The Putnam County sheriff confirmed Thursday that the elderly man whose body was found inside his million-dollar lakefront home on Lake Oconee had been decapitated.
"His head is still missing," said Sheriff Howard Sills of 88-year-old Russell Dermond. Police said Russell Dermond's head was cut off after he was dead and the cause of death was blunt force trauma.
Authorities continue to search for the victim's wife, 87-year-old wife Shirley Dermond, who detectives believe has been kidnapped. "I sure hope she's still alive, but I'm not overly optimistic due to her husband," said Sills.
The DNR used sonar equipment to search the lake in the immediate vicinity of the home, but nothing turned up.
Sills said that friends of the Dermonds became worried about the couple when they didn't show up to a party last weekend.
"They didn't arrive. They didn't answer the phone," Sills said.
The couple's friends went to the home and made the discovery.
"The body was found in the garage," Sills said. "It's clear it was a homicide."
Shirley Dermond was nowhere to be found, the sheriff said. Her purse and both of the couple's cars were still at the house.
"We still approach this as if she was abducted," Sills said.
The Dermond home is in Great Water, a Reynolds Plantation's property on Lake Oconee. It's a gated community with a 24-hour security guard at the entrance.
"There's obviously concern and surprise," said Kari Wires, who has lived in the for a year.
Wires said she doesn't feel threatened, but she is worried.
"To have this happen, not just in this community but so close to home, makes everyone a little bit jumpy, a little unsettled," Wires said.
Authorities said it is possible that the victims knew the attacker. The sheriff said that investigators are looking into various possibilities, including whether the killers gained access to the property by boat.
Reverend David Key, who has been the couple's pastor for eight years, said he can't imagine what happened. "They're a wonderful couple, unassuming couple, never had any drama around them." He said they once owned 35 Wendy's restaurants but have been retired for 20 years.
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