Five years later, the 88-year-old’s head is still missing, and the case of who killed the couple is still unsolved.
On May 6, 2014, Russell Dermond was found dead in the garage of his home at Lake Oconee, an hour west of Augusta. Dermond’s wife of 68 years was missing. Mrs. Dermond was found weighed down by blocks in the lake a couple of weeks after the murder. Five years later, the 88-year-old’s head is still missing, and the case of who killed the couple is still unsolved.
The timeline according to INSIDE EDITION INDEPTH
The couple had accepted an invitation from their neighbors to attend a Kentucky Derby party in the pristine, wooded subdivision where they lived on the banks of Lake Oconee in Georgia. But the Dermonds never showed up.
After calling the couple for two days and getting no answer, the friends who hosted the Derby gathering came to the Dermonds’ four-bedroom, well-appointed home and found the back door unlocked. The husband and wife called out to the Dermonds and walked into every room in the 4,255-square-foot estate. Nothing was out of place.
The garage was another matter. Behind the couple’s Lexus SUV and their Lincoln Town Car, was Russell’s body. His head was missing. Towels had been placed around the corpse to keep blood from draining under the garage door and onto the driveway. Shirley was nowhere to be found.
The FBI was brought in. A reward was offered. Over the following week, Sills brought in cadaver dogs. He had divers drag the lake area behind the Dermonds’ property. No trace of Shirley was found.
For the next 10 days, Sheriff Sills held press conferences and questioned the couple’s three grown children and their neighbors.
He thought many things. Did Mrs. Dermond have something to do with what happened to her husband? Had she been kidnapped? Had she just run off? But her purse, her cellphone and her car keys were all inside her home.
One of the couple’s sons, Keith, told a reporter on May 14, “Each hour that goes by, my brother, my sister and me are becoming more resigned to the fact that we may never see her again and we may never know what happened.
“If she is still alive, we can’t imagine what she is going through. The human spirit is incredibly strong, but it has almost got to the stage where we hope she is with out father, just to ease her suffering.”
Two men out fishing six miles from the Dermond’s home came upon a woman’s body floating face-down. Her ankles were tethered to two 30-pound cinder blocks.
Sheriff Sills was summoned. He arrived by boat and personally pulled the body from the water. It was Shirley Dermond.
Decomposition and internal gases had swollen her 5 foot, 2 inch body to twice its normal weight. “She had been beaten to death,” Sills told InsideEdition.com. “There were multiple blows to her head by some sort of blunt object, possibly a hammer.”
Shirley’s body was fully clothed. There were no signs of sexual assault. “Obviously, then, we did not look for Mrs. Dermond anymore,” Sills said. “Up until that point in time, every electronic billboard in Georgia had her picture on it.”
Married 68 years, the Dermond’s purchased the home in 1994. The gated community, featuring a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course and a Ritz Carlton resort, was considered safe from crime.
Investigators with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation theorized that Mr. Dermond’s head had been cut off after his death. Detectives believed he was bludgeoned to death sometime between Friday, May 2 and Sunday, May 5, 2014.
There were no signs of forced entry or a struggle in the home. Everything was in place and nothing was taken. At the time of the murders, the security cameras weren’t working at the guard house, and it is unknown how the killers found a way into the community.
“It’s the most frustrating case I’ve ever had,” Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said. “I know people get tired of hearing me say that I wake up every morning and think about it and I go to sleep thinking about it. I do this every day,” Sills recently told the AJC.
The Sheriff called in assistance from the FBI yet has refused to bring in or allow help from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, at (706) 485-8557.