On August 15, 2002, the bodies of Michael and Mary Short were found in their home in Bassett, Virginia. They had both been shot in the head.
A month later, the remains of 9-year-old Jennifer Short were found near a stream in Rockingham County, North Carolina. Officials determined she had also been shot in the head.
To this day, the murders remain unsolved. In August 2015, Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry announced that the motive for the murder may have been the abduction of 9-year-old Jennifer. He asked any of her friends from 2002, including members and coaches of her sports teams, to see if they remember anyone unusual from that time.
The FBI has provided a list of 19 clues to help solve the mystery of who killed the Short Family, but perhaps #14 is the most crucial:
"14. Investigators are attempting to identify any person(s) who was in contact with Jennifer Renee Short between June 1, 2002 and August 14, 2002.
For instance, there may be a coach, teacher, friend, parent, and or neighbor, who was in contact with Jennifer through such events and/or activities as softball, dance, church, birthday parties, etc. Anyone who had such contact with Jennifer Short during this time period is requested to notify or re-notify investigators on the FBI Tip Line at 1-800-225-5324."
Here are the other clues and calls to action from a 2010 FBI bulletin.
Investigation has identified a possible vehicle associated with this crime. Information is being sought to further identify this vehicle.
Michael Short, at the time of this crime, was attempting to obtain employment as a mobile home mover in the coastal region of South Carolina. Investigators are seeking information from any person(s) who had contact with Michael Short regarding relocating to South Carolina.
During the early morning hours of August 15, 2002, an unidentified male was observed sitting in a vehicle along U.S. Highway 220 in the vicinity of the Shorts’ Oak Level, Henry County, Virginia, residence. Investigators are seeking information regarding this individual and/or vehicle.
Investigators are seeking information from general contractors, independent contractors, construction companies, mobile home dealers, mobile home parts suppliers, mobile home transporters or mobile home salvage yard owners who conducted business with Michael W. Short or M.S. Mobile Home Movers between January 1, 2001 and August 15, 2002.
The unknown vehicle, referenced in Update Number 3, is described as a 1998-2002, white, single-cab, two-ton flatbed stake body truck with wooden rails. Below is an artist’s depiction of this vehicle. Investigators continue to seek information regarding this vehicle and/or its occupant.
- Below is a photograph of the cab portion of the unknown vehicle referenced in Update Numbers 3 and 5. The photograph depicts the cab of the vehicle which is similar in appearance to the unknown vehicle but not necessarily identical. The cab of the unknown vehicle is believed to be similar in appearance to a 4500 Series International Truck.
Below is a composite sketch of the unidentified male referenced in Update Number 3. This individual was described as having “weathered” complexion and an age consistent with someone in his 40s.
Due to the length of time that has passed since the observation and based on the age of the individual, as perceived by the witness, an age-progressed composite was generated.
Investigators are seeking information regarding the individual depicted in the above composite who was also associated with a similar vehicle, as depicted above, and may have been in the Henry County, Virginia, area in the early morning hours of August 15, 2002.
Investigators are seeking information regarding the identities and locations of individuals who worked for Michael W. Short dba M.S. Mobile Home Movers on a weekly or day-to-day basis to include migrant workers. Some of these individuals may have worked solely on a cash basis.
The investigators of the Jennifer Renee Short Homicide/ Abduction Task Force are attempting to identify any person(s) who saw or was in contact with Mary or Michael Short between August 1, 2002 and August 14, 2002. Anyone who had such contact with the Shorts during the specified time period is requested to notify or re-notify investigators on the FBI Tip Line at 1-800-225-5324.
Investigators are reviewing specific Short family documents and have identified individuals who had contact with the family prior to August 15, 2002. Upon completion of this review, members of the task force will be conducting additional interviews in the near future.
Investigators are currently covering leads regarding individuals who look similar to the individual depicted in the previously published sketch. In addition, investigators continue to interview persons who had purchased mobile homes which were moved by Mike Short’s company, M.S. Mobile Home Movers. Any individual who had a mobile home moved by Mike Short in 2002 and has not already been interviewed is requested to contact the Task Force.
The task force is in the process of procuring additional funds to enhance the reward for the location, arrest, and conviction of the subject or subjects of this crime. Once the enhancement has been obtained the new reward offering will be published.
Any individual who utilized the services of Michael Short, doing business as MS Mobile Home movers, between January 2002 and August 15, 2002, to move or set a mobile home, is requested to contact investigators via the FBI Tip Line identified below.
Over the past several months the Task Force has received an increase in reported leads. Based on these new leads, investigators will be interviewing several individuals in the South Piedmont area of Virginia.
- Several years prior to their deaths, Michael and Mary operated a business moving mobile homes. At the time of their deaths, the Shorts were considering moving to South Carolina. As a result, during the spring and summer of 2002, Michael Short made several trips to areas in South Carolina surrounding the following cities: Bennettsville, Florence, Conway, and Myrtle Beach to seek employment.
Street View of the Short Family Home on US220 in Virginia.
Map detailing route from the Short Family Home to where Jennifer’s body was found
If you have information about this case, call the FBI at (800) 225-5324 or call the Crime Watch Daily Tip Line at (844) 800-CRIME.