May 6, 2024 - News

New DNA evidence discovered in unsolved Lake Oconee killings

Side by side photos of a senior man and woman overset on an image of a driveway leading to a tan colored home with an open garage door.

The Lake Oconee home where Russell Dermond (left) and his wife Shirley Dermond (right) lived. Credit: Christian Boone/Courtesy of the AJC

DNA evidence and technology could yield new leads in the decade-old unsolved murders of a wealthy Lake Oconee couple, investigators say.

Why it matters: The shocking May 2014 killings of Russell and Shirley Dermond, both in their late 80s, rattled the affluent gated community one hour east of Atlanta.

Catch up quick: Ten years ago this month, a friend discovered the headless body of Russell in the garage of the couple's $1 million lakefront home. Ten days later, a fisherman discovered Shirley's body in the lake.

  • Investigators ruled out robbery or burglary, and the lack of motive in the case has puzzled family members, law enforcement and true crime aficionados.

The latest: Newly discovered DNA on evidence found near Russell's body does not belong to him, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, a cigar-chomping character straight out of central casting, told WSB in late April. A Texas lab is now analyzing the material.

  • FBI Special Agent Andy Smith told the outlet that investigators are using advances in analyzing cellular data linked to devices that might have been used near the crime scene.

Yes, but: Sills could not confirm whether investigators have enough DNA material to run through a national database or genealogical search — or whether it belongs to a potential suspect.

State of play: The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer or killers.

Read AJC's coverage on the new evidence, Sheriff Sills and the Dermond family


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