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Sheriff: 'A Lot of Fear' As Search For Suspects in Georgia Beheading, Kidnapping Case Continues

The FBI is now offering a $20K reward as investigators plan to use a submarine to search a lake as mystery deepens.

The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to Shirley Dermond’s recovery. File|Patch
The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to Shirley Dermond’s recovery. File|Patch

By Deb Belt

Lake Oconee, Ga. – Polygraph tests have been administered to workers and a reward is now being offered for leads in the search for the killer of an elderly man and the suspects who then kidnapped his wife.

Shirley Dermond, 87, hasn't been seen in more than a week. Investigators think she was kidnapped when her 88-year-old husband, Russell, was murdered and beheaded at their home. His body was found May 6.

The FBI is involved in the case that has stumped investigators. The Dermonds lived in a gated community with security and there was no signs of forced entry into the home.

According to WSB-TV, friends of Russell and Shirley Dermond went to the couple's home May 6 and discovered his body. Russell Dermond's head was not found at the Reynolds Plantation crime scene, the station reports.

Authorities say Russell Dermond, the retired owner of fast food restaurants, was killed on May 2 or 3 and his wife kidnapped. Investigators are finding it hard to track Shirley Dermond because her wallet, cellphone, purse and car were all left behind, the sheriff said.

Maintenance workers with access inside Reynolds Plantation were given polygraph tests that turned up nothing new, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

After searches on land and water came up empty, the FBI announced it is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to Shirley Dermond’s recovery.

Deputies and officers from seven local agencies, along with the FBI, on Wednesday searched about six acres of vacant land across the street from the Dermond home, but turned up nothing.

Meanwhile, the Department of Natural Resources will use a submarine robot to again look for clues in a section of Lake Oconee near the crime scene.

Sheriff Sills told the newspaper the biggest challenge has been interviewing nervous friends and neighbors of the Dermonds. 

“I’ve never dealt with a case where so many people were reluctant to talk,” he said. “They’re reluctant because they’re afraid they’re going to get their heads cut off. There’s a lot of fear.”

Earlier in the week, electronic billboards in south Georgia began showing ads asking for information about the grisly case.

Fairway Outdoor Advertising is running a plea for tips in the Dermond case on four billboards in the Albany area and two in Valdosta, reports WALB TV. The ads show Shirley Dermond's picture, announce a reward for information, and ask that tips be called in to the FBI at 404-679-9000 or the Putnam County Sheriff's Office at 706-485-8557.

Shirley Dermond stands at 5 feet, 2 inches tall, weighs 148 pounds and has grey hair and blue eyes. 

Patch's earlier coverage:

Billboards Seek Tips in Beheading of Husband, Disappearance of Elderly Wife

Police: Husband Beheaded, Wife May Have Been Kidnapped

Vigil Set for Beheaded Man, Kidnapped Wife

Richard Light May 16, 2014 at 08:27 PM
This was updated. Woman was found in lake today.
mr magoo May 20, 2014 at 01:06 PM
She looks like such a nice person - this is terrible. how could that happen with all those gun nuts around GA? where's the good guy with gun when needed? They had money and could afford AK47s - why is anyone inside a gated community afraid to talk? More firepower and gun freedom would prevent this right?
Einstein June 15, 2014 at 05:33 PM
Mr. Magoo... I agree.

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