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Why investigators are taking another crack at a decades-old Henry County cold case

Criminologists say there are pros and cons, all having to do with witnesses

There are still a lot of questions now that investigators have renewed a local cold case nearly 20 years later.

HENRY COUNTY, Va. – Criminologists estimate that at least 200,000 murders have gone unsolved since the 1960′s, leaving family and friends to wait and wonder.

Thousands more go cold every year, but it’s not often many get a second look.

“It’s important to keep a case in the public’s eye,” Dr. Tod Burke says. “Once it’s cold, once it’s put on a desk somewhere or on a shelf, it seems to be forgotten.”

After nearly half a century of studying criminology, Dr. Burke knows first-hand how important it is to get a fresh set of eyes on a case, especially one that’s gone nearly 20 years without an arrest.

Investigators found all three members of the Short family dead in 2002. The parents in their Henry County home, and their nine-year-old daughter’s body in Rockingham County, North Carolina.

“When you look at re-opening a cold case, it’s important to ask if it’s possible to get additional leads,” Dr. Burke says. “I think that’s what law enforcement is certainly hoping for.”

[Community hopes for peace as Henry County takes another look at Short family murders]

Dr. Burke says there are pros and cons to taking another look at a cold case, and it all has to do with the witnesses. Memories lapse over time, people die or move away and suspects could be in prison.

“Someone has information,” he says. “They may think that’s not really important. At the time, maybe it wasn’t. Now that actually might crack the case.”

Dr. Burke adds new technology and the ability to share information easily over jurisdictions could be critical to solving any case.

About the Author:

Kortney joined the 10 News team as a Lynchburg Bureau Reporter in May 2021.