EATONTON It was the late 1980s and Russell Dermond, a meticulous World War II-era Navy man and college honor grad, wanted to leave something for his children.
So at 58 he retired after spending much of his career with a company that owned clock brands Westclox and Seth Thomas and went into the fast-food business. Before long he would oversee a chain of 16 Hardees restaurants that ringed metropolitan Atlanta.
Theres no doubt he did it for his kids, his son, Keith Dermond, told The Telegraph on Friday.
The son, 55, spoke by phone after leaving a family attorneys office in Atlanta in the wake of 88-year-old Russell Dermonds slaying here and the vanishing and potential abduction of his wife of 62 years.
The killing and subsequent disappearance of 87-year-old Shirley Dermond has baffled investigators since concerned neighbors discovered Russell Dermonds headless body lying in his garage near the couples cars Tuesday morning.
He had most likely been killed the previous weekend, authorities have said. His head hasnt been found.
As news crews from across the region have descended on the lakefront golfing community where the Dermonds settled 15 years ago, the grim nature of the case and the mystery surrounding it has captivated and worried locals.
Its all anybodys talking about, a woman visiting an inmate at the county jail said.
The crime has attracted international attention and also generated its share of crackpot tips. On Friday afternoon, someone called the sheriffs office claiming to be a psychic, offering investigators a sketch of the killer or killers.
The FBI has been called in because of the possible kidnapping of Shirley Dermond, and a criminal behavior specialist may work up a profile of the suspect.
In the meantime, the hunt still focuses on the whereabouts of the missing woman, who stands about 5-foot-2 and weighs 148 pounds. She has gray hair and blue eyes.
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Earlier Friday, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said Russell Dermonds autopsy yielded little to help deputies track down a culprit.
The official cause of death is craniocerebral trauma, Sills said.
Because the slain mans head was not found, it isnt known whether he was shot, stabbed or suffered some other blow.
The couples cellphones, keys and Shirley Dermonds pocketbook were inside their $1 million house, which overlooks a wooded Lake Oconee cove in a cul-de-sac about a dozen miles northeast of Eatonton.
Without much to go on from the autopsy, investigators are relying on other clues to pinpoint the timeline of the slaying and likely abduction.
Russell Dermond was last seen May 1 at a supermarket not far from his Carolyn Drive home.
Shirley Dermond had worked the next days newspaper crossword puzzle, but no one had taken the couples May 3 mail out of their mailbox. That same day, last Saturday, the Dermonds failed to show up at a friends Kentucky Derby party.
Financial and phone records have not turned up anything to suggest the Dermonds would be the target of criminal activity, the sheriff said.
Even so, their son, Keith Dermond, said that based on what investigators have told him, whoever is responsible might have picked them out for some as-yet-unknown reason.
Our thoughts are with our mom now. Theres nothing more we can do for our dad. ... Not knowing is the worst, just a horrible thing, he said. Were not optimistic anymore after a week with no contact.
In what seemed a plea to his fathers killer and his mothers potential abductor, the son added, Just tell us where she is. They didnt deserve this. ... Its not fair. ... They never hurt anybody.
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Russell Dermond, the son of an auto mechanic, was raised in New Jersey.
He graduated from north Jerseys Fairleigh Dickinson University in three years, Keith Dermond said.
He served in the Navy in the mid-1940s and went to work for General Time Corp., where he was director of what might now be called information services, data processing. His job sent him on trips across the country and abroad.
He was such a family man. He was just devoted to his family, Keith Dermond said. He was a very hard worker, just a self-made man.
His wife, educated at Barnard College in New York City, looked after their three sons and daughter in New Jersey.
They were very sharp people, Keith Dermond said of his parents.
He described his mother as a fantastic bridge player who wowed him with her crossword-puzzle-working wits.
Theres nobody who met her that didnt love her, the son said, adding, and she never gossiped.
Russell Dermond played golf until a couple of years ago. He and his wife were in such good shape that they liked to keep their age a secret.
Im sure their friends are shocked to learn their ages now, Keith Dermond said.
He and his younger brother Brad, who live in Florida, followed their fathers footsteps in the restaurant industry.
The elder Dermonds, after living a number of years in a country club community along the Chattahoochee River above Interstate 285, built their retirement home on Oconee in the late 1990s.
They loved living on the lake. They just enjoyed the leisurely life, and they were enjoying the fruits of their labor, Keith Dermond said. I know they didnt miss the Atlanta traffic.
Losing them, he said, has left loved ones devastated.
We certainly would like to see some justice done.