It is a scene straight out of a retiree’s worst nightmare. A 88-year-old man was found decapitated in the garage of his home, and his 87-year-old wife is missing. The case has baffled Putnam County police who say they don’t believe the home invasion was random.
The grisly murder happened inside a guard gated community of million dollar homes on the shores of Lake Oconee, about 78 miles east of Atlanta. Russell Dermond’s body was found Tuesday morning by friends who hadn’t heard from the couple in several days. Dermond’s wife, Shirley, is missing, and so is his head.
Police say security cameras were out of order, and the two guards at the gate did not see anything out of the ordinary. Lake Oconee spans 4 counties and provides easy access to the community by boat. According to public records the Dermond’s home and property at the Great Waters Reynolds Plantation are valued at more than $1 million.
“I don’t think it’s a random incident. I think for whatever reason these people were singled out for this,” said Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills. “They live in the most exclusive neighborhood, or one of the most exclusive neighborhoods, in this county. … They’re on a cul-de-sac in a gated, multimillion dollar resort community that we have no crime in.”
Most of the couple’s valuables and cell phones were found inside the home. The couple’s cars were parked in the driveway. “We don’t have anything to track her other than the image of her we’ve given out for the public to see,” Sills said.”We’ve put all of our resources into this, we’ve been assisted by the FBI.”
Law enforcement used SONAR to search the lake, but found nothing. Cadaver dogs also searched the woods near the Dermond’s home for Shirley’s body. “I’ve worked a lot of murders and this is the strangest one I’ve ever worked,” said Sills. “We’re still trying to narrow down the window between Friday and Sunday. I’m leaning more toward Friday or Saturday.”
The Dermond’s son described his mother as “salt of the earth.”