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Sheriff H.F. Cassell Briefs Reporters on Jennifer Short Abduction Investigation

Aired August 18, 2002 - 17:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you now live to Henry County, Virginia for an update now on the search for 9-year-old Jennifer Short.
SHERIFF H.F. CASSELL, HENRY COUNTY, VIRGINIA: We're in the process of running down leads but we have absolutely nothing new at this time.

QUESTION: Did the dogs pick up anything from the scent?

CASSELL: They got hits from the house down to the motel and the little convenience store area, but nothing behind or anywhere else.

QUESTION: What does that tell you?

CASSELL: That only tells us that she was known to frequent that area. That really doesn't tell us anything. It tells us she didn't leave that area that they picked up as far as behind the motel.

QUESTION: Anything you can tell us from the trash can at the motel?

CASSELL: No. I don't know anything about what they removed. I didn't know they removed anything.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about anything you found whether it was the house, the area (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CASSELL: I don't know exactly what they got in the house. They may have picked up -- they may have had a search warrant for the house and picked up something. I don't know whether they did or not. I do know that they went up there. The state police brought in some equipment. You noticed if you were up there that they taped the windows. That was not to keep you all from looking in. It's a crime scene. You couldn't get up there anyway.

That was to use luminol. Luminol is a chemical that is used in darkness under fluorescent lighting to pick up any blood particles. That was the purpose of the -- that was the purpose of the black film on the windows. It has to be absolute darkness and then you light it with fluorescent lighting and it shows up.

QUESTION: Did it pick anything up?

CASSELL: I can't answer that. QUESTION: What was that room that had the black part on the window, what room of the house was that?

CASSELL: I'm sure they went through all the house.

QUESTION: When we saw the black tarp over the windows on the right side of the house. Do you know what room in the house that was?

CASSELL: The right side of the house?

QUESTION: The right side of it.

CASSELL: From the road?

QUESTION: No, you're facing the house from the side of the house on the right.

QUESTION: The window you covered.

CASSELL: That -- I don't know what windows they covered. I assume they covered them all. You know more about that than I do then. I don't know.

QUESTION: You don't know what room of the house that is?



CASSELL: Do what?

QUESTION: Can you tell us when you saw Chris here tonight, you saw him enter the building.



CASSELL: Chris. I assume they talked to him again.

QUESTION: Anything new on that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CASSELL: No, nothing new on that.

QUESTION: Was there another window in the house that was broken? Can you tell us about that?

CASSELL: That was done prior to any of this. That was old. You're talking about the window in the left front? That's old damage.

QUESTION: Was that done before the murders?

CASSELL: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: What about the status right now (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CASSELL: He's -- no. An acquaintance that we talk to routinely.

QUESTION: Is he cooperating?


QUESTION: What about the scents that were picked up between the house, the convenience, store, and the motel? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was staying at that hotel?

CASSELL: That's correct but also this little girl routinely went down to the convenience store that way.

QUESTION: So no possible lead there?

CASSELL: Well, it's a possible lead there but it's nothing to get real excited about.


CASSELL: Well, these are scent dogs. These are not tracking dogs. They did pick up scents. They can tell you where she has been if you're there, so it worked.

QUESTION: What do the tracking dogs track if not scent, what is it?

CASSELL: They track ground disturbance, a regular tracking dog, where a scent dog tracks scent that lingers in the air is the way it was explained to me. I really don't know a whole lot about scent dogs but that's the way it was explained to me.

QUESTION: Sheriff where do you go from here?

CASSELL: More of the same. We're still running down leads. We're still getting phone calls and more of the same.

QUESTION: You put out these pictures last night, has that helped?

CASSELL: I don't know of any particularly. I don't know that that's generated any more than the other picture was doing. I'm certain it hasn't hurt. It's a more recent picture, which more than likely portrays her as she would be today.

QUESTION: Are you closely to maybe getting a profile of the perpetrator?

