A task force revisiting the decade-old case of the Short family murders is continuing its work and Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry remains hopeful that, this time, the investigation will bring justice and result in an arrest.
“Over the last few months, they have gone over the case,” Perry said, adding that investigators have reviewed threads of evidence that they believed had previously been overlooked “and followed them to the end. So far, that work hasn’t generated anything,” though the team is “still working on some things they want to accomplish and going over interviews again. There is still active work taking place.”
Perry said he has “always felt like there are a couple of key people that have key information they’re withholding.” He said that officers encounter the phrase “I don’t want to get involved” from potential witnesses on a regular basis when investigating cases.
“The one thing you’re hopeful about when you revisit something like this is that over the years, a mentality has changed, a sense of justice has changed, and people now may be more forthcoming. They (investigators) are going back and touching base with people that were involved in the case” and seem to have first-hand knowledge, Perry said.
Despite some of the current work yielding no new results or information, Perry remains hopeful that new information will come to light. “We regularly see old cases that, when they’re gone back through, something suddenly comes forward from it. While you’re disappointed you do have to go this far back, that people didn’t bring information forward, it’s also hopeful that this time there may be a different outcome.”
On Aug. 15, 2002, the bodies of Michael Short and his wife Mary were found inside their home in Bassett, each with an apparent gunshot wound to the head. Their 9-year-old daughter, Jennifer, was missing and initially presumed kidnapped.
On Sept. 25, 2002, remains found along a stream bed off Grogan Road in Rockingham County, N.C. were determined to belong to Jennifer who, it was later determined, also suffered a single gunshot wound to the head.
To date, no arrests have been made in the case.
Perry recalled that he had been with the sheriff’s office for about 10 years and was working in the patrol division when the murders first occurred. He worked with many of the “massive searches” that went on around that time frame.
“Any police officer, we don’t want to see anyone harmed or injustice happen, especially when it involves a child. The officers wanted to see justice brought forth for Michael and Mary, but even more so for Jennifer, because she never got a chance to start her life. She never made it to 10-years-old.”
He reiterated that it is disheartening for officers to encounter people who say they do not want to get involved, and indicated that mentality has been somewhat of a hindrance in the Short case.
“We do think the information is out there somewhere that could bring the truth to light,” Perry said.
Currently, a $62,500 reward is available for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the deaths. Anyone with information is asked to call Crimestoppers at (276) 632-7463 or 276-63CRIME. Information also may be reported to the FBI by logging onto www.richmond.fbi,gov or calling the FBI Tip Line at 1-800-225-5324.