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Short ride draws crowd
Above, Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry talks to a crowd gathered in Oak Level before the beginning of the annual Jennifer Short Memorial Scholarship Ride. Information about the murder of Jennifer and her parents, Michael and Mary Short, still is trickling in, according to Perry, with the past year seeing more phone calls about the case than in the past several years combined. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
More calls with information on the Short family homicides have been placed to the Henry County Sheriff’s Office in the past year than in the past several years combined, according to Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry.
Many of the calls provided information about the Short family history that investigators had not known, Perry said. He added that the investigation remains active and investigator Curtis Spence works on it virtually full-time.
He could not say Sunday how many calls had been received or why more calls have come in about the case in the last year. But he said he was encouraged by the fact that the calls increased despite the fact that the approximately $80,000 reward in the case is less than it has been in the past.
Perry made his comments during the annual Jennifer Short Memorial Scholarship Bike/Car Ride on Sunday.
According to organizer Ray Reynolds, 187 motorcycles, 18 Mustangs, one Camaro and some vintage and other vehicles participated in the ride that traveled from Oak Level in Henry County to the Jennifer Renee Short Memorial Bridge in Rockingham County, N.C., near where Jennifer’s remains were found in September 2002.
That discovery came six weeks after the 9-year-old’s parents, Mary and Michael Short, were found dead in their Oak Level home. Jennifer, Mary and Michael each had suffered a single gunshot wound to the head, police have said.
Since then, the annual ride has raised money for a scholarship in Jennifer Short’s memory and to keep the case before the public in hopes that it will lead to information and, ultimately, an arrest.
Sunday’s ride raised $2,426.
Perry said he is confident the case will be solved “mainly because of prayer.”
As he looked around the large crowd gathered at the bridge, he said he saw different people from different walks of life, but they walk together in one spirit in support of solving the Short case.
Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page asked those who took part in Sunday’s ride to pray for a resolution to the case and to remember the Short family.
“We are united in this investigation,” Page said. “This case is not closed. We’re not going away. ... Stay with us in our endeavor” to solve the case.
“Keep your fingers crossed” that the case will be solved, said Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper.
Before the ride, participants gathered in the parking area at B99 radio station. Among those speaking was Marie Davis of Martinsville, who was the first recipient of a Jennifer Short scholarship in 2005. The ride raises funds for the scholarship, which is administered by the Bassett Kiwanis Club and given to a student at Bassett High School, which Jennifer Short would have attended.
Davis (formerly Jennifer Chappelear) said the money helped her attend Bluefield College, where she received a bachelor’s degree in history in 2008. She now teaches at Bassett High School and is pursuing a master’s degree at Virginia Tech. She and her husband, Adam Davis, have a 7 1/2-month-old son, Caleb.
The scholarship, she said, “helped pave the way for my education.” It was a blessing but was bittersweet, Davis said, wondering what Jennifer Short would have been like now as a young adult if she had lived.
“It would have been a privilege to teach her,” she added.
Dan Cahill of the Kiwanis Club said the fund has provided nearly $14,000 in scholarships to 26 recipients.
This year, T.R.A.S.H. Ministries in Collinsville helped stage the ride in the absence of Ricky “Big Bird” Holcomb, who had helped out for years. According to ride organizer Ray Reynolds, Holcomb was in an motor vehicle accident four weeks ago and he remains in Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. Draper added that Holcomb is expected to recover.
Mike Price, president of the ministries, said its members helped with staging, directions, providing trucks that carried water for riders, and other tasks.
Price said the ministries got involved because members want to encourage law enforcement to continue to work on the case and make an arrest, and also to support the scholarship fund. “We pray it will be solved,” he added.
Those sentiments were echoed by many of the riders. Several also said they took part to raise awareness of the Short homicides and to share in the camaraderie of the motorcycle riders.
“It gives a positive image of the motorcycle community” and also shows that efforts to solve the case continue, said Jennifer Gammons of Collinsville. She rode in the event in a vehicle with her husband, Jason, and their son, Silas.
“We want him (Silas) exposed to the good this group does,” Jennifer Gammons said of the motorcyclists. “We want Silas to know a different type of family” through the ride, her husband added.
Most of those interviewed said they think the case will be solved someday. “Somebody knows something,” said Robert Whitlow of Woolwine. Alfred Martin of Henry County said someone will speak up eventually, perhaps on his death bed, and Leth Hairston of Martinsville suggested someone’s conscience will make him come forward.
“We’ll know,” Martin added.