New DNA Evidence Could Crack Brutal Cold Case Murders of Elderly Georgia Couple Russell and Shirley Dermond

The brutal murders of an elderly Georgia couple have haunted the local sheriff for nine years. Russell Dermond was beheaded. HIs wife, Shirley, was tied to concrete blocks and dumped in a lake.

New DNA evidence may finally help solve the gruesome killings of elderly couple Russell and Shirley Dermond, nine long years after someone cut off Russell's head and tied the remains of Shirley to cinder blocks and dumped her body in a lake.

Howard Sills, the sheriff of Georgia's Putnam County, has vowed to never stop investigating the horrible deaths. His latest hope for a new lead is DNA evidence discovered by a cutting-edge genetic testing lab.

"I'm optimistic about it. The company has a tremendous reputation," Sills told WMAZ-TV earlier this week. The sheriff hand-carried boxes of evidence to the Texas firm, which was able to obtain a hit for DNA.

Further testing must be done to determine the source, Sills said. And he is carefully cautious about what it may uncover.

"Now, this could be this could very well be the Dermonds' DNA," Sills told the station. "Or some officer possibly even left his DNA," he said. 

The bizarre case has haunted Sills since he first began investigating the deaths of Russell, 88, and his wife, Shirley, 87, who lived in an affluent, gated community of Great Waters on the shores of Lake Oconee.

Most folks in the exclusive subdivision are retirees, as were the Dermonds. Sills has been the sheriff of rural Putman County for more than two decades. But he has never seen a case as horrible as the Dermond killings.

"It's very, very frustrating," Sills told Inside Edition Digital in 2018. "Very troubling. I get up every morning and I think about this case."

There are no witnesses, no fingerprints and no known motive. Neighbors discovered the body of Russell in his garage. His head has never been found.

Days later, fishermen discovered Shirley's bloated remains six miles away, in deep waters of Lake Oconee. Her head had been bashed in and her ankles were tied to 30-pound cinder blocks.

"There was no sign of a struggle" at the Dermond house, Sills told Inside Edition Digital. "It was obvious to me that the decapitation had been done post-mortem ... If you've ever seen an arterial wound, it spurts blood everywhere and we didn't have that there."

Towels had been placed around the blood pooling from Russell's body so it wouldn't seep under the garage door and out onto the driveway, the sheriff said. 

"They made a little makeshift dam. They definitely did not want anyone to see that for several days and they certainly succeeded," Sills said.

The sheriff and investigators went over and over the evidence they collected after the May 2014 murders. "We kept that house as a crime scene, and processed it, and worked on it and looked for fingerprints and used Luminol and lasers and things like that ... We'd do it, and I'd have my people go back and tell them to do it again," Sills told Inside Edition Digital four years later.

The FBI contributed to the investigation. Neighbors and relatives were interviewed. No one had any idea why the couple had been killed. Nearby residents hadn't seen or heard anything amiss in the days leading up to the bodies being discovered.

"It's the most frustrating case of my career," Sills said. "It truly bothers me."

Fast-forward to this week, and the new DNA testing. Sills told WMAZ-TV this is the only unsolved murder in his 29-year career as sheriff. He says he still thinks about the case every day, and is still determined to solve it.

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