Twelve years after the shooting deaths of the Short family, Henry County Sheriff’s Office investigators are continuing to pursue new ideas and suggestions on the case.
Sheriff Lane Perry told about 300 motorcyclists, drivers and other supporters who took part in the 12th annual Jennifer Short Memorial Scholarship Bike/Car Ride on Sunday that a team of investigators recently “picked apart” and brainstormed about the sheriff’s office’s case in the 2002 unsolved homicides.
The officers reviewed interviews, testing and other aspects of the investigation and found it was thorough, Perry said.
However, they did suggest some new things to try, and “we will be quick to jump on” those ideas, he said, adding that the sheriff’s office still has an investigator assigned to the case full-time.
Perry also said any time there are advances in investigative techniques, DNA analysis and other methods, the sheriff’s office submits its material for review. “It is an active case,” he said.
Sunday’s ride attracted 163 motorcycles, 63 cars and about 300 people, according to ride organizer Ray Reynolds.
Each person taking part paid $10, which raised $3,400 that will go into a scholarship fund at Bassett High School. Reynolds said the fund covered six scholarships this year and four the year before.
Jennifer Short would have attended Bassett High School had she not been shot in the head in 2002. Her parents, Mary and Michael Short, were found shot to death in their Oak Level home on Aug. 15 of that year. Jennifer was presumed abducted by her parents’ killer or killers, and her remains were found several weeks later in Rockingham County, N.C.
No arrests have been made in the homicides.
The annual memorial ride helps keep the case before the public in hopes of generating tips and information, police have said.
Sunday’s ride began in the parking lot of WZBB 99.9 radio station on U.S. 220 North. With Reynolds in the lead, followed by Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper on his motorcycle, riders proceeded into North Carolina and stopped at the Jennifer Renee Short Memorial Bridge on Grogan Road, near where Jennifer’s remains were found.
Along the way, people watched the entourage from the side of the road, and they sometimes waved and held photographs of Jennifer Short.
Wesley Cauley of Patrick Springs and Reva Shough of Stuart even set up canvas chairs near the parking lot of Grace Baptist Church, across from Drewry Mason Elementary School, to view the procession. Cauley’s son-in-law, Alan Campo of Stuart, took part in the ride, and “curiosity” led them to watch, Cauley said.
At the memorial bridge, members of the Martinsville chapter of the Star City Mustang and Ford Club tied teddy bears to the railings and a nearby sign “to do something to make Jennifer smile,” said club member Randy Hundley.
Perry, Draper and Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page spoke to the crowd, repeating the message of previous years’ rides — they need the public’s help to report any information and tips about the case to their authorities. The most seemingly insignificant information could complete the puzzle and lead to an arrest, they said.
The ride also keeps people from forgetting about the Short family and their tragic deaths, they said.
“Don’t ever stop caring and loving,” Page told the crowd.
“Somebody in our community was taken away,” Reynolds added. “We don’t want the family forgotten.”
Brenda Woods also spoke. She was a banker at the then-Bank of Ferrum near the Short home in Oak Level. She said she saw the family frequently.
Michael Short was always in a hurry, she said, while Mary was “quiet, with an easy smile.” Jennifer was a “happy child,” Woods said, calling the Shorts “a loving, sweet family.”
Jim Adams, the Blackberry District representative on the Henry County Board of Supervisors, said the board remains committed to solving the Short case and has about $50,000 in a fund to be used only for information leading to an arrest and conviction. The fund is carried forward each year, he added.
Perry said he hopes this year someone will claim the reward.
“This is what keeps it alive,” he said of the ride and the attention it generates. “This shows it’s still personal for this community.”
After the comments at the bridge, the riders traveled to Victory Baptist Church in Henry County, where they were treated to donated food and refreshments.