Husband decapitated and wife dropped in Lake Oconee. 9 years later, their deaths are a mystery

PUTNAM COUNTY, Ga. — This month marks nine years since an elderly couple was murdered in a quiet Lake Oconee community, a case that remains unsolved today.

On May 6, 2014, Russell and Shirley Dermond’s neighbors became concerned after the couple never showed up for a Kentucky Derby party and didn’t return any phone calls. When they went to check on them, they made a gruesome discovery and called 911.

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Neighbors found Russell’s decapitated body inside the garage behind one of the couple’s cars, with the 88-year-old’s head nowhere to be found. Shirley Dermond, 87, wasn’t found at the home, and deputies began investigating a possible kidnapping.

Ten days later, a pair of fishermen on Lake Oconee found her body. Unfortunately, Russell Dermond’s head has never been found, and his cause of death remains unknown.

The case has haunted the quiet community of Great Waters Reynolds Plantation for nine years and gained national attention.

Putnam County deputies are still searching for the killer or killers and a motive. However, a reward has been offered for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.


Here’s a timeline of the case events and investigation.

May 1-3, 2014

Neighbors told investigators that May 1 was the final time they saw Russell Dermond around the area running errands. However, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office told Channel 2′s Mark Winne that someone logged on to Dermond’s computer at their home during the afternoon of Friday, May 2. The office believes it was one of the Dermonds.

The couple accepted an invitation to watch the Kentucky Derby on May 3 but never attended the party.

May 6, 2014

Neighbors found Russell Dermond’s body in the garage with his head missing. There are no signs of where Shirley Dermond could be. Officials started investigating the possibility the 87-year-old was kidnapped.

Investigators found no signs of forced entry or any struggle inside the home.

May 10, 2014

The Reynolds Plantation community holds a candlelight vigil for the Dermonds. At least 100 people showed up Saturday night to light candles and pray for the couple’s family and Shirley Dermond.

May 16, 2014

Fishermen found Shirley Dermond’s body in Lake Oconee with two concrete blocks tied to her legs. Channel 2′s Richard Elliot talked to one of the fishermen who discovered the body.

“It became apparent as we pulled closer that it wasn’t just something in the water. It was a person, and I won’t forget it,” he said.

May 17, 2014

Investigators released the cause of death for Shirley Dermond. The coroner’s office determined she died of blunt force trauma to the head. Officials said she was dead when dumped into the lake and did not drown.

June 4, 2014

Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills told Channel 2′s Mark Winne that evidence indicates the couple was killed with two different weapons. He said physical evidence points to a strong likelihood that the Dermonds died in different ways and that the killer, or killers, used a different kind of weapon.

May 6, 2022

Sheriff Sills tells Channel 2 Action News the FBI is providing cell phone data from the week the couple was killed. Investigators believe it may show who was around the Dermond home at the time of the killings.

The Dermonds’ son Brad told Channel 2 Action News that the case is still raw for the family. However, he said the family remains optimistic the case will get solved.

“We feel that there’s a very strong likelihood that it was done by more than one person. And anytime you have that, then there’s a greater chance for that information to leak,” Brad Dermond said.

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