After 10 years of probing double-homicide at Lake Oconee, new evidence comes to light

May 1—EATONTON, Ga. — It's been 10 long years since the brutal slayings of Russell and Shirley Dermond at their million-dollar home in Great Waters, a plush gated community at Reynolds of Lake Oconee in Putnam County.

Although no one has ever been arrested for the couple's killings, it doesn't mean the case has grown cold.

In recent days, the man who has spent the last decade of his life trying to solve the complex case, Putnam County Sheriff Howard R. Sills, has learned there may be new DNA evidence that could lead to a possible suspect.

"Ten years is a long time and the 10th anniversary only reminds me that I haven't solved this case," Sills told reporters in his Putnam County Sheriff's Office on Monday. "That's the only thing it reminds me of, and that does not make me happy at all, not that there's anything to be happy about in a double-homicide case."

Sills said the case has been "very frustrating" because he has not apprehended the person or people responsible for the killings of the elderly couple, who were in their 80s.

"This is not a pleasant memory at all; nothing about it," Sills said.

But there is encouraging news of late from a private laboratory in Utah that might link DNA evidence from the home and garage to a possible suspect.

Last year, Sills said that he packed all of the physical evidence he had in the case into his Chevrolet Suburban and then drove to Houston, Texas.

"It was actually to The Woodlands, as they call it," Sills said. "It's an unincorporated community north of Houston in Harris County where that lab is located. I sat down with their people, showed them the crime scene, and let them pick out the physical evidence. And they found DNA."

Additional STR testing, which is a common type of DNA profiling used in criminal cases, was required.

"And only the FBI or a company they partner with called Sorenson Forensics in Salt Lake City, (Utah) could do it," Sills said.

Sills said he gathered some additional items of evidence that he had in the evidence room of the sheriff's office regarding the case and took those to the lab near Salt Lake City.

He said he had a similar meeting with their staff like he had with the staff at the private laboratory in Houston.

In February, Sills said he went back to Houston with additional evidence, picked up some of the evidence they had connected with the double-homicide case and took all of the items to Draper, Utah.

Asked what type of items were taken, Sills said he didn't wish to discuss such in detail.

"But things, articles that we know the perpetrator or perpetrators had to have handled," Sills said.

The sheriff was also asked about a lamp that was taken to the lab from the living room of the Dermond home.

"I can tell you that I took a lamp," Sills said. "It was a typical table lamp, three feet tall, and 15 inches in diameter that I had to purchase a separate seat for with the airlines."

When Sills and other law enforcement authorities first saw the lamp, it was located in the garage of the Dermond home where Russell Dermond's headless body laid on the floor.

Sills assumes the lamp was removed from inside the home and taken into the garage to provide more light, apparently to aid the killer or killers as they decapitated Russell Dermond, a World War II veteran.

Sills said the lamp was "very" close to Dermond's body.

Last Tuesday afternoon, he received some encouraging news from Sorensen Forensics.

It came in the form of an email.

"There was 170 pages of stuff that I could read, but not comprehend," Sills said. "The bottom line is we do now have DNA other than the DNA of Russell and Shirley Dermond."

The sheriff then held up the extensive report to show reporters the thickness of the report.

Authorities believe Dermond was shot to death somewhere other than where his corpse was found about three days after he was murdered.

His wife, Shirley, was originally thought to have been kidnapped. The theory turned out to be wrong. Her body appeared on the Greene County side of Lake Oconee where two men were fishing 10 days later.

A sizable reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the double-homicide. Anyone with information is asked to call the Putnam County Sheriff's Office in Eatonton at 706-485-8557.