Aunt of Virginia girl makes impassioned plea for her return; `We all miss her beyond words'

Tuesday, August 20th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

COLLINSVILLE, Va. (AP) _ The aunt of a 9-year-old girl who disappeared the night her parents were slain made an impassioned plea Tuesday for her return.

Ruby Young, aunt of Jennifer Renee Short and sister of Mary Short, begged Jennifer's abductor to contact authorities so that the girl could be picked up.

``Please release her so she can come home,'' Young said through tears. ``We all miss her beyond words. Bring her back home safely to those who love her.''

She also spoke directly to her niece: ``Jennifer, we miss you and love you very much. Please don't give up.''

Young, of Martinsville, was accompanied by her husband, Chris Young, a deputy in the Henry County sheriff's office. The office is among the law enforcement agencies investigating the slayings of Mary Short, 36, and her husband, Michael Short, 50, who were found dead in their home Thursday.

Another relative, Jim Whitehead, brother-in-law of Mary Short, asked the media to respect the family's privacy during the couple's wake Wednesday evening and funeral Thursday.

He also thanked the media for their assistance in publicizing Jennifer's disappearance. ``I'm totally amazed. I'm from Alaska and it reached Alaska,'' Whitehead said.

It was the first time family members had appeared before the media to plead for Jennifer's return.

The Shorts were found dead in their red-brick ranch home in Bassett, each shot once in the head. Police initially thought Jennifer had fled to the hills afterward, but then concluded that she was snatched by the assailant.

The search for Jennifer and the investigation into her parents' slayings continues at a frustrating pace for the local, state and federal authorities on the case. A search of a pond near the Short home turned up no clues Monday, and a crew of searchers on horseback reported no progress scouring wooded areas.

Sheriff Frank Cassell said Monday that phone lines to the home had been cut some time before last the slayings. He has said the culprit likely knew Michael and Mary Short.

Separately, a search warrant released Monday revealed that officers had found a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle, a 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun, shell casings and boxes of ammunition in the home.