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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Jennifer Short Press Conference

Aired August 21, 2002 - 11:02   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Now we want to take you out to Virginia, where a press conference is under way in the ongoing search for Jennifer Short.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SHERIFF H.F. CASSELL, HENRY COUNTRY, VIRGINIA: Yes, some, but not as many. The calls are dwindling.

QUESTION: Sheriff, I wanted to ask you, what are things that struck you yesterday afternoon when there was another incident in California? And there was a news conference after the abduction of the girl there. The police officer made the comment that just hours after that abduction, they had received hundreds of phone calls from people, and it strikes me that here we are seven days later, and you are not seeing that. You are not getting the phone calls.

CASSELL: Well, we were getting a lot of phone calls the first two or three days, probably peeking with Sunday, very few Sunday morning, but late Sunday. Since then, we've had very few.

QUESTION: Is that discouraging to you?

CASSELL: Well, yes, it is. Yes.

QUESTION: Are you surprised by that?

CASSELL: I'm surprised that we're getting as few the last couple days, yes.

Do what?

QUESTION: The sightings in Winston, Salem, how different were those from the other ones you got?

CASSELL: About the same. The way I understand it, a lady supposedly saw a child with a man, with a gun, and it turned out that this lady didn't turn out to be a credible witness at all, and instead of calling the police, I believe she possibly called her friend and he called the police, and they are both well known to police.

QUESTION: ... right away after they say the guy. What do have you to say to people who may...

CASSELL: Well, obviously, if you -- if you see something that you think is legitimate, you don't drive around a while and then tell your friends, you call the police immediately. Call 911, no matter where you are. Every police agency in the country is aware of this case. If it's legitimate, for God's sake, treat it like it is legitimate.

QUESTION: How important it is for the phone calls it keep coming in?

CASSELL: It is extremely important, because right now, we don't have a whole -- we got some people that we're looking real strongly at, but we have no concrete evidence of any kind. So if anyone sees anything that they think has anything do with this case, let us know and let us check it out and let us be the -- make the decision whether or not there is anything to it.

QUESTION: These people you are looking at strongly? Are they local? Are they acquaintances?

CASSELL: Yes.

QUESTION: Did they possibly work for Mr. Short?

CASSELL: All of the same.

QUESTION: Any family members?

CASSELL: No.

QUESTION: You're not looking seriously at any family members?

CASSELL: We are looking at anyone, but we are looking more strongly at people right now that aren't family members.

QUESTION: Are you looking at more than one person?

CASSELL: Yes.

QUESTION: Sheriff, did you say local people and former employees?

CASSELL: Yes, pretty much one in the same.

We're looking at more than one.

We're looking at more than one, not necessarily that committed the crime, but there's -- let's just say we are looking at more than one.

QUESTION: In concert?

CASSELL: In concert? Not necessarily.

QUESTION: Sheriff, does that mean they are still helping police...

CASSELL: We haven't had but maybe one person refuse to cooperate.

QUESTION: Are you possibly looking, sheriff, at one person who might have committed the crime and possibly an accomplice?

CASSELL: We can't -- we really don't know. Possibly, but I'm not -- we're not really strongly looking at any accomplice. We still looking for the perpetrator.

QUESTION: Or perpetrators.

CASSELL: Exactly.

We have given, I have found out, more than one polygraph examination.

QUESTION: Sheriff, there is a number of sexual items that were turned on this morning's search warrant. Do you have reason to believe this is a crime of sexual nature more so?

CASSELL: Not particularly in reference to the items you are probably referring to.

QUESTION: Photograph of Jennifer Short, was that a pornographic picture of any sort?

CASSELL: Not that I'm aware of. I haven't heard that one.

QUESTION: Why are you taking those items that are...

CASSELL: We're taking any items we feel in any way could have anything do with this crime.

QUESTION: So it is safe to say that some things that are of a sexual nature you think may have something do with a crime.

CASSELL: We don't know at this time that anything we've taken don't have something do with the crime.

I think any -- let me make this point, to lay this items of the sexual nature to rest. Any time you have a child abducted from her home, you've got to assume that it may have something to do of a sexual nature, but that has probably nothing do with items that you were just talking about.

QUESTION: One thing that itemizes (UNINTELLIGIBLE) inventory questions. That doesn't involve Jennifer at all?

CASSELL: Does what?

QUESTION: Intimacy inventory questions of Michael and Mary Short, that doesn't involve Jennifer at all.

CASSELL: I'm not sure what you're talking about. And if I knew, I probably couldn't answer it.

QUESTION: In terms of the people that you are looking into very strongly, what's leading you to look into them more strongly than someone else?

CASSELL: I can't get into that.

Not necessarily. I've been asked to run something by you guys. As you know, this little girl's a student at Figsborough (ph) Elementary. Registration starts up there tomorrow. And I've been asked by the school superintendent to advise you that because of the hindrance to their operation and the safety of the children, the school property at Figsborough (ph) Elementary is considered off limits. Any further camera crews or whatever up there would be considered trespassing.

Now, if you have any questions for the school board, or about the school or about Jennifer at the school or what have you, I'm going to pass these out. The school board has a spokesman, and they will be glad to talk to you. But don't go up there and get involved in hindering those folks at the school. They asked me to pass that on to you. And I think that's a reasonable request.

But that's between you and the school board, and I do have the number here if you need to contact them for whatever nature.

Also, when we're through here, the male side of the short family's family will be out and will have a spokesman that will speak with you.

No one has been allowed in the home and will not be until we are through with it.

QUESTION: Why was the black plastic taken off the front of the home?

CASSELL: For the use of a Luminol process, which a process to...

WHITFIELD: All right, you have been listening to Henry County Sheriff Cassell talk about no concrete leads, as of yet, in the whereabouts of Jennifer Short who has been missing almost for a week now. He did say that they have a few people in mind, in particular, and he said that does include some family members.

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