Can you solve the unsolved murder of Russell and Shirley Dermond?
There’s a reason why the Golden Years refer to your life post-retirement. You’ve lived a long & happy life. You worked hard to live comfortably in old age. Maybe you’ve raised children, maybe not. Maybe you have a partner of many years by your side as you plan on spending your remaining years happily doing whatever you please. You, at this point, expect to pass peacefully in your sleep.
To be fair, most people aren’t expecting for their death to remain an unsolved murder. That, unfortunately, is the case for Russell & Shirley Dermond. This married couple were well and truly settled into their twilight years. Unfortunately, those blissful years came to an abrupt, horrifying, and gruesome end for the couple that has left more questions than answers.
Who killed Russell & Shirley Dermond? What motive would they have for the deaths? More importantly, what happened to Russell Dermond’s head? Let’s dive into this horrific case of unsolved murder with more questions than answers.
The facts of the case
In May 2014, the decapitated body of Russell Dermond, 88, was found on May 6 on the floor of his home’s two-car garage. A neighbor, concerned that the couple didn’t show up to a Kentucky Derby party, discovered the body in a small pool of blood when they went to check on the couple. Dermond’s wife, Shirley (age 87), was not found in the home when police arrived.
Initially, police believed that the elderly woman had been kidnapped when her husband was killed. Unfortunately, that did not turn out to be the case. Shirley Dermond’s body would be uncovered by fishermen in Lake Oconee 10 days later. Her body was weighed down with concrete blocks. Her cause of death, apparently, was from two to three blows to the head with a blunt force object.
The last time that the Dermonds’ were seen alive was on May 1, 2014. Russell was seen running errands in nearby Eatonton. The couple also spoke with one of their children, Brad, over the phone later that day. That was the last time anyone saw them prior to their murders. To this day, the murder of Russell and Shirley Dermond remains unsolved. More shockingly, Russell’s head has never been found.
What else do we know about this unsolved murder case?
Initially, multiple theories were pursued in regard to the Dermond murders. One was the murder of their son Mark Dermond back in 2000, who was killed when trying to buy crack cocaine. Investigators, however, had discarded the theory. Most theories about the Dermonds, who owned several Hardees restaurants before retiring, didn’t really lead anywhere.
The nature of the unsolved murder of the couple is definitely shocking. Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills believes that multiple people were involved in the deaths of the couple. Many believe that Russell Dermond’s missing head also holds a key piece of evidence. Currently, the theory is that the man was shot in the head, which killed him. After? The criminal took it with them so police could not test the bullet.
The gunshot residence of Russell Dermond’s shirt collar corroborates this theory. Currently, however, no definite motive or suspects has been named in the case. Unfortunately, there are no leads in the gruesome crime. Anyone with information about this case should call the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office at 706-485-8557 or leave a tip via the website at putnamcountysheriff. Org
What do you think about the unsolved murder of the Dermonds? Do you think that the case of the elderly couple’s deaths will ever be solved? Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.
This might seem strange, but, was whoever ultimately acquired the Dermond house ever investigated? Many people would be very leery living in a place where such a bizarre crime occurred. I would assume this would severely reduce the price of the property. Maybe the outlandish scenario was devised to create confusion and deflect attention of investigators from this possibility.September 26, 2021
That’s an interesting thought indeed. As you say, who the hell would want to live there?September 30, 2021
Who would go to the extreme of committing murder to acquire a house at a cheaper price. With all respect, it makes no sense.February 26, 2022
Kelly J Helton
I have been intrigued by this case for years. My heart breaks for their family and friends. I initially felt some enraged person or persons due to the crime scene. But this was thought out. Meticulous. I’m wondering if someone thought money in the home…knew lay out of the place, the neighborhood. The front gate cameras not working. Maybe had friends in the neighborhood or friends with issues, possibly drug related, that had heard this family had money. Thought a safe in the house? He or they could have possibly been waiting in the house for a while and the Dermonds did not know? I am probably totally off but feel younger person or persons ( over 25ish) thinking there was more in the house and there was not.November 3, 2021
the house was not disturbed at all and even though there was valuables in the house nothing was taken….do not think robbery was the motive. to me, Russell was the “target”, I think a past grudge and the person could have recently found out, perhaps by accident, that he lived in Eatonton…..February 26, 2022
I agree. I think he pissed somebody the “f” off.May 8, 2022
I watched about this case on HLN today. Had never heard of it. Now I am just hoping that it is solved in my lifetime. I am 75 yo and watch a lot of HLN, but nothing has touched me more than this case. I pray that it is solved.February 4, 2022
In my opinion, this was either a “revenge” type crime (Shirley was unfortunately collateral damage) or possibly a case of mistaken identity….(I heard the house next door was empty and the people who occupied it away on vacation)…perhaps the perps had the wrong house and surprised the Dermonds. I suspect they came by boat, so perhaps boat licenses should be checked maybe there is someone who may have a criminal background….February 26, 2022
I was also thinking possibly some old score to settle. But the investigation has been pretty thorough so far. That would suggest the killer had a very very old score to settle and police didn’t look back far enough. Maybe Rus’ did something very bad like 50+ years ago, and the killer had some reason to wait all this time to get even. I was thinking look into Rus’ early life and look for an acquaintance (classmate maybe) who died under suspicious circumstances. Then look at that person’s siblings or kids for revenge motive. Also look for someone Rus knew who spent years in prison and eventually got out. That would explain the long delay in getting to Rus, or part of it anyway. Or the killer might have been waiting for a third person to pass away before they felt free to go after Rus.
