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Lake Oconee double murder probe turns to NY for clues

A grisly killing in Westchester Co. New York leads investigators to Lake Oconee Georgia, and vice versa
Russell and Shirley Dermond

EATONTON, GA-- There may be new light shed on the grisly murder of an elderly Lake Oconee couple eighteen months ago. It comes from an unsolved murder in New York just last month. 11Alive News has learned investigators in both cases are collaborating and comparing their numerous similarities.

The unsolved double murder on Lake Oconee is one of the most unusual and horrifying in Georgia crime annals. When Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills learned about the November killing of 83-year-old Lois Colley in North Salem New York, he felt like he'd heard the story before.

"Very wealthy people. A lady at her residence was found beaten to death at her home. Nothing was taken. No sign of forced entry," Sills recounted in an interview Thursday. He said investigators in New York working that case called the Putnam County sheriff's office this week.

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They were trying to learn all they could about the killing of Russell and Shirley Dermond. The couple had lived quietly in a gated community on Lake Oconee. In May 2014, a friend found 88-year-old Russell Dermond murdered and decapitated in his home. Fishermen found 87-year-old Shirley Dermond's body weighted down with cinder blocks in the lake two weeks later.

The ties between the Georgia and New York cases are circumstantial.

  • Both cases have wealthy, elderly victims, found brutally murdered inside their homes
  • Both cases have no apparent motive
  • Both homes had no sign of forced entry
  • Both victims lived in exclusive communities
  • Both victims owned fast food franchises
  • Both murders are unsolved.

There's one other potential tie: Russell and Shirley Dermond's son Mark Dermond. He was killed during a street level drug deal in Atlanta 15 years ago. Sheriff Sills says in the 1980s Mark Dermond was arrested in Nassau County New York – some fifty miles from the November crime scene.

"I talked to that detective two days ago probably for 45 minutes or an hour comparing everything in their case, everything in our case," Sills said.

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Sills says his gut says the two unsolved killings are unrelated. But if there's an arrest in New York, he says he will be anxious to learn everything he can about the suspect -- and whether he was in Georgia in May 2014.

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