Dermond residence

The Dermond residence is seen in this contributed photo taken five years ago. The murders of Russell and Shirley Dermond are believed to have occurred four days before authorities ever knew that the unthinkable had happened.

EATONTON, Ga. — Another television show will air this weekend about the unsolved double-murder of Russell and Shirley Dermond, an elderly couple brutally slain at their Lake Oconee home in Putnam County six years ago.

No one has ever been charged with the slayings.

It’s one of the most baffling murder cases to have ever happened in middle Georgia.

The case, which has gained media attention since it happened sometime in early May 2014 was different than many homicide cases in that the 88-year-old Russell Dermond is believed to have been shot to death and then his head cut-off and taken by his killer or killers. 

Shirley Dermond, 87, meanwhile, who originally thought by local and federal law enforcement authorities to have been abducted following her husband’s murder, was discovered floating in one of the deepest parts of Lake Oconee, about six miles from the couple’s plush gated community of Great Waters at Reynolds Lake Oconee. 

Shirley Dermond was beaten and strangled to death, according to Putnam County Sheriff Howard R. Sills, who spearheaded and continues to lead the double-murder investigation. Her body was tied by a rope to a couple of cinder blocks and then discarded into the lake.

Sills will be shown in segments on the popular HLN crime show Sunday at 8 p.m.

Sills said he believes that Russell Dermond’s decapitated head was taken by the killers so authorities could not retrieve the projectile that was fired from a gun to kill him.

“He was already dead when they decapitated him with some sort of very sharp instrument,” Sills said. “We’ve never been able to find his head.”

Sills said he took the film crew to the lake area and the vicinity of where the crimes took place back in July, but not to the actual house, where Russell Dermond’s corpse was found by one of his neighbors, Hewell Wynn. After making the grisly discovery of his friend, whom he reportedly had not seen in four days, he went back to his home and had his wife, Peggy, call 911 to report the death of Russell Dermond to a dispatcher with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office in Eatonton.

A copy of that 911 audio recording was requested and given to The Union-Recorder as well as the 911 audiotape recording of a fisherman who called authorities to report the body floating on Lake Oconee. The body turned out to be Shirley Dermond’s.

The Wynns and the Dermonds had been friends ever since the Dermonds moved to Great Waters.

Days earlier, both couples reportedly were to have joined other friends to watch the Kentucky Derby on television.

The sheriff said since the Wynns had not heard anything from the Dermonds or seen them in several days, Hewell Wynn went over to the Dermond’s home where he found Russell Dermond’s corpse in the garage.

Russell Dermond was a World War II Navy veteran who later become a highly-successful businessman. He owned several fast food eateries, including several Hardee’s locations in the Atlanta area at one time. He retired in 1994 and shortly afterward, he and his wife moved to Putnam County, located about 12 miles northeast of the county seat of Eatonton.

Sills and his detectives, along with FBI agents have worked thousands of man-hours in an attempt to solve the case.

“We don’t work on this case every day, but every time we get a lead, we stop what we’re doing on other cases to follow that lead in this murder case,” Sills said.

Sills said the investigation into one of the worst homicide cases he’s ever been involved with during his 40-plus years as a lawman, has taken a different course.

“It’s proceeding in a more technical manner,” Sills said. “We are utilizing some new technology and we have received some data that we think may help us. I don’t know at this time if it will or not.”

Several warrants have been obtained in the process, he said.

“We don’t know if this new technology will lead us anywhere as far as solving this case, but that’s the direction we’re going in right now,” Sills said.

Anyone with information about the unsolved murder case involving Russell and Shirley Dermond is asked to call the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office at 706-485-1650.

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