” the report said.
Rudemyer had texted Perez she was on her way to his office and would “crash her vehicle into his” if he didn’t come outside, the report said. She told him she would “turn his office into ‘Jerry Springer’ and damage his property,” but would “leave him alone if he paid her deposit and rent for a year,” the report said.
Rudemyer was issued a trespass order for the medical office and Perez was instructed by officers to send her one last text asking that she cease all contact, the report said.
Around 8:40 p.m. that evening, Perez contacted Bluffton police again.
Rudemyer had sent Perez multiple texts less than an hour before saying, “You have broken me down into a shell of a person. I’m nothing anymore. You have used me and thrown me away,” “ You stole my spirit,” “You never loved me,” the report said. She threatened to take her life, the report said.
Bluffton officers and a caseworker from Community Crisis Response & Intervention went to Rudemyer’s home, where she refused to open the door because she thought if she did, she would be taken into custody, the report said.
She told officers she was “fine” and that she was not going to harm herself, the report said. She said she just wanted to be alone, the report said.
She said if Perez “wanted to be a good person there is a million things he could have done ... he caused it, he created it,” the report said.
She said she hadn’t slept in three days because she was depressed, had lost her job, was losing her home, had only $25 in her checking account, and would have access to food, water, and electricity only “for a little while,” the report said.
“During the conversation I had with Rudemyer she was visibly upset, however there was nothing to show that she was an immediate threat to herself or others,” the responding officer wrote in the report.
Rudemyer refused to speak with the caseworker, who despite not having met her, deemed she met all of the requirements of someone in mental distress according to South Carolina Department of Mental Health guidelines, the report said.
‘You don’t get (a) happy ending’
Two days later, Rudemyer told Perez “I’ll shoot you,” according to a Aug. 14 Sheriff’s Office report that said there had been “ongoing issues” between the two over the last couple of days.
Perez told deputies he had bought a new house and “Rudemyer was just upset she was no longer with him to live in the house,” the report said.
Rudemyer texted Perez messages including “You won’t have one day in that f------ house. I’ll shoot you before you get in the front door,” “You can’t even stop me ... Arrest me. I’ll be out tomorrow,” “You don’t get (a) happy ending,” the report said.
She told deputies she sent the texts “completely out of emotion and at no time did she wish to cause harm to Perez,” the report said.
Because Perez engaged in conversation with Rudemyer, an unlawful communications arrest warrant was not issued. But both of them were told a warrant might be obtained for either of them if they did not stop communicating, the report said.
Three days later, on Aug. 17, Rudemyer was found intoxicated and “extremely upset” in Perez’s garage, according to a Sheriff’s Office report.
Deputies responded just before 5 p.m. to the home because Rudemyer was “(continuing) to harass him and was trespassing at his residence,” the report said.
Perez told deputies that because of Rudemyer’s “threats and belligerent attitude, fear for his safety, along with her problem with alcohol consumption” he wanted her issued a trespass notice, the report said. She was issued the notice and neighborhood security was notified.
By that time, Perez had also filed a restraining order and was waiting for it to be finalized, the report said.
‘Kill him or myself’
On Aug. 28 — a week before the shooting — at least two of Rudemyer’s friends reached out to police to say that she was trying to buy a gun.
One of them, Lauren Church, who lives in Chicago, submitted a tip to Crime Stoppers of the Lowcountry just after 10 p.m. saying Rudemyer had gone to Savannah earlier that day to buy a gun but was denied, Church told The Island Packet on Thursday.
“She recently broke up with a long term boyfriend,” the tip reads. “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.”
Church said she also told Perez about the attempted gun purchase.
Half an hour before Church submitted the Crime Stoppers tip, Bluffton police were at Rudemyer’s home conducting a health and welfare check because another out-of-state friend told them that Rudemyer said she was “thinking of buying a gun,” according to a report.
“I don’t know if I want to kill him or myself first,” Rudemyer told the friend, according to the report.
The friend, who lives in New Jersey and whose name was redacted, said Rudemyer was having a “rough time lately due to a recent breakup with her ex-boyfriend.”
Officers arrived at Rudemyer’s home to find the lights off, her vehicle in the driveway behind the house, and the back door “unsecured,” according to the report. Three officers entered the home and found Rudemyer 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 and the case was closed.
A week later on Sept. 4 — the same day as the hearing for Perez’s restraining order — she acted on the threats she had made, shooting Perez multiple times outside his Spanish Wells Plantation home before shooting herself.
Perez — who was flown to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah — was in stable condition as of Friday afternoon, according to a close friend.
The investigation into the shooting is ongoing, including an attempt to determine where the handgun used came from. The gun was found at the scene the night of the shooting.
Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette reporter Alex Kincaid contributed to this story.