CASSELL: It's my understanding that so far that you got to have certain information to furnish a profiler before he can give you a profile, and at this point, we still don't have enough evidence for him to do that.

QUESTION: Do you have a suspect?


QUESTION: Is the profiler here or are you working on someone to come in?

CASSELL: No. We're working -- the FBI is doing that I would imagine from Washington or wherever.

QUESTION: Sheriff, I heard, someone told me today that the Shorts were unloading a lot of clothing and a lot of furniture. Were they in financial trouble?

CASSELL: I don't -- I can't answer whether or not they were in financial trouble.

QUESTION: Does selling their house and then unloading all those things tell you that there may be some problems there?

CASSELL: Well there certainly could be. I wouldn't rule that out but I don't know that that has a whole lot to do with this.


CASSELL: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry. In terms of talking to the family, has the family been cooperative? Are they wanting to talk to the media or (UNINTELLIGIBLE) statements?

CASSELL: They've been cooperative with us. Now you'll have to answer that. I don't know about whether they want to talk to you guys or not.

QUESTION: What about time? Is time an issue any more? Are you running out of time?

CASSELL: With what?

QUESTION: Time? It's been four days, how long do you...

CASSELL: The longer a case like this goes unsolved with a missing child is more desperate as far as the child's safety is concerned. As far as running out of time, we will follow this case until we solve it. I just hope it's in time for the child.

QUESTION: Any phone calls made at this point? I know before you were (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CASSELL: Dozens of them from out of state, nothing that we run down that -- we've gotten nowhere with it.

QUESTION: Sir, is it likely that you might be issuing a search warrant sometime soon? Do you have any more information?

CASSELL: I would assume a search warrant was issued today or yesterday before we went back up there today, but I haven't seen it, but that would be routine.

QUESTION: Are you operating under the belief that whoever did this is in this local area and can you elaborate on that? CASSELL: I don't know whether they're in this local area now or not. I would have no idea. I've said before that I think that this was perpetrated by someone that knew or had some kind of dealings with this family. I have no idea where they are now.

QUESTION: But no one is missing beyond Jennifer?

CASSELL: No one is missing that I'm aware of but this is a big area.

QUESTION: Sheriff, the state police have seized the family computer. Are you working on the possibility that possible it's somebody Jennifer met on the Internet, in fact followed her to the home? Is that a possibility.

CASSELL: I really can't answer that.

QUESTION: Is that one of the theories though that you're considering?

CASSELL: It's my understanding that there had been no Internet connected to that home in over two years.


CASSELL: It's my understanding that the medical examiner made a statement that he couldn't get any closer than the nine-hour period that we were originally working with.

QUESTION: Because of the fact that you've had the grounds searched and you haven't had much success. Does that tell you that whoever took Jennifer probably got in a car and drove right away?

CASSELL: That would be logical.

QUESTION: How long can you keep up this pace with this level of (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CASSELL: Well, we keep it up at this level until we begin to run out of leads. Then we cut back according to our leads. We'll keep up this pace as long as necessary, as long as we have something to follow.

QUESTION: Do you plan on going back to the house or is that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CASSELL: I don't know. I honestly don't know. We will if we need to.

QUESTION: Tomorrow is Monday. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in some respects has anything changed (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CASSELL: I look for a much more hectic day tomorrow. As far as leads, phone calls and so on, we had almost no calls today until noon and from noon on it's been hectic today, so I look for tomorrow to be the same way. WHITFIELD: You've been listening to Henry County Sheriff H.F. Cassell talk about the ongoing search for nine-year-old Jennifer Short. They had some bloodhounds which did search the home where the little girl's parents were found dead but there were no hits in the home; however, the bloodhounds did manage to find some sense at a nearby convenience store.

But the sheriff explained that that also happened to be a convenience store that happened to be a part of the route that the little girl would take when she would walk to school. So still no encouraging leads now in the ongoing search for the little girl.


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