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Investigators seek new lead in 10-year-old Short slayings case
In this Aug. 16, 2002, Bulletin file photo, a press conference with then-Capt. Kimmy Nester is held the day after Michael and Mary Short were discovered shot to death in their home (in background) on U.S. 220 in Oak Level. National media coverage increased daily for more than a month after the discovery.
Monday, August 20, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The smallest detail, a near forgotten memory or even a personality trait may help lead authorities to the person or persons responsible for the Short family slayings.
“There are some things for people to consider as they continue to think about this case; something that maybe they didn’t think about much at the time, but now it stands out,” Henry County Sheriff’s Capt. Kimmy Nester said recently.
Nester has been involved in the investigation of the slayings of Michael and Mary Short and the abduction and subsequent killing of their 9-year-old daughter, Jennifer Short, from the start, 10 years ago.
Michael Short, a local mobile home mover, and his wife, Mary Short, were found shot to death inside their Oak Level home on Aug. 15, 2002. Each suffered a single gunshot wound to the head. Authorities were not immediately able to locate Jennifer Short. Her remains were found and identified about six weeks later in an area near Grogan Road in Rockingham County, N.C. She also died from a single gunshot wound to the head.
The slayings remain unsolved, but Nester said that does not mean authorities have given up.
“The case still has the opportunity to be solved, and law enforcement have shown the fortitude to continue” working to solve it, he said.
Although he declined to discuss some specifics about the case, Nester said “it’s wise to look at the case with different sets of glasses” and from different perspectives when searching for a motive.
“Based on looking at the total picture, it appears that it (the motive) could be a child abduction,” he said.
He explained that is because generally when offenders have “total control of a residence,” they try to find something worth stealing and ransack the property in the process.
But the Short home “did not appear to be ransacked like someone came looking for money or property,” Nester said.
“The house was very, very neat,” he added. “The Shorts were getting ready to sell their house, and it was very, very clean and very orderly (with no indication of ransacking).”
He also noted that certain items (electronics and similar items) “were found inside the home that typically would have been found and removed” in case of a different motive.
Outside, several vehicles that could have been stolen and sold also were untouched, he said.
Although he said his comments are not intended as a profile of the person or persons responsible in this case, Nester said certain traits or “warning signs” may be found among people who have abducted children.
He declined to specify a possible culprit’s age range or sex, but Nester said examples of character traits may include “shyness, standoffishness; they don’t talk a lot or explain a lot about their life or business, and they may focus in on children more than people of own age.”
He said the killings could have been done by more than one person, but it also could easily have been done by one perpetrator.
“Typically, in any investigation, over this period of time and with the money we’ve had offered as a reward, if there were multiple perpetrators, you would think that somebody would have picked the phone up and called authorities with the one piece of information we need,” he said.
Since that has not happened, Nester said it is possible that one person was responsible.
The killer or killers also likely would have had extensive knowledge of, or often traveled on, U.S. 220, particularly the northbound side where the Shorts’ home was located, Nester said.
A similar familiarity would have been needed for the Grogan Road area of Rockingham County, where Jennifer’s remains were disposed, he said.
The killer or killers were “certainly familiar with not only the Short home, but they felt comfortable enough to pick the location near Grogan Road, and we have to assume it was someone who was familiar with both jurisdictions,” Nester said.
He noted her remains likely were disposed of “very quickly,” and found in “not necessarily the perfect location. It looks rural, but it’s not,” Nester said of the Grogan Road area, which affords quick access off and on U.S. 220.
He explained the road forms a loop, with traffic able to access the road on one side “and come back out on the other. Either direction you go, you can make a loop.”
“That’s what we still need to look for today, is what is the North Carolina/Virginia border connection,” Nester said.
Since Michael Short was a mobile-home mover, Nester said the killer or killers may have had a connection to Short through the mobile home servicing business.
“There is definitely still the possibility that someone may be able to help us make the connection,” Nester said, and wondered aloud at the type of person who could be capable of such a horrific crime.
Nester said the perpetrator or perpetrators may be streetwise and have the ability “to not only think of this but to plan it and do it, and it not even bother them enough to break down and cry.”