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Man, 88, Beheaded, His Wife Missing From Home in Gated Georgia Community

Putnam County sheriff calls crime in resort community on Lake Oconee the "strangest" of his career.
Image: Police are at the house where a man was discovered beheaded in Putnam County, Ga.
Sheriff's investigators comb the house of Russell and Shirley Dermond on Tuesday in Putnam County, Ga.11Alive

Authorities in Georgia are investigating the brutal murder of an 88-year-old man in his home in a gated golf course community and searching for his 87-year-old wife, who they suspect has been kidnapped.

Russell Dermond’s headless body was discovered in the garage of his lakefront home on Lake Oconee on Tuesday by neighbors who grew concerned after he and his wife, Shirley, failed to show up for a Kentucky Derby party on Saturday, WXIA, NBC News’ Atlanta affiliate, reported.

Sheriff’s deputies who responded to the call found no sign of Shirley Dermond, though her purse and phone were left behind. So, too, were the couple's cars.

Nor could they locate Russell Dermond’s head, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.

Image: Russell Dermond and his wife Shirley
Russell Dermond and his wife, ShirleyPutnam County Sheriff's Office via AP

Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills called the case “the strangest” of his career at a news conference Thursday.

"The only one who's not a suspect is me because I know where I was," he said.

Sills said that the couple, who had been married for 68 years, was last heard from on Thursday, and that investigators believe the crime occurred sometime between Friday and Sunday. He said he did not believe it was a random attack, noting that there was no sign of forced entry or a struggle.

Nor does he consider Shirley Dermond a suspect.

"The body was moved, and I just don't think an 87-year-old lady can do it," he said.

Sills said the couple, who have three grown children, had no history of domestic problems, according to friends they have interviewed. He said the couple had moved to the Great Waters subdivision of the resort community of Reynolds Plantation after Russell Dermond, who owned fast food franchises, retired two decades ago.

Sills asked anyone with information on the case to call the Putnam County Sheriff's Office at 706-485-8557.

-- Mike Brunker