PUTNAM COUNTY, Ga. – The Putnam County Sheriff has asked the FBI to help investigate a brutal murder and possible abduction on Lake Oconee.
Sheriff Howard Sills says friends found the body of 88 year old Russell Dermond in the garage of their home in the Great Waters Community. Putnam County's Coroner Gary P. McElhenney says Dermond was beheaded.
His wife, 87 year old Shirley Dermond, was not at the home and authorities believe she may have been abducted. Sheriff Sills says they're investigating whether the killer entered from the lake.
Authorities believe the crimes occurred sometime between Friday and Sunday.
Sills said Shirley Dermond is not a suspect. The physical evidence does not suggest an 87-year-old woman could have committed the crime, he said.
"The body was moved, and I just don't think an 87-year-old lady can do it. She's gone, her personal effects are still at the house. The totality of what we're seeing here leaves me to believe she was abducted and not a suspect. but I'm never going to say never until I know differently."
Sills described the Dermonds' home, in the gated Great Waters community at Reynolds Plantation as a "very, very expensive home" in an idyllic neighborhood.
He said there appears to be no forced entry nor any sign of a fight at the home.
A son of the couple, Keith Dermond, asked anyone with information on the crimes to come forward. "I would ask anybody that knows anything to please help us find our mother," Keith Dermond said. Bradley Dermond, the couple's other son, described his parents Wednesday morning to WMAZ as "salt of the Earth."
"This absolutely makes no sense at all," Bradley Dermond told 13WMAZ Wednesday morning while driving up from Florida to be briefed by law enforcement about the case. "We're still hoping that our mother is OK," he added declining further comment until he speaks with law enforcement.
Friends called the sheriff's office after they hadn't heard from or seen the couple in several days.
When officials couldn't locate Shirley Dermond, Sills said, "their vehicles are at home. We are treating this as if (Mrs. Dermond) has been abducted." The sheriff said he believes Mrs. Dermond is "in imminent danger."
Authorities in Putnam County say an 88-year-old man was killed and his 87-year-old wife is missing from their Lake Oconee home.
Authorities believe the Dermonds may have known the suspects. "I think this is an isolated incident, and I don't think it was random," Sills said.
Roy Dunning has lived on the same street as the Dermonds for 11 years. While he didn't know them very well, he said "they were very, very nice. ... They were quiet people ... Russell walked a lot." Dunning, who lives two doors down from the couple, said he noticed police tape on the Dermonds' home Wednesday morning. "It shocked me," he said. "Everyone is in a state of shock, especially for Shirley."
Meanwhile, the couple's pastor described them as a '"sweet couple ... unassuming ... family oriented." "We were all in shock and we really just don't know how they'd have any enemies or anybody who'd want to do anything to them," said the Rev. David Key of Oconee Lake Community Church. "They're the last couple that you would think anybody would break in and do this kind of violence to." Rev. Key said the couple had attended the church for about seven years, as recently as Easter Sunday.
According to Putnam County tax records, the Dermonds' home and property on Carolyn Drive is valued at over $1 million. It includes a boat dock on Lake Oconee. According to online records, the home is in Reynolds Plantation's Great Waters gated community, built around a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. They purchased the land in 1994, according to tax records.
Shirley Dermond is 5'2" and weighs around 148 pounds. She has grey hair and blue eyes. Anyone who sees Shirley Dermond is asked to call the Putnam County Sheriff's Office in Eatonton at 706-485-8557.
Information from WMAZ was used in this report