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After 35 years in police work, Nester will retire
Kimmy Nester, a captain in the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, will retire at the end of July after 35 years in law enforcement. Nester investigated the Short family murders in 2002, and said that despite myriad dead ends, he believes the case will be solved. He is shown with a board detailing the case and asking for information. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
When Kimmy Nester puts his badge and gun away, he is not sure how he will react when he hears a siren.
“I’ll have to figure out how to not get interested when I hear you all go down the road,” Nester, a captain in the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, quipped to a co-worker Thursday at a retirement party in his honor.
After more than 35 years in law enforcement, Nester, 55, will step down effective July 31. He will work a few more days and then take accrued vacation until that date.
He does not know what he will do in retirement because he never thought about doing anything but police work.
“I always figured if I didn’t do it (go into law enforcement), I’d regret it,” Nester said.
His father, the late Fred G. Nester, retired as an investigator in the county’s drug enforcement division, and his grandfathers, A.T. Finney and Harvey W. Nester, both were in law enforcement in different capacities.
Nester joined the rescue squad while he was a student at Martinsville High School. After graduating, he earned an associate degree from Danville Community College, then a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Averett College. Nester also was a graduate of the FBI National Academy Program in Quantico, and he has completed several other classes.
As much as his father and grandfathers inspired him to pursue a career in law enforcement, they also are responsible for Nester’s values.
“They taught me to treat people the way you want to be treated. For me, the soft approach worked better” than any other tactic most of the time, Nester said.
That approach helped as he went into different communities and neighborhoods investigating various crimes, he said. Working on cases out in the community, “people get to know you and trust you, and you can get information a little bit easier” than if that familiarity did not exist.
Those relationships helped on many occasions, but some cases will haunt Nester, even into his retirement.
“There have been so many violent homicides during the years,” he said, but the “Short case would have to be one of” the cases he will never forget, partly because it involved the death of a child and also because of the sheer magnitude of the case.
Michael and Mary Short were found shot to death in their Oak Level home on Aug. 16, 2002. Both suffered single gunshot wounds to the head.
The couple’s daughter, 9-year-old Jennifer Renee Short, was missing and presumed abducted by her parent’s killer or killers. Remains recovered about six weeks later in Rockingham County, N.C., were determined to belong to Jennifer. She also suffered a single gunshot wound to the head.
No one has been charged with the deaths.
Nester said that was not from a lack of trying. He and other investigators traveled to many locations, from South Carolina to Canada and places in between, in search of answers in the case that drew national attention.
Work on the case still continues, Nester said Thursday, and he believes it will be solved.
Besides the challenging cases, Nester, like many in the sheriff’s office, has weathered a number of storms.
“We’ve been through a lot of hard times here,” he said of various situations, not the least of which was a corruption case during the tenure of then-sheriff H. Frank Cassell.
In that time of upheaval, “when many people were not sure” whether other officers were involved in the scandal, “the thing I remember most is the people’s support,” Nester said. “We were able to continue to provide adequate law enforcement services, and many people out there continued to support us” even though “they realized we had a problem. Everybody came together and still kept putting one foot forward and moving on.”
There also have been a number of changes during his tenure, from technology to DNA, forensic technology and equipment, Nester said. “Steadily, I’ve seen in my 35 years that we have progressed” in many areas.
The volume of calls that require response from a deputy or an investigator also has increased, and “it’s difficult to respond to that number of calls and still give justice” to each one, Nester said. But authorities work diligently to do that every day, he added.
One constant, he said, is the amount of paperwork that is required.
“Not only do they have to go out in the field and do the job,” but they also have work to do in the office and now on a computer, he said.
“For an agency our size, we have good equipment, modern equipment, and that allows us to do things to the best of our ability,” he said.
Among the things Nester said he is proudest of are the relationships he has formed — not only with other law enforcement officers and agencies, but also with the media and “with the community when begging for help from the public.”
Through it all, “I just enjoyed being myself, trying to use the easier approach,” Nester said. “I’ve made a lot of good friends over the years.”
Reminiscing Thursday, Nester said he has other family members who either have been or are in law enforcement.
“You’ve got to love it. You’ve got to enjoy serving people,” he said. “I think it’s inherited. It’s one of the things you get from the way you’re raised. I’m third generation. I guess it’s in the blood stream.”