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On Aug. 15, 2002, in the quiet community of Oak Level, Va., someone shot and killed Michael and Mary Short in what investigators called an execution-style murder. Their daughter, 9-year-old Jennifer Short, was snatched from her bed, setting off a massive search. Heartbreak six weeks later as deputies found her remains 45 minutes away near a North Carolina creek. Here is their story, in words, photos, video and podcasts.
Both Michael and Mary are located inside the home, each with a single gunshot wound to the head. Michael was found lying on a couch in the garage where he sometimes watched TV; Mary was in her bed.
According to Lt. Curtis Spence, the house was up for sale, and looked well-kept. Jennifer’s mattress was moved about two inches, and her pillow was on the floor. Someone had cut the phone line to the house.
Search warrants show detectives took 66 items from the Shorts’ home including two .22 shell casings found near the bodies of Michael and Mary Short who were each shot once, a .22 caliber shotgun, a rifle and ammunition, and $600 and blank checks.
Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said DNA evidence was collected inside the home, but has not specified exactly what evidence was located.
Investigators filmed Michael and Mary Short’s funeral to see if anyone presented odd behavior, but said they found no red flags.
The FBI released several sketches in 2009. The drawings show a flatbed truck said to be near the home in the early hours the day of the murder, and a man with a ‘weathered’ complexion believed to be inside.
Michael and Mary Short: Michael owned and operated a mobile home business in Henry County. Michael’s sister Carolyn said the couple appeared happy, and kept to themselves. According to investigators, Michael had considered moving the family to South Carolina in the months leading up to the murders.
Jennifer Short: 9 years old at the time she was taken from the family’s home. Friends and family described Jennifer as a sweet girl who was close to her parents.
Carolyn Short and Linda Sink: Carolyn Short is Michael’s sister; Linda Sink was married to one of Michael’s older sons. The two have become close friends in the years following the crime. Linda and Carolyn say they are the only two relatives who regularly attend the Jennifer Short Memorial Ride from Martinsville to Rockingham County, NC.
Chris Thompson: One of Michael’s employees. Investigators say Thompson found the couple murdered the morning of August 15, 2002. Officials say he cooperated with their investigation.
Garrison Bowman: The only named material witness in the case, Garrison Bowman was a 60-year-old carpenter from Madison, N.C. Bowman left the country for Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, the day after Michael and Mary were killed and Jennifer was abducted. He leased a mobile home about a mile away from where Jennifer’s remains were found. Bowman was never indicted by a grand jury, and has since passed away.
Lane Perry: Currently serves as Henry County Sheriff, was a patrol member at the time of the murders under former Sheriff Frank Cassell.
Lt. Curtis Spence: Retired member of Henry County Sheriff’s Office who helped lead the investigative team.
FBI special agents: Asked to remain anonymous for safety and security. At least five special agents have been involved with this case since 2002.