Police were searching Thursday for a 9-year-old girl after finding her parents shot to death at their home in western Virginia.
Henry County Sheriff’s Capt. Kimmy Nester said they were searching for the girl, Jennifer Short, on the presumption that she had been abducted. Investigators said evidence seemed to rule out a murder-suicide.
Authorities issued an Amber Alert, relaying information about the case to television and radio stations in the hope of finding a lead. Police officers spread out and paced the rolling hills behind the Shorts’ house.
“Nobody knows where this child is. That’s not normal,” Nester said. “The family is all in shock.”
He said that other family members who live in the immediate area didn’t know anything about the girl’s whereabouts, and that police have no suspects.
The bodies of Michael Short, 50, and Mary Short, 36, were found by a co-worker who dropped by the home 35 miles south of Roanoke, said Franklin County Sheriff W. Quint Overton.
Michael Short, a self-employed mobile-home mover, was found on a couch in an enclosed carport; Mary Short was found in a bedroom. Both had been shot once in the head.
The family lived in a red brick home surrounded by motels and gas stations on U.S. 220, a busy north-south highway. Traffic crept along the road late Thursday as police set up a command center.
Mary Short’s brother-in-law, Thomas Lynch, stared in disbelief as a hearse carried away the bodies, crossing over the yellow tape circling the home. “They were good people,” he said. “I don’t know what else to say.”
The Shorts were a tight-knit family who enjoyed spending time together, neighbors and family members said. Jennifer helped her parents work in the yard. On Wednesday, she told the owner of the convenience store next door that she was excited about going back to school.
“She’s a good kid,” said Chris Young, another brother-in-law of Mary Short’s and a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy. “She had a dog and a cat and she loved them. I just wish I knew where she is.”
The nearest neighbor, Ruby Emberson, 74, said she had no idea of anything wrong with the family.
“They were always outdoors together in the yard mowing the grass or whatever,” she said. “They seemed as happy as could be.”
Real estate agent Marlene Dalton said that on Aug. 5, the Shorts had asked her to put their house up for sale. “Mr. Short said business was just slow,” she said. “He said, ‘I’ve got a trailer of my own and we’re going to move and live in that for a while.’ ”