ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. — Standing on the Jennifer Short Memorial Bridge, Lisa Albert-Vaughn says she vividly remembers the days leading up to Sept. 25, 2002.

Her 20-year-old son was moving through her father’s yard off Grogan Road in Rockingham County when he found a child’s tennis shoe.

“He didn’t really think anything of it because he always found items that the dogs had drug up, and a few days later he threw away what he assumed to be a wig,” Lisa said.

Days before, Lisa was washing her car when she found a set of teeth at the end of the driveway.

“My dad was like, it’s probably animals because there’s deer and rabbits and squirrels and all kinds of animals here, and dad was like don’t worry about it,” Lisa said.

It wasn’t until one of the family dogs was playing with what appeared to be a turtle shell that Lisa’s father realized something wasn’t right and called over a friend in law enforcement to take a look.

“He said I’m afraid that’s not a turtle shell, that’s a skull,” Lisa said. “And then we realized, we weren’t sure about that wig.”

The remains found scattered across the property were later identified as 9-year-old Jennifer Short.

“It just really rips you apart. It’s like, how could she end up here. Right here on our property,” Lisa said. “And from then on, she became part of our family.”

Her family watched as investigators drained the pond on her father’s land and searched for evidence.

“There were flags, you couldn’t count how many flags was out there. And there were flags stood for a piece of her body or a piece of evidence that was laying out there,” Lisa said.

“We had cadaver dogs as support out here. We had officers and deputies all over, Henry County, Rockingham County, State Police investigators, all working here through this area. Basically just seeing if there was any evidentiary remains for them to go off of,” said Sam Page, Rockingham County sheriff.

Lisa said her father hoped for updates on the case for years. He would watch for suspicious activity and invite deputies onto his property as needed.

He always wanted closure.

“He had hoped before he passed away that they would find out who done this,” Lisa said. “We always discussed it, went over scenarios. Especially, how did this little girl get from Virginia to here? Why did she end up here?”

With a granddaughter now the same age Jennifer was when she disappeared, Lisa says she only wishes she could have found the 9-year-old sooner.

“Because we all wanted to know what happened to this little girl, and who could do such a horrific thing to her?” Lisa said.

This is part of our series on Jennifer Short’s disappearance and death. 

For episode 2, click here.

For episode 1, click here.