The sheriff leading the investigation into the gruesome slayings of an elderly Eatonton couple said he believes the victims knew their killers.
“They were at least minimally acquainted with whoever did this,” Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Tuesday. “That’s an assumption, coupled with some physical evidence.”
Two fishermen recovered the body of 87-year-old Shirley Dermond — missing for two weeks — Friday afternoon near Wallace Dam in Lake Oconee. She had been dumped in one of the deepest parts of the lake but was discovered hung up in the underwater tree line. Her 88-year-old husband’s decapitated body was found May 6 in the garage of the couple’s home, located about 80 miles southeast of Atlanta. His head remains missing.
Sills said he is certain the killers accessed the Dermonds’ property by water. Both the sheriff and FBI profilers who’ve examined the case believe there at least two people involved in a crime that’s riveted middle Georgia and beyond.
Surveillance cameras on and off the lake may end up providing some much-needed leads. Sills said some video footage captured May 2 and 3 has been sent to the FBI for further examination.
No one’s been ruled out as a suspect, save for some yard workers who have been interviewed and, in some cases, polygraphed, he said.
“I’ve put a lot of people in my scope, but none in the cross hairs,” Sills said.
That includes the Dermonds’ three adult children.
“I’ve never eliminated them,” he said, though he cautioned there’s no evidence linking them to the slayings.
The sheriff has all but eliminated the idea that some sort of ritualistic cult was involved.
“If that was the case, they’d want us to know,” he said.
There’s conflicting signs that the killings were the work of professionals.
“For everything that looks professional, there’s something that isn’t,” Sills said. “This is not the work of some drug-crazed individuals, and this is not some professional assassin.”
Nothing has surfaced that would indicate the Dermonds ever associated with such people.
“I’ve looked at every check he’s written the last 10 years, every credit card receipt, and there’s nothing that looks out of the ordinary or unusual,” Sills said.