- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 22, 2002

COLLINSVILLE, Va. (AP) Authorities investigating the disappearance of a 9-year-old girl almost a week ago said they were looking closely at several persons but have no concrete evidence tying anyone to the case.
Relatives of Jennifer Renee Short, meanwhile, said yesterday they were gathering a reward for the girl's return and pleaded with her captors to let her go.
"She doesn't deserve to be going through whatever she's going through right now," said Frank Arrington, Jennifer's great-uncle. "Please do the right thing and bring her back to her family."
Mr. Arrington, Michael Short's uncle, also spoke directly to the girl: "Jennifer, honey, I'm looking forward to the fishing trip I promised to take you on."
Jennifer has been missing and presumed kidnapped since last Thursday, when her parents, Michael and Mary Short, were found shot to death at their home in Bassett, about 35 miles south of Roanoke.
At the same news conference, Henry County Sheriff Frank Cassell said authorities have "some people that we're looking real strongly at. But we have no concrete evidence."
The focus is now on people outside the family, Sheriff Cassell said.
Sightings reported Tuesday of a girl resembling Jennifer with an armed man about 50 miles south in Winston-Salem, N.C., have not panned out, he said.
An autopsy report en route to authorities yesterday confirmed that Mr. Short, 50, and Mrs. Short, 36, died from gunshot wounds.
Dr. William Massello, assistant chief medical examiner in Roanoke, would not discuss the type of weapon used or the number of shots fired. The time of the deaths was not determined, he said.
Police initially thought Jennifer fled into the woods after the shootings but then concluded that she was snatched from her bed by whoever killed her parents.
A new search warrant indicated that authorities seized a .22-caliber revolver, a cellular telephone, clothing and items of a sexual nature from the home. Previously, several other guns, some ammunition, bedclothes and other items were removed from the home as part of the investigation.
Sheriff Cassell explained the seizure of the sexual items by saying, "Any time you have a child abducted, you've got to assume it may have something to do with a sexual nature."
Mr. Arrington told reporters he did not know who owned the guns in the Short home.
Relatives were planning a wake for the couple later yesterday and a funeral this afternoon. At yesterday's briefing, they wore yellow ribbons as a symbol that they consider Jennifer missing.


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