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Police low on clues in girl's disappearance

Jennifer Renee Short
Jennifer Renee Short  

BASSETT, Virginia (CNN) -- Investigators searching for a 9-year-old girl -- missing since her parents were killed in their home -- said late Friday they had few clues in the case, and pleaded for the public's help in finding the girl.

Jennifer Renee Short was reported missing early Thursday after her parents were found dead in the home, both with a single gunshot wound to the head. The father, Michael Wayne Short, 50, was shot on a couch; the mother, Mary Hall Short, 36, in her bed in the bedroom.

Investigators believe Jennifer was in her bed when her parents were attacked and there is no evidence that she was "seriously injured in any way, shape or form," said Henry County Sheriff Capt. Kimmy Nester

The murders and abduction have shocked this town of 1,300 in southwestern Virginia.

"This is a very unusual case. We don't see many like this," said H.F. Cassell, the sheriff of Henry County. "We've had a lot off horrific murders, but I don't remember a genuine child abduction in this area."

"The motive is unknown at this time," Nester said.

Authorities have interviewed Christopher Thompson, the man who discovered the slain parents.

Thompson worked for Michael Short and was at their house the night before working on a vehicle, Cassell said. Thompson told investigators the couple was alive when he left the home around midnight and the girl was in her bed.

"We've talked to this individual several times and quite extensively. We probably will be talking to him some more. So far, he's been very cooperative," Cassell said.

"There's a lot of leads we are following up. We really don't have anyone we could term a suspect at this time," he said.

The sheriff said despite the massive search, authorities haven't "found anything at all that's been of any benefit to us."

Authorities have said little about the crime scene, such as whether there was any sign of forced entry or any sign of a struggle inside the house. However, they have said they believe the killer or killers are the ones who took the girl.

Tip line:
Henry County, Virginia, Sheriff's Department
(276) 638-8751

Jennifer is brown-haired, 4 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 58 pounds.

To the abductor, Nesser said, "If you have this young child, please do the right thing and release Jennifer in a public area and in some way notify local law enforcement so we can find her."

Addressing the public, he said, "We're begging you: if you know anything, do not hesitate and think you're bothering us. Please call us."

With the focus on saving the girl, an "Amber Alert" -- named after a 9-year-old girl abducted and killed in Texas six years ago -- was issued for Jennifer, with billboards and signs posted throughout the state urging Virginians to be on the lookout for the girl.

The FBI has joined the search with authorities from Henry County and neighboring Franklin County and other agencies. The Virginia State Police sent a helicopter to search near the house, which is located on a four-lane highway.

Carrying flashlights, volunteers on foot and in all-terrain vehicles searched the neighborhood Friday, but found no clues, Nester said. In addition, canine units were brought to the family's house.

The Short family recently put their brick home on the market. Nester said authorities have obtained records from real estate agents to determine who might have toured it.




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