Dermond slayings expected to affect Memorial weekend on Lake Oconee

lfabian@macon.comMay 24, 2014 

The sun might be shining, but a dark cloud lingers over Lake Oconee this Memorial Day weekend - the unsovled slayings of Russell and Shirley Dermond.

The visible signs of the brutal crime might be out of sight, but the murders are not out of mind.

When Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills released the retired couple’s property back to the family, the crime scene tape came down Thursday.

Since the May 6 discovery of Russell Dermond’s headless body in his garage, recreational boaters have been cruising the Great Waters cove where the retired couple lived.

With Memorial Day weekend launching boating season, Sills expects more gawkers.

“We certainly have had that happen so far, so it wouldn’t surprise me,” Sills said.

His deputies will be patrolling the lake as usual for the kickoff of summer and will make sure there is no trespassing onto the Dermond property, he warned.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources also will be on the water, said Capt. Mark Padgett, Region 3 supervisor.

No places are off-limits in the wake of killings, he said, including the spot where Shirley Dermond’s body was retrieved May 16.

DNR crews began searching the lake soon after the first body was found, and although they suspended regular searches for other evidence earlier this week, the rangers are still thinking about the case.

“We’ll be on the lake patrolling all weekend,” Padgett said. “We’ll ride through there to see if anything would surface.”

Sills realizes most of those out enjoying the lake also will be mindful of what happened and will be on the lookout for anything unusual.

“I hate to be graphic, or sound crude, but we’re still looking for Mr. Dermond’s head,” Sills said. “If that’s seen out there, or something like that is seen, we need to know.”

After 18 straight days of long days, Sills was taking his first break from the case Saturday to help a former colleague celebrate a milestone.

“We’ve done about all we can do,” he tiredly said Saturday morning.

He also gave his investigators the weekend off because the case is now focused on paper trails, legal filings and tracking down leads in the business community that’s shut down until Tuesday. Although Sills knows the respite is healthy for all who have been living and breathing the case nearly every waking moment, he would prefer to be researching a major break in the case that would find the killer.

“I suspect we’re going to be getting a lot of calls from people who see something that ain’t nothing,” he said.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call 706-485-8557.

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303

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