Briefs: 2014 Lake Oconee unresolved double murder featured on HLN; CNN ratings; Kevin Hart’s next Netflix special prepped in Atlanta

On May 6, 2014, neighbors found Russell Dermond's decapitated body inside the garage. The body of his wife Shirley was discovered 10 days later floating in Lake Oconee. Christian Boone / cboone@ajc.com
On May 6, 2014, neighbors found Russell Dermond's decapitated body inside the garage. The body of his wife Shirley was discovered 10 days later floating in Lake Oconee. Christian Boone / cboone@ajc.com

Credit: Christian Boone

Credit: Christian Boone

HLN’s show “Real Life Nightmare” debuted an episode Sunday night focused on the unsolved 2014 Lake Oconee double murder of retired couple Russell and Shirley Dermond, a case that has befuddled law enforcement and family members even years later.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Christian Boone is featured as an expert in the episode, and he summarized what many have been thinking: “What was the motive here? Why these two people? Why this elderly couple who retired with no known enemies? They were grandparents. They were as normal as you can get."

“No thread of anything that makes any sense,” added Dermond’s son Brad.

What made this murder particularly gruesome and unusual was the decapitation of Russell Dermond, who was 88 years old. A neighbor found him in the garage after wondering why they hadn’t connected with anybody for four days. Russell’s head was never found.

Shirley was not in the garage and presumed kidnapped. The home showed no signs of violence or a break-in. There was nothing that appeared to be stolen.

Ten days later, Shirley’s decomposed body was found in the lake 5 miles away with serious blunt trauma to her head, likely from a hammer. The authorities believe more than one person was involved.

Unfortunately, the sole witness couldn’t really describe in any detail who was in Dermond’s yard during the likely day of their deaths.

The Durmonds lived in Great Waters Reynolds Plantation, a gated community with a private security force. Crime is almost non-existent there.

The episode noted that this murder looked personal, so family members were suspects, but there were no viable links or motives regarding any of the children. There appeared to be no sour business associates from Russell’s past or clear financial irregularities. Forensic evidence did not clarify anything.

A determined Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills continues to work the case. He believes whoever killed them did it on purpose. He said he needs someone who knows something to call him for this case to break. “I think about this case every day,” he said during the episode. “It’s a personal challenge.”

The current reward leading to the arrest of the perpetrator or perpetrators is $55,300.

The episode is available on-demand for anyone who subscribes to a service that provides HLN.

***

Wolf Blitzer at 11:24 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, announcing Joe Biden projected as president of the United States. Photo: CNN
Wolf Blitzer at 11:24 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, announcing Joe Biden projected as president of the United States. Photo: CNN

Credit: CNN

Credit: CNN

CNN, which still has huge operations in Atlanta, saw sky-high ratings this year leading up to the election, peaking with the election itself.

In a memo to staff Monday, CNN chief Jeff Zucker noted how big the ratings got for the network as people watched the results roll in:

“Last week was our most-watched week ever, Zucker wrote. “More people watched the election coverage on CNN than any other network, cable or broadcast. We had five of our most-watched 10 days in history last week.”

CNN’s digital page also hit record numbers.

On Saturday, when CNN was first to announce Biden was projected to win, the network averaged 4.2 million viewers throughout the day. MSNBC was second with 3 million and Fox News Channel at 1.73 million.

When Biden spoke Saturday night, CNN drew 13.6 million viewers, followed by 8.5 million for MSNBC and 3 million for Fox.

***

Kevin Hart’s next stand-up special “Zero {Expletives] Given” is coming out on Netflix Nov. 17. The special was taped in Los Angeles before a live audience in September.

Hart in February into early March was shooting a film in Atlanta and spent several evenings testing material for his next Netflix special at Laughing Skull Lounge in Midtown. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution attended one of his shows, and many of Hart’s jokes centered around being middle-aged and recovering from a nasty accident last year that left the usually super busy man stuck at home for weeks to recuperate.

But the pandemic cut short the actor’s plan to do at least 60 nights at a place that only seats 80.

He also caught the coronavirus around that time, so there’s no doubt he will have plenty of fresh pandemic-related material in the new special.

He did practice jokes before live audiences at Dave Chappelle’s socially distanced outdoor summer shows over the summer. Hart explained at one of the shows why he didn’t reveal he had the virus at the time he got it. “The problem is that I had it around the same time as Tom Hanks, and I couldn’t say anything because he’s more famous than I am,” he said, according to the New York Post.

The fate of Hart’s Atlanta-produced Quibi show “Die Hart,” where he plays a spoof version of himself wanting to be an action hero, is unknown since the streaming service is now dead. Before the Quibi death announcement, the show had been renewed for a second season, so it’s possible the producers may shop the project elsewhere.

About the Author

ajc.com

In Other News