In the latest update to the Russell and Shirley Dermond double homicide case, more than two dozen FBI agents and twice as many sheriff's deputies joined with Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills and sheriff's from two other counties in order to hold one of the largest simultaneous group interviews in a criminal investigation in the state of Georgia.
On May 20, a day after the 215-person interview was conducted in a tent and the clubhouse at the Great Waters Rivers Plantation community, Sheriff Sills told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that "we weren't questioning people as suspects" when residents of the gated community were gathered together for the 5 p.m. meeting. But he left little doubt that in his mind, "that we might develop one out of it."
Using terminology that might not be considered politically correct in this gun control era, he also stated to the AJC that, "I've put a lot of people in my scope, but none in the cross hairs," when pinned down to name a suspect or two.
Three potential suspects, of course, remain the victim's adult children--Keith Dermond, Bradley Dermond and their sister Leslie Patton Dermond--with the sheriff stating emphatically that "I've never eliminated them (as suspects)," in this investigation; However, there is also no evidence at this time linking either of them to the terrible slaying.
And the owners of 599 parcels of property where the elderly Dermond victims resided are also open to suspicion as well, at this point, because they have also not been officially eliminated as such. But like the victim's children, there is no evidence to suggest any of them are guilty at this time either. But in a case like this, where there are limited forensic clues to point to a particular killer, everyone has to remain a suspect until the sheriff and his deputies can prove otherwise.
Sunday night one such neighbor told the Macon Telegraph that they were asked to answer about 30 questions ranging from where they were on the dates law enforcement believe the elderly couple were killed to whether or not they have security video surveillance at their homes, which could assist the sheriff in his investigation.
Residents at the luxury home community who were not in attendance for the massive manpower display on Sunday, or who left prior to the interviews, can expect a visit from investigators in the near future, the sheriff said, because "I know who didn't come, and I know who left early." And he knows that each homeowner must be contacted in order to get all the case information he needs to provide justice for the victims. And what neighbor would not want to help him with that?
In advance of the almost three hours of questioning, Sheriff Sills brought residents up to date on the case, which included the need to remind residents that "this is not the work of some drug-crazed individuals, and this is not some professional assassin." And to help them people understand why he knows that, he told the AJC that "he had looked at every check (Russell Dermond) had written the last 10 years, every credit card receipt and there's nothing that looks out of the ordinary or unusual."
There was nothing to suggest any illegal or criminal activity from anything he has seen thus far in the backgrounds of the couple. And to make the case even more difficult, he said that "for everything that looks professional (about the killing), there's something that isn't." And that is partially why the FBI profilers and the sheriff have come to the conclusion that there were two killers, rather than one.
Sheriff Sill also stated that despite Keith Dermond believing a cult may be to blame for his parents' murders, he doesn't think so because "if that was the case, they'd want us to know," he told the AJC.
For now, anyone with any information about the activities of Russell and Shirley Dermond between May 2 and May 4 are asked to come forward and contact the Putnam County Sheriff's Office at (706) 485-8557 or Stephen Emmett at the FBI Atlanta Field Office at (404) 679-9000. A reward of $20,000 leading to the apprehension and arrest of the suspects in the slaying is being offered.