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Sheriff H.F. Cassell Briefs Reporters

Aired August 17, 2002 - 08:33   ET


CHARLES MOLINEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let us now listen into that news conference on the missing girl in Virginia. It's going on right now.
SHERIFF H.F. CASSELL, HENRY COUNTY: We'll be leaving shortly. They'll be going out. They'll be, as I've told you earlier, they'll be interviewing potential witnesses, people that may have seen anything. We'll be interviewing family members. We'll be interviewing past employees, present employees, associates. This is what we've been doing for the last two days.

I do not know at this time whether or not the search and rescue team will be operating today. I just talked to Mr. Cox, who's heading that up. He said they're extremely fatigued. They've covered the area in the adjacent to the crime scene thoroughly so they may not be going out today unless something happens that we call them, because they're fatigued. The only people that he's got left that aren't in a serious state of fatigue are untrained volunteers, and that's usually not very productive.

We have absolutely nothing new to tell you from what we've told you for the last two days other than we're continuing our investigation. We've got about probably 35 to 40 officers, including several state police agents and FBI agents. We have been joined the last two days by several other departments, including Franklin County, Rockingham, North Galina, the city of Martinville's sheriff's office and the earlier named FBI and state police agencies.

This is an ongoing search. I keep hearing from different news medias that they hear we're cutting back our search. We didn't say that. I didn't say that. It's not true. We've got probably as many men here today, or possibly more, than we had the first two days.

The only thing that could possibly be cut back to some degree today, or maybe altogether, depending on the need, is the search and rescue team, which is headed up by Mr. Cox.

I'll take any questions that you might have.



CASSELL: You're going to have to speak up.

QUESTION: The search and rescue team, they were primarily focused on the immediate areas?

CASSELL: Well, they started out in the immediate area on foot and four wheelers. And then they, you may have seen them going up and down the highway in vehicles and on foot searching over banks, medians and so forth. And that has also been continued by the sheriff's office and the state police in cars, an ever widening search.

But the search and rescue team primarily worked from the house out. This area before they got there had already been searched by tracking dogs and about 25 police officers. So this, that area immediately adjacent to the house for some several hundred yards had been covered by about four different groups.

QUESTION: Sheriff, overnight any additional out of state phone calls?

CASSELL: I can't answer about the calls. Certainly nothing really productive. I just talked to the captain who's holding the briefing inside and he said that there's nothing at all. I talked to dispatch at six o'clock this morning when I came out and they had nothing.

QUESTION: Is this growingly frustrating for you?

CASSELL: Well, it's frustrating but we persevere.


QUESTION: Sheriff, are you reassessing your approach at this point in time (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CASSELL: No. The same approach. I don't know of any other way to approach this. If we had a tag number or a definite suspect or a vehicle -- we have none of that.


CASSELL: I can't hear you.


CASSELL: Well, we've never had this type of situation before, but that's, under these circumstances with no more evidence, I think that's probably generally the case.

QUESTION: Sheriff, have you gotten any missing persons reports in the last couple of days within the area, somebody who could have abducted her and now is gone?


QUESTION: Sheriff...

QUESTION: Is there any more you can tell us about any forensic evidence (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? CASSELL: We have no test results other than the preliminary medical examiner's report, which did confirm that both the victims died of a single gunshot wound to the head.

QUESTION: What's the situation this morning with the only (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CASSELL: I can't hear you.

QUESTION: What's the situation this morning with the only man you all have questioned (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CASSELL: We have questioned dozens of people so far. There's...

QUESTION: The only man to have seen the family before (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CASSELL: There's nothing new there. We will continue to talk to him, but there's nothing new this morning.


QUESTION: What about the hard drive on the computer? Was that useful? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CASSELL: I can't answer that.

QUESTION: Did it go to Richmond?

CASSELL: I can't answer that.

QUESTION: When you say the immediate search and rescue in this immediate area has been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) searching where are you going today?

CASSELL: The area will continue to be patrolled. I don't know whether the search and rescue squad will go out today or not. That's up to Mr. Cox and whether or not they're physically able.

QUESTION: So when you say you're searching, where do you search (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CASSELL: Well, our men will continue. We've got at least four to six officers that will be patrolling from the Oak Level area outward, looking for anything unusual, looking over road banks, the same thing the search and rescue squad has been doing closer in. And they've been doing that all along.

QUESTION: Sheriff, did the Shorts own weapons and are any weapons missing from the home?

CASSELL: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Sheriff, is there going to (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CASSELL: Well, the autopsy will not be complete until all of the various tests are in and sometimes that takes a month. The preliminary report probably is complete, but I haven't seen it. I've only heard about the gunshot wounds and that's all I know at this point.

QUESTION: Sheriff, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 48 hours now that little Jennifer has been missing. At what point do you anticipate (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CASSELL: I can't, I have no idea. Certainly the longer the time train, the more desperate it becomes.

QUESTION: Sheriff, do you feel like you have enough help in order to deal with the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CASSELL: Yes. We have, I feel like we have all the help we can use. Sometimes you can get too much help and you can't keep up with it and you duplicate or you miss. We have, I know I have seen four FBI, four state police and we've probably got inside right now around 30 to 35 officers and there's probably at least four to 10 on patrol out here now.

So any leads we generate in other counties, we either contact the authorities from those counties or usually it's quicker, right now, with the FBI being on top of it, to contact them. And we've done that in several instances already. They get on it immediately. I don't know of anything that more help would do. We've had volunteers from -- every surrounding law enforcement agency has offered us manpower and equipment and we've used that some so far. But right now we've got all we need.

QUESTION: Have their family members or friends...

MOLINEAUX: You've been listening live to Sheriff Cassell of Henry County, Virginia talking about the case of 9-year-old Jennifer Short, the missing girl who disappeared under gut wrenching circumstances. Both her parents were found shot to death and she has not been seen since. A nationwide amber alert for her is now out. The sheriff says that investigators are becoming frustrated and the longer, more time goes on as she continues to be missing, the more desperate the situation becomes.

Of course, we'll be following this developing story throughout the morning.




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