Lingering Murder Mystery Turns Town Holiday Gray
This tiny Ozarks community proudly calls itself “Missouri’s Christmas City,” but there’s little holiday cheer this season because the murder of the town’s popular bank president remains unsolved.
More than two months have passed since Dan Short was kidnaped from his home in predawn darkness and forced to open the State Bank of Noel vault for his abductors, who took about $70,000.
His kidnapers taped him to a chair weighted with concrete blocks and a 30-pound chain, then threw him from a bridge into an Oklahoma lake, where he drowned.
The FBI says it has no suspects and few leads. Many people in the town of 1,200 near the Arkansas and Oklahoma borders believe the odds of finding Short’s killers shrink daily because of the lack of suspects and evidence.
“The consensus of people who come in and out of my post office is it will go unsolved,” Postmaster Bill Poage said.
Nearly every door on festively decorated Main Street bears a yellow ribbon “to signify we’re waiting for Dan’s killers to be caught,” said Dan Coleman, who owns the hardware store. The 51-year-old president of the town’s lone bank is remembered as a “genuine nice guy” and community booster.
After moving to Noel in 1986, Short did commentary on radio broadcasts of high school sporting events and wrote a weekly sports column for an area newspaper.
Only hours before he was abducted, Short agreed to be master of ceremonies at the community Christmas parade for the third consecutive year.
FBI special agent Max Geiman said investigators have not found anyone in Short’s 24-year banking career who might want to kill him.
What investigators do know is this:
About 3 a.m. on Oct. 6, a vehicle believed to be carrying three men drove to Short’s home about five miles southwest of Noel. Short, who lived alone, was awakened and forcibly driven to the bank.
Someone also drove Short’s pickup truck to the bank.
Two shots from a .45-caliber pistol disabled the bank’s surveillance camera and the lens was spray-painted.
Short opened the vault and his abductors scooped up cash--police will say only that it was in the neighborhood of $70,000.
The FBI believes the kidnapers intended all along to kill Short after he opened the vault. They bound his hands and feet with duct tape, taped him to an antique chair and tossed him from a bridge into Grand Lake of the Cherokees, about 10 miles west of Noel. His body was found five days later.
The close-knit community will probably never feel totally safe again, said Donald Duncan, Short’s friend and golf partner.