Person of interest identified in murder, beheading of elderly couple

PUTNAM COUNTY, Ga. — The Putnam County sheriff says he has a person of interest in the murder and beheading of an elderly couple in Reynolds Plantation last year.

Sheriff Howard Sills sat down with Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne for an exclusive interview almost one year to the day after Russell and Shirley Dermond were killed.

The mystery of their death baffled their affluent community. Friends found Russell Dermond's body beheaded inside his garage in May 2014. His wife, 87-year-old Shirley, was nowhere to be found. Investigators initially believed she was abducted, but nearly two weeks later, her body was found in Lake Oconee. Sheriff Sills told Winne her body had been tied down with cinder blocks.

Shirley Dermond's cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head. Russell Dermond's head was never found and his cause of death remains unknown.

Tuesday, Sills confirmed exclusively to Winne that he has a person of interest in the case.

He told Winne the person of interest is someone they’ve interviewed before.

“Statements made to us, we later determined, were not completely truthful,” Sills said.

Sills says he doesn't have enough so far to elevate the person of interest to an official suspect and investigators still do not have a motive for the murders.

Sills says it’s a case that weighs on his mind every day.

“They’re still out there and by God, they’re capable of doing anything,” Sills said.

Sills says he recently re-interviewed a close relative.

“I took a firmer tone this time. This person kind of broke down. After it was over with, my personal thoughts are that she certainly didn’t have anything to do with it, but I never say never,” Sills told Winne.

He says the interview yielded the name of an ex-employee with hard feelings for the couple from years ago, but after further investigation, they found out that person is dead.

“That’s the way hundreds of leads in this investigation have gone,” Sills said.

Now, the sheriff says he has the name of another former employee he plans to interview.

Sills says this person of interest is not deterring efforts to find other potential suspects.

He says when they do, they have both physical and forensic evidence to compare to that person.