- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2002

COLLINSVILLE, Va. Shaking with emotion, the aunt of a 9-year-old girl who disappeared after her parents were killed pleaded for her safe return.
Ruby Young, aunt of Jennifer Renee Short and sister of Mary Short, begged Jennifer's abductor to contact authorities so that the girl could be picked up.
"Please release her so she can come home," Mrs. Young said through tears. "We all miss her beyond words. Bring her back home safely to those who love her."
She also spoke directly to her niece: "Jennifer, we miss you and love you very much. Please don't give up, because we will never give up until we find you."
Mrs. Young was accompanied by her husband, Chris Young, a deputy in the Henry County Sheriff's Office, which is among the law-enforcement agencies investigating the slayings of Mary Short, 36, and her husband, Michael Short, 50. Deputy Young initially notified the family when the Shorts were found dead in their Bassett home Thursday.
Another relative, Jim Whitehead, brother-in-law of Mary Short, asked the media to respect the family's privacy during the Shorts' funeral tomorrow.
He also thanked the media for their assistance in publicizing Jennifer's disappearance. "I'm totally amazed. I'm from Alaska, and it reached Alaska," Mr. Whitehead said.
Until yesterday, Jennifer's family kept to themselves, receiving updates from authorities at the family's hillside home 30 miles away in Callaway.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Jennifer's grandmother said she and family members have spent the past several days huddled near the television and radio. Mrs. Short's brother, Daniel Hall, said the family had no idea that someone would want to harm Jennifer and her parents.
"We just can't make heads or tails of it," Mr. Hall said.
The Shorts were found dead in their red-brick ranch home Thursday morning, each shot once in the head. Police initially thought Jennifer had fled to the hills afterward, but then concluded that she was snatched from her bed by the assailant.
The search for Jennifer and the investigation into her parents' slayings continues at a frustrating pace for the local, state and federal authorities on the case. A search of a pond near the Short home turned up no clues Monday, and a crew of searchers on horseback reported no progress scouring wooded areas around the crime scene.
While the "Amber Alert" helped generate calls from around the country, Henry County Sheriff Frank Cassell said that every lead has dried up outside of the immediate area.
Sheriff Cassell said investigators will devote themselves to tracking down clues within the county and interviewing people who knew the Shorts.
"We'll keep it going at this place until we run out of leads," he said.

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