Or it could have been home invaders on drugs. Lots of crooks have done some incredibly horrible things while high they would never normally do. OTOH they had the presence of mind to clean up and leave no prints or DNA, so that suggests they were not on drugs. I don’t know how detectives deal with cold cases like this. It would drive me crazy.May 16, 2022
I wonder if anyone checked son of neighbors across the cove (would’ve been in his 30s in 2014) Mother saw a man on Dermond’s lawn, but she didn’t know it was her son. Sills says in an interview it’s what she didn’t see that was important. IMO she never would’ve spoken up if she saw her own son. Son and daughter in law have many lawsuits against them for not paying people what they’re owed. He has a long criminal rap sheet. Motive could’ve been that they thought Dermond’s had a large stash of cash. They didn’t expect Russell to fight them so they shot him. Disposed of Shirley to make it look like she killed him. Only a close neighbor would be constantly watching the home right? They had to be there for many hours. Attack, cutting off his head, cleanup then disposal of Shirley’s body. They knew they wouldn’t be seen because they were close by. Dermonds knew them.May 2, 2022
That certainly sounds like a good lead. Hopefully they have already checked it. But you may have a prime suspect there.May 16, 2022
Personally, and I’m not a detective, I seriously doubt someone would go to the trouble to cut the head off a corpse just to keep a bullet from being found. Just get rid of the gun. I mean seriously, has anyone ever heard of a murderer cutting off a head just to recover a bullet? I think there must be another reason they cut his head off. Running with your theory Linda, what if they were torturing Russell in the garage (i.e. “Tell us where the safe is!”), and Shirley came out and surprised them? If she turned to run, they would have had to act fast to stop her. I’m thinking they might have decided to decapitate Rus’ corpse to cover up the injuries they inflicted.
I agree they certainly knew the Dermonds and maybe the Dermonds knew them. I would bet they arrived and left by boat, and it was late at night. If he was seen earlier he may have been casing the house in advance of the break-in. I’m also thinking after they sank Shirley’s body they were heading back to get Rus’ body to do the same, but something scared them off. Maybe it was getting too light by then. Maybe someone walking their dog.
Linda, you have some valuable information there and a good solid theory. They say there is no obvious “motive” in this case. Well the killer could be acting on bad information, but its still a motive to him. You should definitely contact Sheriff Sills and tell him know about the neighbor’s criminal son. Your theory is very plausible.May 18, 2022
Robbery and ransom kidnapping do not fit. The thing that sticks out the most is how clean the crime scene is. A robbery, or anyone committing a money crime is going to ransack the house. Who benefits from not destroying the property? Who is going to benefit by not stealing the valuables? An heir. Why steal it when it is going to be yours anyway, plus you wouldn’t be able to sell any of the stolen property so “inheriting” makes more sense. It is almost as if it was a priority to preserve the value of the home and it’s contents. Don’t be fooled by the polygraph. A sociopath can pass a polygraph because they think they are right and that they haven’t done anything wrong, and even that they (the sociopath) deserves what the victims have. I don’t think the killers left together. If male victim is shot, why wasn’t the female victim shot? It only makes sense that the killer of the male victim was not on the boat. So, it is possible that a killer left by boat and another killer left by means of land transportation (or lived in the community.) It doesn’t fit a random killing. It is just too clean. In addition, the crime seems to suggest there was a lot of planning. I do think they were specifically targeted.May 5, 2022
Also, given there is not a speck of evidence to suggest otherwise, it appears this person had a way into the home, whether that be someone they recognized or someone who was sent there with advance notice or recommendation from someone they trusted. Even if they opened the door to a stranger, at some point they would have realized they were in trouble and there would be some type of evidence from even a minor struggle, a push, a shove, a crooked picture, but something.
How did they get this elderly woman from the house to the boat without being discovered, or even afraid of being discovered. How did they know she wouldn’t scream? How did they know that someone wouldn’t see them on the land or the boat? Is there any evidence that she walked to the boat?
I think they really should be looking at whomever they interviewed that offered their own theory or senario of why this might have happened, especially if any of their senario appears to fit the crime. If a victims head is cut off and an interviewee suggests it was a sadistic or demonic group that chose them at random, that senario appears to fit the crime, This was not a random crime by a bunch of juveniles. The crime scene does not support it. i do believe they took the head in order to hide the evidence (bullet), and I think the decapitation was a part of the original plan (possibly to suggest this was some random santanic killing.) I do not think the female victim was located in another location in order to suggest she had something to do with his killing. With her “missing”, the estate would have been tied up and delayed by the probate laws in Georgia. I do not believe these killers got the wrong house. Too much planning and too much time involved in these killings. Once they realized they had the wrong house, they would have just shot the witnesses and moved on.
Its hard to believe that someone on that lake didn’t have video equipment that pointed in the direction of the water or toward a lake accessible boat ramp.
Whomever killed this couple expected to benefit from this crime.
It makes as much sense as any other theory I’ve seen. What makes no sense is the idea the head was removed to conceal evidence. A lot of planning and forethought went into this event, including bringing a tool to remove the head and a container to remove it. The perpetrator didn’t suddenly decide – woops – gotta get that bullet (if there was one) outta here.May 30, 2022
I agree it’s an inside job. Look at the heirs, a sociopath or psychopath can surely pass a polygraph. And I’ve seen plenty of people crying on tv saying they want the killer found, when in fact they are the killer! Look into the children, the grand children, the heirs. The poor couple need justice. What a terrible end for them.November 10, 2022