ATLANTA (AP) — An 88-year-old man was killed in his home in an exclusive gated community and his wife went missing, according to officials in rural central Georgia, but the sheriff declined on Thursday to confirm a report that the husband was beheaded.
Friends found Russell Dermond's body Tuesday, and it had suffered significant trauma, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said. County coroner Gary McElhenney earlier told WMAZ-TV that Dermond had been decapitated.
But Sills told The Associated Press that he could not confirm a beheading.
"I will not deny that, but right now I just don't want to confirm that until I find out more," Sills said.
McElhenney told the AP he learned by word of mouth that Dermond had been decapitated but that he had not seen the body and wasn't certain how he died.
An autopsy was scheduled for Thursday, and Sills said he might be able to provide more details after that.
Investigators fear Dermond's wife, Shirley, 87 was abducted, and they were searching for her Thursday with the help of the FBI.
The couple had been married for nearly seven decades, Sills said.
"The best we can determine from all sources is that this was a perfect marriage," he said. "There's nothing that we have found out so far that looks askance or gives us any particular motive."
They lived in Reynolds Plantation, a gated neighborhood of expansive homes guarded by security officers where crime is rare, Sills said.
"This home is in one of the most exclusive gated communities in the state of Georgia," he said. "I don't remember even a burglary that I can even recall in the whole subdivision."
The home is on the shore of sprawling Lake Oconee in the Greensboro area, and Sills said investigators believe the killer might have arrived by boat.
Shirley Dermond's cellphone, wallet and other personal items were left behind, making the search difficult, Sills said. There were no signs of struggle in the home. Cadaver dogs have searched a wooded area next to the home, and investigators are interviewing those who knew the Dermonds, Sills said.
But it's hard, he said: "There's no starting point to look."