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GBI releases Dermond bodies to family, sheriff returns belongings

Fingerprint powders used at a crime scene can leave behind permanent damage to some items, despite law enforcement's best efforts to prevent it.
Fingerprint powders used at a crime scene can leave behind permanent damage to some items, despite law enforcement's best efforts to prevent it.
Minnesota Dept. of Public Safety

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has completed their forensic exams and autopsy of the bodies of Russell and Shirley Dermond, the elderly Great Waters Reynolds Plantation residents killed sometime in early May, according to Sheriff Sills in a May 23 WMAZ update on the double homicide investigation.

This will enable a private funeral ceremony to now be held by the family after waiting for at least two weeks to learn the fate of their missing mother, whose body was found in Lake Oconee one week ago today.

A portion of Russell Dermond's corpse has still not been recovered; however, and Sheriff Sills told 13WMAZ's Anita Oh that "not to be graphic, but we are still looking for the head." He hopes the increased lake activity during Memorial Day weekend aids investigators and DNR with that find because, while they will be on the water like others this weekend, they will not be there to actively search the lake.

Sheriff Sills also said he released the Dermond's luxury waterfront home to the three adult children of the murdered couple this week and now he plans to return some of the victim's belongings to them on Friday. But he did not elaborate on what those items are, which typically refers to personal effects on a victim's body (or items removed from a crime scene, like their home) that may not be needed now as evidence.

Keith Dermond, the victims' eldest son remarked about the state of the Great Waters home after it was released as a crime scene, complaining about the fingerprint dust left behind. And that is one unfortunate aspect of a criminal homicide investigation, since police try to recover fingerprints from porous and nonporous objects in a home, requiring the use of black and white powders and other products that can lead to the inability to thoroughly remove them (or the stains they leave behind) from precious and treasured items or those of sentimental value.

However, to not take every opportunity available right after a crime to preserve all possible evidence for future use would be akin to professional neglect by the sheriff and other police agencies, so it is a hazard of the job. But it is a task the Dermond's children will be thankful was done in the end, after the killer(s) are caught and brought to justice, which Sheriff Sills says will come about sooner if someone from the community at large will speak up about what they know--or possibly saw between May 2-3, when the victims are believed to have been killed.

If you know anything about this double homicide in Putnam County, please contact the sheriff's office at (706) 485-8557 or the FBI Atlanta Field Office Special Agent Stephen Emmett at (404) 679-9000. A reward of $20,000 is being offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those guilty of this "brutal evil savage" crime.