Struggling to find a lead in Putnam Co. murder

PUTNAM COUNTY, Ga. – Friday marks day four of the investigation of a grisly murder in Putnam County. A man was found beheaded in his garage, both his head and his wife are nowhere to be found.

Investigators say they still at square one – and not for a lack of activity. Investigators have searched on land and in water for anything to put them in the right direction.

Right now, this is a case lacking an explanation, and a community lacking closure.

"There's been a lot of people probably lost a lot of sleep over this," said coroner Gary McElhenney.

McElhenney is not just the Putnam County Coroner – he is a life-long resident.

"It's shaken everybody up," he said. "It's just something you don't think will happen in Putnam County."

What's happened since the murder of 88-year-old Russell Dermond and the disappearance of his 87-year-old wife Shirley has been just as unsettling.

Investigators spent Friday going through cell phones and contact lists. Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills was in conferences all morning with other agencies. Deputies went diving into Lake Oconee today to try to find the body, but to no avail.

The experience has left nearby residents baffled and more cautious.

"We make sure all the doors are locked and secure, in case something like that was to happen again," said Lake Oconee resident Ryan Mosley.

As the week wraps up, the case is not much closer to being solved. Those involved in the investigation are trying to remain positive.

"You feel like you want to do and you can't do because there's nothing to grab hold and do, if you know what I mean. It's baffling," McElhenney said. "I know the family needs some closure more than anything."

11Alive's Matt Pearl says investigators told they are struggling to find even a strong lead. "I'm told, every time they do and then look into it, the lead kind of disappears."

Investigators said that Shirley Dermond's picture will be posted on billboards across the state in hopes of generating leads.


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