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Georgia decapitation murder profile: Psychiatrist says suspect is mentally ill

Missing Reynolds Plantation resident Shirley Dermond may have been abducted by a mentally ill man, according to one Piedmont Hospital psychiatrist.
Putnam County Sheriff's Office

Piedmont Hospital's Dr. Dave Davis, the medical facility's lead psychiatrist, believes that a mentally ill man between the ages of 20 and 40 is responsible for the murder of Russell Dermond, 88, and the disappearance of his wife Shirley Dermond, age 87, according to this May 10 update from Channel 9's WAFB.

The medical professional's profile, which points to a male offender believed to be bipolar, schizophrenic or paranoid schizophrenic, with a possible substance abuse disorder, is giving the family grim news as they hold out hope that their mother will be found on Mother's Day weekend.

But the profile does not appear to be based upon any forensic evidence to support the hypothesis, sadly, since it has not been stated that the medical practitioner was provided any of the crime scene or case file data from which to draw and support his conclusion. And it is this lack of factual basis for such a conclusion that is most concerning as police continue to search for clues.

John Douglas, one of the key FBI pioneers in the art and science of criminal profiling paints a very different picture about offenders who are mentally ill on his Mindhunters website compared to the Piedmont doctor, stating that his lengthy years of experience profiling criminals has taught him that when it comes to an organized crime scene (which is how the Dermond's scene is being portrayed) it is usually indicative of an offender "who knows right from wrong" and "who is not insane."

The Russell Dermond homicide crime scene (or at least the secondary crime scene, if the homicide and/or decapitation occurred elsewhere), has been referred to by police in press briefings as a scene in which there was no forced entry, no sign of a struggle, and a home so well maintained on the inside of it that the sheriff said you would wonder if anyone even lived in the Reynolds Plantation residence in Eatonton, Georgia.

Douglas says that with a mentally ill suspect you typically see a disorganized crime scene, or a mixed crime scene, which has some disorganized activity in conjunction with some evidence of an organized influence to it. But the person who abducted Shirley Dermond, and killed and decapitated her husband, had such mental acumen at the time of their crime that they managed to enter undetected onto the gated community where the victims lived, as well as exit the property with Shirley Dermond in tow, and leave no discernible evidence behind that would tie them to the crime by police.

In addition, the perpetrator remains at large, is still unidentified by police, and appears quite able to keep Ms. Dermond's whereabouts a complete mystery to everyone in Putnam County and beyond based on the limited knowledge law enforcement has about him or her.

Does that sound like someone with a mental illness like paranoid schizophrenia? A condition which has the potential (but not always) to render the individual in such a state of psychosis that they lose all ability to reason or think coherently, let alone plot a crime in advance and one this detailed? Not likely. But the FBI is assisting on the case, and it is believed that a behavioral specialist will be providing assistance soon, too, by creating a criminal profile.

Catherine Zeta Jones has publicly admitted in the past to having one of the mental illnesses that Dr. Davis is listing as a possible condition of the Putnam County suspect: bipolar disorder. Jones admitted her bipolar disorder condition in the past in an effort to help reduce the very stigma Dr. Davis' profile may now help induce to a greater extent. But the female celebrity and wife of Michael Douglas has never murdered an elderly man and decapitated his head as a result of her mental illness condition. And neither have a lot of other people with that mental illness diagnosis, who function and live nonviolently in the world every day.

Therefore, Dr. Davis' profile of the suspect in the Georgia decapitation and abduction case borders on malpractice when one considers he is fostering an image that all those with such a medical condition are capable of also becoming like the alleged killer and abductor in the Georgia homicide case.

Therefore, just as racial profiling has, justly, created an outcry of disgust from the general public about the destructive cost of lumping people in a unwarranted category, so should the same outcry result when all criminals are deemed to be "mentally ill," without evidence or facts that support that hypothesis, especially when the crime scene appears to have been influenced by an organized offender, not a disorganized one.

If Dr. Davis has any doubt, let him consider the California serial killer Herbert Mullin, who was a paranoid schizophrenic that went around murdering people he did not know. Mullin left behind an extremely disorganized crime scene during his violent out-of-touch with reality killings. And that does not match up with the pristine and everything-in-its-place crime setting Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills is reporting existed at the Dermond's residence.

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