Could new technology help crack cold case of who killed elderly couple at Lake Oconee home?

PUTNAM COUNTY, Ga. — It was a case that captivated the country – the murders of an elderly couple in a quiet Lake Oconee community eight years ago and there’s no apparent motive.

WSB′s Karyn Greer has learned that new technology could help crack the case as she revisited the crime scene with the sheriff who is determined to solve it.

It was May 2014 when the bodies of Russell Dermond, 88, and his wife Shirley, 87, were found behind the gates of their upscale neighborhood.

“Her body washed on top of one of the treetops, about eight inches beneath the surface (of the water),” Putnam County Sheriff Phil Sills told Greer.

Sills helped Greer retrace the path of the killer from the Dermond home – which has now been sold – to the middle of the scenic lake.

“We discovered the body of Russell Dermond minus (his) head in their garage and some 10 or more days later, his wife Shirley Dermond. Her body surfaced in Lake Oconee about five and a half miles away from the home. We never found Mr. Dermond’s head. She had been anchored, or at least attempted to have been anchored, to the bottom by two cement blocks,” Sills said.

How could someone get her body in a boat and dump it in the lake with no one seeing them? The sheriff hopes some technology that wasn’t available eight years ago will let them know who was in the area at the time.

“We have done some geotracking, and we’ve gotten back that information the FBI fitted into their software program. And there’s a box I have in my office that people that were in the area at the time. I’m not saying that they were at the Dermond house, and we are presently working on that,” Sills said. “There was some intent to come back, I believe. And the reason for that is the towels to keep the blood from coming out. However, it had been three days before we knew about it.”

Crime scene investigator Sheryl McCollum is also offering to help Sills get some new DNA tests done on the items recovered.

“Have you tested the towels for the DNA of the person?” McCollum asked Sills.

“All of that was sent to the Georgia Crime Lab. We asked for that. I hope that was done,” Sills said.

“Does this one keep you up at night sometimes?” Greer asked Sills.

“Oh, obviously. This is my albatross,” Sills told Greer. “It’s not a pleasure for me to be able to sit here and do that. They’ve had this terrible double homicide, and I’ve not been able to solve it. It’s not pleasurable. But I hope that these types of interviews will eventually get somebody to give us a call because somebody knows and whoever did this will do anything from a standpoint of murder,” Sills said.

The sheriff said if the people who committed to help with the reward fund are still on board, $45,000 is being offered for an arrest and conviction in this case to bring the killer or killers to justice and give the Dermonds’ family a sense of closure.

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