EATONTON, Ga. -- An 87-year-old Georgia woman found dead in a lake after a search suffered blunt force trauma to the head, reports CBS affiliate WGCL.
Officials have positively identified the woman's body found by fisherman in Lake Oconee Friday as that of Shirley Dermond, WGCL reports. Police feared the elderly woman abducted after her husband Russell Dermond, 89, was found slain and decapitated in the couple's home earlier this month.
Investigators believe someone killed Shirley Dermond before dumping her body into the lake because they said no water was found in her lungs, reports the station.
The time authorities believe her badly decomposed body was in the lake is consistent with the timing of when her husband was killed a few weeks ago, reports the station.
"We now unfortunately know that Shirley Dermond was murdered, and we're no longer, unfortunately, seeking to rescue her," Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills told reporters during a news conference Friday. "As bad as that is, it progresses our investigation."
The sheriff said he hoped a forensic examination of the remains might yield more clues that could assist investigators. Authorities also plan to use an underwater submersible to examine the bottom of the lake for evidence.
The killing was a shocking anomaly in a gated, exclusive community guarded by private security. Police have said they do not believe the violence was random. The couple's lakefront home showed no signs of a struggle or forced entry and no ransom note was left behind.
Sills said the body was discovered five to six miles from the couple's home, raising the possibility that the assailant or assailants may have used a boat to gain access to the property and possibly took Shirley Dermond with them when they left.
"That body was transported there, or at least to that vicinity," Sills said.
Before the discovery of the wife's body, authorities had treated her disappearance as a potential kidnapping, even as they feared she may be dead. They displayed her picture on area billboards in the hope it might generate tips. Sills said investigators have also consulted with agents in the FBI's behavioral unit in the hopes of gleaning insight about who might be responsible.
Authorities have still not located Russell Dermond's head. WGCL reports they continue to search the lake.