Putnam man’s death, wife’s disappearance baffle investigators

lfabian@macon.comMay 7, 2014 

Shirley Dermond

Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills is already calling the death of an 88-year-old man and disappearance of his 87-year-old wife the “most baffling case” he’s seen in nearly 40 years.

Investigators are scrambling to find clues that so far have been hard to come by.

There is no sign of forced entry to Russell and Shirley Dermond’s home where friends found his body about 10 a.m. Tuesday.

She was gone.

The cars are still there.

There is no sign of a struggle, either, inside the house in the Great Waters neighborhood on Lake Oconee.

Surveillance cameras in the community were not working, Sills said.

“Their wallets are there, pocketbook’s there. There is nothing out of place. Everything is immaculate,” he said. “This is the cleanest house I’ve ever been in.”

The retired couple with New Jersey roots moved to Putnam County about 10 years ago, Sills said. Russell Dermond had owned several fast food restaurants before retiring, he said.

Out-of-state family members were on their way Wednesday morning to meet with Sills.

“They may be able to tell us if some jewelry is missing, but the sterling silver is still there,” Sills said.

At this point, Sills does not suspect Shirley Dermond killed her husband and fled.

They were not estranged, he said.

“The body had been moved some, and I don’t think an 87-year-old woman did that,” Sills said. “Besides, her purse is there and her keys.”

The time frame for the killing and possible abduction stretches from Friday to Sunday.

Sills has called in the FBI due to the likelihood of kidnapping.

The sheriff won’t say how Russell Dermond was killed to protect details of the investigation that only the killer would know.

Shirley Dermond is about 5-foot-2 and weighs 148 pounds. She has gray hair and blue eyes.

Anyone who may have seen her, or anyone with any information that may be related to the case, is asked to call the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office at 706-485-8557.

“We need to find out what happened to Shirley Dermond,” Sills said.

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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