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On Aug. 15, 2002, in the quiet town of Oak Level, Virginia, 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 came weeks later when deputies found her remains 45 minutes away near a North Carolina creek.
Timeline of events
August 14, 2002: Michael Short and an employee spend the evening working on a truck. Mary Short picks up a late dinner for the family at a nearby fast food restaurant. Investigators have little information about what happened after midnight.
August 15, 2002: Investigators arrive to the Short family’s home off U.S. 220 in Oak Level, Virginia, before 9 a.m. One of Michael Short’s employees found the couple dead in their home, both killed by a single gunshot wound to the head.
An Amber Alert is issued for 9-year-old Jennifer Short, and the search for the little girl begins. Investigators spend at least two weeks in the home collecting evidence.
August 23, 2002: Funeral is held for Michael and Mary Short. Investigators film the church service for any red flags or odd behavior, but find none.
September 4, 2002: Michael Short’s body is exhumed for further testing.
September 25, 2002: Remains are found on private property in Stoneville, N.C., in Rockingham County by the Albert family. Officials send samples for identification.
October 4, 2002: Remains are positively identified as those of Jennifer Short.
October 15, 2002: Investigators announce they traveled to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada to find a “material witness,” 60-year-old Garrison Bowman from Madison, N.C.
October 7, 2002: Bowman appears in court in Canada for charges claiming he violated immigration laws.
October 11, 2002: Bowman is deported from Canada, and returns to the U.S. by October 22.
October 30, 2002: Bowman appears in court in Roanoke, Va., is released from custody.
November 12, 2002: Bowman appears before a grand jury in Roanoke. That grand jury never returned an indictment.
December 7, 2002: Short family home is auctioned off.
September 30, 2003: Medical examiners exhumed Jennifer’s remains for “forensic purposes.” No one ever said if the exhumation revealed more evidence.
March 18, 2009: FBI releases composite sketch of a man possibly seen near the home during the time of the murders. The suspect is described as a man in his 40s with a “weathered” complexion.
May 7, 2010: Federal agents visit several South Carolina cities to talk to people about the case; FBI agents make stops in Bennettsville, Conway, Florence and Myrtle Beach. Michael Short had made several trips to those cities in the months before he and his family died, and had considered moving to the state.
February 20, 2019: Short family home burns down.