The investigation into a chilling mur*der mystery that still stalks a Lake Oconee community eight years later may be reenergized by new evidence.
Russell and Shirley Dermond were last seen alive while conducting errands on May 1, 2014.
What played out over the next month would leave more questions than answers in their usually sleepy neighborhood.
Who ki*lled Russell and Shirley Dermond?
On May 3, 2014, Russell and Shirley Dermond were scheduled to attend a Kentucky Derby Party at a neighbor’s house. They never appeared. Three days passed without an explanation, an apology, or any indication of activity at the Dermond residence.
On May 6, 2014, the same neighbor walked up to the Dermonds’ front door, discovered that it was unlocked, entered the home to investigate, and discovered a grisly discovery in the garage. The 88-year-old Russell Dermond’s headless corpse lay on the floor surrounded by towels. The neighbor immediately dialed 911.
Investigators arrived and immediately began to examine the scene. There was no indication of a struggle or forcible entry, and the couple’s residence provided few hints as to what occurred. They were also uncertain as to whether the murd*erers entered through the front gate or by boat.
The investigators believe that the towels were placed around the decapitated corpse to prevent blood from seeping under the garage door. In addition, it was believed that the head was not removed as a trophy. The presence of guns*hot residue on his collar, according to forensic investigators, suggests that the skull was removed to conceal ballistic evidence.
Shirley Dermond, his 87-year-old wife, was nowhere to be located. She may have been abducted, and deputies were extremely concerned for her safety. Ten days passed before her fate was determined. Fishermen discovered her body on Lake Oconee, weighed down by two 30-pound concrete slabs. According to investigators, a professional would recognize that as ineffective. The autopsy revealed that she perished from blunt force trauma after being struck twice or thrice.
Investigators believe they were seeking for multiple suspects with a robbery motive, but it appears that nothing was stolen. Hundreds of leads and potential motives were pursued by deputies, but none were conclusive. In the years that followed, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office conducted repeated interviews in the hopes that something new would emerge.
New evidence in Lake Oconee beheading mystery
As the year progressed, the evidence pointing to the perpetrators grew frigid. Now, eight years later, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills says he still thinks about the case every day. Therefore, he believes that new evidence will revitalize the investigation.
Sheriff Sills stated that his office had received new information, including cell phone data. He has reached out to the FBI for assistance in analyzing this evidence. He hopes that their analysis will lead to the perpetrators and help solve these gruesome homicides.
Sills issued a statement indicating that investigators are analyzing phones using new technology:
“I received some data, predominantly cell phone data, that we had been awaiting for some time just last week. This data was uploaded to a program owned by the FBI, and they are currently assisting us in analyzing the data.
“The technology we are utilizing did not exist in 2014.” I don’t wish to give the impression that I’ve discovered a silver bullet, but this is yet another instrument we’re using to determine who committed these heinous crimes.
“What we need most is for someone to call us and tell us who is responsible for this violence,”
Who were Russell and Shirley Dermond?
On December 15, 1950, Russell Joseph Dermond, a World War II Navy veteran, wed Shirley Wilcox. Before retiring in 1994, the two New Jersey natives would relocate to the Atlanta metropolitan area and own several Hardee’s restaurants.
The Dermonds would relocate to Great Waters Reynolds, a gated community located approximately twelve miles northeast of Eatonton and approximately seventy miles southwest of Atlanta.
Russell enjoyed golf, reading, walking, and spending time with his family and friends, according to their obituaries, while Shirley enjoyed crossword puzzles, gardening, and bridge. Both were active Oconee Community Church members.
They had four offspring and nine grandchildren during their 68 years of marriage.
Ruling out the Dermond family
Each of the surviving Dermond children was interrogated by deputies regarding the incident. Each also voluntarily took and passed polygraph testing. They hope deputies can locate the mur*derers of their parents.
Mark Dermond, the eldest son of the Dermond family, was mu*rdered in Atlanta while attempting to purchase crack cocaine. According to investigators, the two incidents are unrelated.