FBI says whoever killed elderly Putnam County couple a decade ago should be ‘nervous’

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News has learned exclusive new information about one of Georgia’s biggest criminal mysteries of all time.

The FBI granted its first interview about the murder of Russell and Shirley Dermond in 10 years to Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne.

In 2014, a neighbor found Russell Dermond’s decapitated body in his Putnam County garage. A fisherman discovered Shirley Dermond’s body floating in Lake Oconee days later.

We learned this week that there’s a new FBI reward in the case.

But in a one-on-one interview with FBI Special Agent Andy Smith, who has been involved with the Dermond double murder for nine years, told Winne that there are new leads not just on the DNA front, but concerning cellphones too.

“Between the DNA and the cell phone leads, is there somebody out there or a group of people who ought to be nervous now?” Winne asked Smith.

“Yes,” Smith said. “I am very optimistic, and I share Sheriff (Howard) Sills’ optimism that we’re going to bring this case to a resolution also. We never stop. We will solve this case.”

“It almost seemed like every FBI agent that we did meet with, said the process may take a heck of a lot longer than we would like. But they said these type of cases almost always are solved,” the Dermonds’ son, Brad Dermond, told Winne.

“The FBI remained engaged in the investigation the entire past decade?” Winne asked Smith.

“Fulltime. Completely engaged with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office and their investigative team since the beginning,” Smith said.

Sills said days after the Dermond failed to show up at a May 3, 2014, Kentucky Derby party, a neighbor found Russell Dermond’s decapitated body in the garage of their home by Lake Oconee in the Reynolds Great Waters development, and about 10 days later, Shirley Dermond’s remains were discovered in the lake.


“It was a horrible incident that shocked that community. It is a very complex case, a very complex crime scene. A very complex stack of evidence that we got with that case. Something that in my 20-plus years with the FBI I’ve never seen before,” Smith said.

Smith said he agrees with Sills that the discovery of DNA by a lab in Utah in recent weeks on evidence linked to Russell Dermond’s body is possibly the biggest break in the case in a decade.

Sills said the lab in Utah is Sorenson Forensics. Sills said the Othram Lab in Texas found DNA too, and referred Sills to Sorenson.

Smith told Winne that evidence from the Dermond murders had previously gone to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia but more will be there soon for types of testing in which that lab specializes.

But he said new leads aren’t limited to DNA.

“We have utilized different techniques and different methods of analyzing cellular data, different devices that may have been in the area during the murder and after the fact,” Smith said.

“Have you got significant leads from that?” Winne asked Smith.

“Yes, we have,” Smith said.

Smith said an earlier FBI reward was paid out for the discovery of the body of Shirley Dermond who had been a missing person for days.

But now the FBI is offering a new reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of an individual or individuals responsible for the Dermonds’ murders.

“Do you believe it’s more than one person involved in the Dermond murders?” Winne asked Smith.

“I believe so,” Smith said.

The victims’ son, Brad Dermond, told Winne that he recently retired and become more involved in church and has leaned on family and faith.

“The solution of this case is probably more about what would give cause to this happening and less about revenge. I think with our strong faith, God will take care of that part of it,” Brad Dermond said.

Smith said in recent days, the lab experts have been trying to find enough DNA to look for a match through the CODIA database of DNA from thousands of convicted felons and certain other folks, and also for newer, genealogy-based testing.

He says depending on the answer, investigators may evaluate whether to go with the technology available now or new technology that may be available in say a couple years.

If you know anything about this case that may help lead to an arrest, you can contact the FBI Atlanta Field Office at 770-216-3000, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office at 706-485-8557, or submit a tip online at tips.Fbi.gov.

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