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Shirley Dermond's Body Found in Lake; Hunt Continues for Suspect in Husband's Beheading

The body of an elderly Putnam County woman was found Friday in Lake Oconee. Her husband was murdered earlier in the month at their lakeside house.

Authorities say they have retrieved the body of Shirley Dermond from Lake Oconee. Credit: WSB
Authorities say they have retrieved the body of Shirley Dermond from Lake Oconee. Credit: WSB

The gruesome beheading of an elderly Putnam County man and the disappearance of his wife took a sad turn when the Putnam County Sheriff said late Friday afternoon that a body pulled from Lake Oconee is that of Shirley Dermond.

WSB TV first reported the grisly finding.

Shirley Dermond, 87, hasn't been seen in more than a week. Investigators think she was taken when her 88-year-old husband, Russell, was murdered and beheaded at their home on Lake Oconee. His body was found May 6.

According to WSB-TV, friends of Russell and Shirley Dermond went to the couple's home May 6 and discovered his body. Russell Dermond's head was not found at the Reynolds Plantation crime scene, the station reports.

Authorities say Russell Dermond, the retired owner of fast food restaurants, was killed on May 2 or 3 and his wife kidnapped. The attackers didn't use force to enter the couple's lakeside home. Investigators said Shirley Dermond's wallet, cellphone, purse and car were all left behind, the sheriff said.

Other than using the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab, Sheriff Howard Sills has declined to call in GBI investigators to help with the high-profile case.

The Dermonds' son, Keith of Jacksonville, FL, told WSB that bringing in more investigators would be a good idea.

“The more people we have looking at things, who knows? The more resources, the more people, it would be better off. I don't know why the GBI wouldn't be involved," Keith Dermond said.

Sills maintains his investigation is very thorough.

Maintenance workers with access inside Reynolds Plantation were recently given polygraph tests that turned up nothing new, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

After searches on land and water came up empty, the FBI announced it is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to Shirley Dermond’s recovery.

Deputies and officers from seven local agencies, along with the FBI, on Wednesday searched about six acres of vacant land across the street from the Dermond home, but turned up nothing.

Meanwhile, the Department of Natural Resources planned on Friday to use a submarine robot to again look for clues in a section of Lake Oconee near the crime scene.

Sheriff Sills told the newspaper the biggest challenge has been interviewing nervous friends and neighbors of the Dermonds. 

“I’ve never dealt with a case where so many people were reluctant to talk,” he said. “They’re reluctant because they’re afraid they’re going to get their heads cut off. There’s a lot of fear.”

Earlier in the week, electronic billboards in south Georgia began showing ads asking for information about the grisly case.

Fairway Outdoor Advertising is running a plea for tips in the Dermond case on four billboards in the Albany area and two in Valdosta, reports WALB TV. The ads show Shirley Dermond's picture, announce a reward for information, and ask that tips be called in to the FBI at 404-679-9000 or the Putnam County Sheriff's Office at 706-485-8557.

Patch's earlier coverage:

Sheriff: 'There’s a Lot of Fear' as Hunt Continues for Suspects in Beheading, Kidnapping

Billboards Seek Tips in Beheading of Husband, Disappearance of Elderly Wife

Police: Husband Beheaded, Wife May Have Been Kidnapped

Vigil Set for Beheaded Man, Kidnapped Wife

electric123 May 18, 2014 at 09:23 PM
@Barbara, I was raised to treat the elderly with respect and kindness as most grand parents are, plus Mr. Dermond was a WWII veteran which as a veteran myself there is a special bond between veterans no matter which period of service, a younger couple who stand more of a chance to fight back, but how much can a retired elderly couple do? I find it sickening and atrocious to do this to the elderly.
RAJ (Bo) McMerritt May 19, 2014 at 10:11 AM
Are they checking into the relatives?
Steffen Jobbs May 19, 2014 at 11:24 AM
The authorities need to torture and kill whoever did this deed. There's just no worthwhile reason to do such a thing to these elderly people. I'm sure whoever killed this couple probably enjoyed doing it. The police need to find this fiend and put him down like a sick dog.
Robbie Schellenger May 19, 2014 at 07:08 PM
We must forgive and hope the person who did this will ask for forgiveness.
OnceWasAnnie May 23, 2014 at 06:34 PM
I have a feeling that the person or persons who committed this knew the couple. I would be looking at the relatives and friends. Horrible story, though. Poor folks...

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