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Great Waters investigation latest: Dermond couple's home released to family

Shirley and Russell Dermond pictured prior to their deaths with one of their grandsons.
Shirley and Russell Dermond pictured prior to their deaths with one of their grandsons.
Graham Patton Facebook

The million-dollar home where an elderly man was found slain and decapitated in a gated community in Georgia has now been released back to the victim's three adult children by the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, which is the investigating agency in the bizarre crime.

On May 22 the eldest son of the Dermond couple spoke with WSB TV via telephone, confirming to the news agency that the sheriff's office had turned the home back over to the family this week after an almost three-week search for clues following the slaying of his two parents Shirley and Russell Dermond in early May.

As one might expect, Keith Dermond commented on the mess the home was now in after law enforcement had searched it for clues and covered most of the interior with fingerprint dust. But he drew the line on commenting about the current investigation.

Crime scene processing, especially in a home where a homicide may have occurred, can require all kinds of materials and chemicals to be used to uncover blood a criminal attempted to clean up, fingerprints awaiting discovery, bullets shot through walls and footprints of dust left on carpeted floors. But if this processing isn't done, then the family may have no hope of a killer or killers being found, resulting in no justice for their murdered loved one.

So most people don't raise too much of a fuss about the return of their loved one's home in such a condition when it could help find their loved ones killer, especially if the family has homes of their own. And in the Reynolds Plantation couple's case, all three adult children live in other states, with none of them needing to immediately move back into the residence, since they never lived there in the first place. But now that the home was turned over to the family on Thursday, Keith Dermond says that the family is visiting their parent's home.

Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills told Liz Fabian of the Macon Telegraph on May 22 that the person responsible for this crime "was a particularly brutal savage," considering their ability to decapitate an 88-year-old man and throw his 87-year-old wife into the lake.

Yet for all the savagery attributed to this killer or killers, the crime scene appears to reflect the work of someone methodical enough to take precautionary acts that would hinder any evidence to aid investigators in capturing him or her--or so they think.

Forensic capabilities in today's society include such cutting edge items as the electrostatic dust print collector, dental stone casting material, cyanoacrylate fuming, phenophthalein testing, leucocrystal violet, ninhydrin, fingerprint dusting powder (like Keith Dermond complained about) and much more, which the federal agency assisting in the case is very well versed in, evidenced by their FBI Handbook of Forensic Services.

And the National Criminal Profiles Examiner Radell Smith has seen these tools of the trade up close and personal, so she knows that as soon as law enforcement has a suspect in their scope, then the evidence collected will not be in vain, aiding them in the prosecution side of the criminal justice system at some point. And that includes all the fingerprints collected at the luxury waterfront home, which resulted in a lot of fingerprint dust left behind, as well as any obtained from Shirley or Russell Dermond's body, as prints can be taken from a corpse, too.

So while the crime scene processing of the home is now complete, the search of the lake isn't, but could be a contaminated crime scene if Memorial Day vacationers flock to the area, as one might expect them to do. Hopefully, however, that area will be restricted a little while longer, so DNR can continue their sector scan, which the Eatonton Messenger reports can take as much as 11 hours to cover a three-mile area. And until that search is complete--and it yields some potential evidence of Mr. Dermond's missing head--a dive team will not be called in to search the bottom of the lake.

Sheriff Sills feels that at this stage in his investigation into the double homicide, he has covered all the forensic ground that is possible, collecting all the crime scene evidence obtainable, in as much as can be collected when they have not been able to locate Mr. Dermond's head, and since no one is sure if the Dermond's were murdered at their home community property or the victims of foul play at another primary scene.

In addition, interviews have been ongoing with residents at the Great Waters Reynolds Plantation, to the tune of 215 on Sunday, with future interviews expected for remaining property owners not currently in residence, or who left that meeting early--or didn't show up at all.

Now Sheriff Sills feels that the murder case of Russell and Shirley Dermond need that one break that could tip the scales in his and his departments favor: someone to come forward with new reliable information. And for that he told The Telegraph that he is seeking to find more funding to raise the reward money, hoping it drives someone to confess what they know.

Most crimes are solved by somebody telling somebody something. Somebody knows about this, and we want them to call us and tell us," the sheriff said.

And the sheriff is correct when he says most crimes are solved by a tip to police, like when another offender turns in a partner in crime, or when the spouse, family members, friends, coworkers or neighbors of a criminal notice changes in their behavior (or become suspicious of their possible involvement) and report it to law enforcement. And then there are also the criminals who suddenly confess, or the most likely scenario, which involves an offender coming to the attention of police during a routine stop for a minor traffic violation, like expired vehicle tags, and such.

And there is also the possibility an offender will be arrested for some other crime, maybe for the first time, suddenly adding their fingerprints into the National Crime Information Center database, which would result in an AFIS hit (fingerprint match) and help close the investigation.

So if you are a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor in the Putnam County community where the Dermond double homicide crime occurred, and you believe someone you know may have been involved, let the PCSO know about your suspicion. Many criminals have been apprehended in this way, and the sheriff's staff can determine if the suspicion is warranted or not. But you have to make the call, and that number is (706) 485-8557.

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