Reward fund established in death of elderly Eatonton couple

A $30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the killers of an elderly Eatonton couple has been established, a first for the veteran sheriff leading the investigation.

In a letter sent out Monday, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills announced that Reynolds Plantation — the exclusive lakefront community where Russell and Shirley Dermond lived — has donated $30,000 to the reward fund. He asked his constituents to contribute as well.

The decapitated body of Russell Dermond, 88, was found last month by neighbors in the couple’s garage. Eleven days later, his 87-year-old wife’s body was recovered from Lake Oconee.

Sills said he’s never solicited for a reward before in his 40 years in law enforcement but believes establishing one now “may well be the thing that will enable us to break this very difficult case.”

“I have found rewards at the onset of an investigation often become counterproductive and hinder the course of an investigation,” Sills said.

Leads have been tough to come by in case that’s confounded investigators.

Sills said he doesn’t believe the killers were professionals and thinks the Dermonds were at least “minimally acquainted” with their assailants. Both the sheriff and FBI profilers who have examined the case believe there are at least two people involved.

Video footage from surveillance cameras on and off Lake Oconee captured between May 2 and 3 — when the slayings occurred — has been sent to the FBI for further examination.

The reward fund was set up through The Peoples Bank, and anyone wishing to contribute can do so at any of the bank’s branch offices.

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