- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2002

MARTINSVILLE, Va. Family and friends said goodbye yesterday to a couple found shot to death in their home, and they prayed for the safe return of the couple's 9-year-old daughter, who has been missing for a week.
About 200 people filed past the open caskets at the Martinsville Church of God, almost everyone wearing yellow ribbons in hopes that Jennifer Short will someday come home safely.
The Rev. Jackie Poe pleaded to Jennifer's captors to return the girl, saying that while authorities might not know her whereabouts, "God knows where she is."
One week after Michael Short, 50, and Mary Short, 36, were killed in their red-brick ranch home, Jennifer's picture has been posted on storefronts, homes and tractor-trailers. Signs throughout western Virginia's rural Henry County ask that motorists pray for the girl.
"Ain't no sense in what's been done," cousin Thomas Arrington said before the funeral. "That's what's aggravating. I don't know why anyone would take people out of their bed like that."
Mourners remembered the Shorts as a private family that enjoyed being together. Mr. Short was "happy go lucky," Mr. Poe said, a trickster who would play jokes on his sister by calling her on the phone and disguising his voice. Mrs. Short, he said, was caring and helpful to others. "That's a wonderful quality for a daughter like Jennifer to follow," he said.
Meanwhile, the crime continues to confound authorities. Numerous leads from around the country have dried up. Investigators called off the ground search earlier in the week and have begun to focus on a few close acquaintances and former employees of the Short family.
Henry County Sheriff Frank Cassell yesterday said police have no suspects.
"Again, I don't have much to tell you," he said.
Authorities also acknowledged they still don't have a clear profile of the person they're looking for, and they don't know whether the primary motive was to kill the parents or abduct the girl.
Sheriff Cassell has indicated that the killer or killers knew the family, and that the Shorts were likely asleep when the crimes occurred.
Teachers at Jennifer's school, Figsboro Elementary, met yesterday to prepare for the new school year that starts Monday. Jennifer, who was to start the fourth grade, will still have a desk waiting for her.
"I'm just hopeful and praying that she'll come back," said science teacher Laurie Young.
The school also will hold a penny drive to raise money like they did after the September 11 terrorist attacks, this time to raise money for Jennifer.
School social worker Carmala Shively said she hopes to keep the first day as normal as possible. But this may be difficult for a community that never has dealt with something so tragic, she said.
There are no plans for a schoolwide assembly to discuss what everyone has been hearing during the past week, but that may change after the first day.
"We'll take our cues from the students," Miss Shively said.

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