Putnam County sheriff ‘fairly confident’ body found is that of missing woman

jkovac@macon.comMay 16, 2014 

EATONTON -- Authorities are “fairly confident” that a woman’s body found Friday in Lake Oconee is that of Shirley Dermond.

The 87-year-old Dermond had been missing since May 6, when investigators found the headless body of her 88-year-old husband in the garage of their lakefront home.

A fisherman discovered the woman’s body early Friday afternoon, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said during a hastily called news conference Friday night.

The body was found floating in about 50 feet of water “a good five to six miles” from the Dermond’s home, which overlooks a cove in the Great Waters community about a dozen miles northeast of Eatonton.

The sheriff said the body was possibly in Greene County waters, but Putnam County most likely will retain jurisdiction in the case.

“Do I know for certain that this is the body of Shirley Dermond? I do not. ... But it does fit the physical description of her, the hair color, as well as some surgical scars that I am aware of,” Sills said. “So I am fairly confident that this is the body of Shirley Dermond.”

There was no “glaring sign of trauma” to the body, which Sills said may have been in the water since at least around the time Russell Dermond was killed earlier this month.

Sills said the woman’s body will be taken to the state crime lab in Atlanta, where a cause of death will be determined. Dental records will be used to identify her conclusively.

“It most definitely is a homicide,” he said.

Sills said he spoke to the Dermonds’ daughter and asked her to inform her two brothers of Friday’s discovery.

Finding the body does advance the case, he said.

“This jumps about two checkers up on the checkerboard, and ... it opens a whole new arena, shall we say, of the possibility of the criminals, or the probability of the criminals perpetrating the crime by boat,” he said.

Putnam deputies are “actively and aggressively” investigating the case involving the Dermonds, the first homicide victims in the county since 2009.

Searches for Shirley Dermond in and near the lake in the days after her husband’s body was found had proved fruitless.

Asked Friday if there was more that could have been done to search the lake, Sills said, “I suppose we could have called in the whole U.S. Navy.”

He added, “We’ve had DNR and our own boats on the water since the outset,” searching the 18,000-acre lake.

Sills described the Dermonds’ as-yet-unknown killer as “a homicidal individual that doesn’t deserve to breathe the air on this Earth.”

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service