Remains Are Those Of Va. Child

a Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 5, 2002

Human remains found near a North Carolina creek are those of Jennifer R. Short, the 9-year-old from Henry County, Va., who had been missing since Aug. 15, when her parents were found shot to death in their home, police said yesterday.

DNA evidence confirmed that a skull with a bullet hole and other remains found 10 days ago in Stoneville, N.C., are Jennifer's. The area is about 30 miles south of the Short home in Bassett, Va.

"She's gone now, she's safe now, and no evil can befall her," said Henry County Sheriff Frank Cassell.

Photos of Jennifer's sweet face and toothy smile captured hearts across the country, and her case was one in a string of high-profile child disappearances last summer. Commuters in the Washington area heard of Jennifer's disappearance through an Amber Alert, the first time the system was triggered in the metropolitan area.

"To find out that it is Jennifer is taking a toll on the family," said Frank Arrington, Jennifer's great-uncle. He said forensic evidence foreshadowing yesterday's DNA test results did not soften the blow. "It's just devastating."

Her parents, Michael W. Short, 50, and Mary H. Short, 36, were shot to death in their home, and investigators launched a nationwide search for Jennifer.

Police say they have no suspects in what is now a triple slaying. But court documents filed in Rockingham County, N.C., indicate interest in Garrison S. Bowman, 66, a man whose mobile home was found about a mile from Jennifer's body. Bowman is in police custody in Canada, and the court papers say police found a map to the Short house in his home in Mayodan, N.C.

A police affidavit filed in court said Bowman's landlord told investigators that two days before the killings of Michael and Mary Short, Bowman said that he had paid a man in Virginia to move his mobile home and that if he didn't move it or return his money, "he would have to kill him." Michael Short ran a business that moved mobile homes.

The landlord also told police that he saw Bowman putting a "false floor" in his van and drilling holes in the side of a compartment. On Aug. 15, the day of the killings, Bowman approached the landlord with a pistol, the affidavit said. The next day, Bowman was gone and his trailer had been moved.

Police later seized bedding, photographs, documents and forensic evidence from Bowman's trailer, and they have requested his phone records, the court papers say.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Bowman was arrested in Inuvik, a town north of the Arctic Circle in Canada's Northwest Territories, on an immigration violation. Rockingham investigators are expected to interview Bowman soon.

"Right now he is classified as a witness," Rockingham Sheriff Sam Page said. "We're looking to see what he might add to the investigation."

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