Skull found during search for kidnapped Virginia girl

Published: Sep. 26, 2002 at 3:11 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2002 at 7:08 PM EDT
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(Stoneville, NC-AP) Sept. 26, 2002 - Hair from remains found in a wooded area doesn't match that of a missing Virginia girl who vanished after her parents were slain 30 miles away, police said Thursday.

Authorities on Wednesday recovered a human skull, bone fragments and a full head of hair on the rural property near a pond.

Hair from the remains was compared under a microscope to hair samples found in the Bassett, Va., home of 9-year-old Jennifer Short, who disappeared Aug. 15.

The Henry County, Va., sheriff's office said in a statement the preliminary testing showed the samples do not match. DNA testing to be done by the medical examiner's office in Roanoke, Va., should provide a definitive result in a few days, police said.

Investigators working in a steady rain Thursday fanned out for about a half-mile in all directions in search of more evidence.

"We're still looking for three-quarters of the skeletal remains," Maj. J.V. Thomas of the Rockingham County, N.C., sheriff's office told reporters.

Henry County Sheriff Frank Cassell said he doubted the remains were those of the missing girl.

"I don't believe they're Jennifer Short but nothing would surprise me in this case," Cassell told reporters. "I hope this is not Jennifer."

Thomas said there was one missing person in the county, a woman in her 30s who disappeared about a year ago.

The skull was discovered Wednesday by area resident Eddie Albert, whose dogs turned up what appeared to be a brown wig, Albert's daughter, Lisa Albert, said. He realized the hair was attached to a skull when he picked it up and turned it around, she said.

At the site where the skull was found, investigators marked teeth and bone fragments with small red flags, and about 20 detectives, fire and rescue workers drained a pond Wednesday night.

Page said one of his deputies searched a Civil War-era cemetery nearby but found no evidence that any of the graves had been disturbed.

The property is just off a rural lane in a wooded area.

Jennifer disappeared the morning her parents, Michael Short, 50, and Mary Hall Short, 36, were found shot to death in their ranch house along busy U.S. 220, about 35 miles south of Roanoke, Va.

Authorities believe Jennifer was kidnapped by her parents' killers, who have not been identified.

After Jennifer's disappearance, authorities combed the rolling hills behind her parents' house on horseback and four-wheelers but found nothing. Search dogs only picked up the girl's scent in the house and the neighboring convenience store, where the family regularly shopped.

updated 3:36pm by Chris Rees