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Photo Gallery | Photos: Aerial views of Dermond home on Lake Oconee

Putnam County's Coroner Gary P. McElhenney confirmed that the 88-year-old man killed in an apparent homicide-abduction was beheaded, but couldn't give any further details.

The sheriff says Russell Dermond's death in his $1 million lakefront home was targeted and not a random crime.

And Sheriff Howard Sills says they're investigating whether the killer entered from the lake.

"Absolutely it's possible,"said Sills. "This is a huge lake, it spans four counties and entry could've been made by the lake."

Putnam investigators are trying to find out who killed Russell Dermond and apparently abducted his wife, Shirley. Dermond was found dead in his garage Tuesday morning.

Wednesday night, Sheriff Sills refuted rumors that Shirley Dermond's body had been found.

Sills said Shirley Dermond is not a suspect. The physical evidence does not suggest an 87-year-old woman could have committed the crime, he said.

"The body was moved, and I just don't think an 87-year-old lady can do it. She's gone, her personal effects are still at the house. The totality of what we're seeing here leaves me to believe she was abducted and not a suspect. but I'm never going to say never until I know differently."

Sills described the Dermonds' home, in the gated Great Waters community at Reynolds Plantation as a "very, very expensive home" in an idyllic neighborhood.

He said there appears to be no forced entry nor any sign of a fight at the home.

There was also no sign of anything missing. "We don't have a ransacked house or anything like that."

"We're approaching this as an abduction, but let me say without hesitation that when you have one party murdered, there's certainly imminent danger at a minimum if not she's been killed herself."

On whether neighbors should be worried: "This is certainly, I think, an isolated incident. This neighborhood is crime-free. ... I don't think it was random."

He said they've searched the lake with sonar devices but haven't found anything.

"We have no more reason to believe this crime was perpetrated by water than by land," he said.

Three of the Dermond's children arrived at the home Wednesday night after traveling from Florida and North Carolina. That's according to our sister station WXIA in Atlanta. One of the couple's sons refused comment, but when asked if he wanted to wish for his mother's safe return, he replied, "Yes, I want them to bring my mother home."

The relatives were taken to the Carolyn Drive home to help investigators look for clues.


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