New DNA evidence could finally solve murders of husband found beheaded, wife dropped in Lake Oconee

PUTNAM COUNTY, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News has learned that investigators could be one step closer to solving the gruesome murder of a husband and wife near Lake Oconee in 2014.

Nine years ago, someone shot and beheaded Russell and Shirley Dermond. Deputies have followed hundreds of leads, but they have all led nowhere.

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’s body was found in Lake Oconee after someone apparently tried to weigh it down. The sheriff said she died of blunt force trauma.

On Wednesday, Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Mark Winne learned that new DNA evidence could lead detectives to the killer.

Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sill said he has submitted evidence to a DNA lab operation called Othram, which discovered some new DNA.

“We continue to try new things. We had something. Whether that’s going to evolve into something else, I don’t know,” Sills said. “At this point in time, there has to be some more analysis done.”

Sills said he’s hopeful the new DNA will lead to breaks in the case, though he did say he’s not sure there’s enough to run the DNA through a national database in search of a match with a suspect.

“There has to be an additional test done to what’s been developed so far and whether or not that is potentially enough to run it through CODIS,” Sills said.

The other question is whether or not the DNA belongs to the killer.

“We have some potential DNA that may or may not be identifiable,” Sills said. “And it could still be the Dermonds.”

The sheriff said he has also now received the long-awaited results of geo-fencing, a means of identifying certain mobile devices that were active during a certain time period in a specific area, in this case, a period of time around when authorities believe the murders occurred and an area of several acres, including the Dermond home.

“There’s nobody on there with any kind of alarming criminal history,” Sills said. “And there’s nobody there, at least at this juncture, that I know has any connection to the Dermonds.”

Sills said that the new DNA could be the most significant development in the case in years.

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