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Reward increased in 2002 Va. killings

Authorities investigating the 2002 slayings of a Southside Virginia family increased the reward for information that cracks the case to $100,000 Friday, but the fattened prize will only be available for a limited time.

Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said the increased reward, which is good through February, is an attempt to shake loose information about the murders of Michael, Mary and Jennifer Short.

“We firmly believe that there are a couple people out there that have key information that we need to know that they're not letting go of,” Perry said. “This is an opportunity for someone to do the right thing to bring a heinous killer to justice and to obtain life-changing money in the process.

“What it offers a community and a family is closure, healing and solution.” Sunday will mark eight years since Michael and Mary Short were found dead inside their ranch home in Bassett, along busy U.S. 220. Michael, 50, was found dead in his garage, while Mary, 36, was inside the home. Both had been shot in the head.

The remains of the couple's 9-year-old daughter, Jennifer, were found six weeks later in Rockingham County, N.C., about 30 miles south of her home. She also died from a single gunshot wound to the head.

The small, wooden bridge that covered her remains was later renamed the “Jennifer Renee Short Memorial Bridge.”

Last year, authorities released a sketch of a man seen near the couple's home the morning that Michael and Mary Short's bodies were discovered and asked for help locating former employees of Michael Short's mobile home moving business.

Investigators also recently traveled to South Carolina, where the Shorts planned to move so Michael Short could relocate his business.

Perry said members of the task force have agreed not to release details of their investigation, including whether they have a suspect.

“This case has always kept a special place because of what happened to a child,” Perry said. “People just don't want to let it go.” His department still has one person dedicated full-time to the case.

Authorities do not know what happened to Jennifer during her abduction, something Perry said haunts the community “where something happens on one end of county strikes the heart of the other end of the county.”

“It's an entire region that is just left with that question — what happened — and I think they're fearful of what happened,” he said.

The reward has stood at $67,000 for years. The Federal Bureau of Investigation contributed $20,000, and the county chipped in the rest to boost the reward to $100,000.

Of that, more than half has been donated from a county government in an area of the state where the closing of textile and furniture factories have led to the state's highest unemployment rate.

Perry said those with information should be assured that the reward will be decreased if not used so that it can be used elsewhere.

“If they want to take advantage of this, it is time to step up to the plate,” he said.

This item has been updated since it was first published.

-- Associated Press

By Washington Post Editors  |  August 13, 2010; 12:25 PM ET
Categories:  Homicide , Unsolved , Updates , Virginia  
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