The word hit all the newscasts early in the week. The skull of a child with red hair was found near Madison, North Carolina.

Jennifer Short

Jennifer Short

Immediately, speculation began that the remains were those of nine-year-old Jennifer Short, the Bassett, Virginia, girl who has been missing since someone shot and killed her parents on August 15.

It took 12 hours for a forensics lab in Roanoke to examine the remains and declare the skeleton was not Jennifer Short.

“The remains were found near a quarter-acre pond on the Albert residence,” said Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page. “There were skull pieces, a jaw bone and some teeth, and quite a bit of red hair. The bones were sort of bleached out indicating that they may have been exposed for a period of time.”

“The good news is that this is probably not Jennifer Short,” he added.

Will somebody take this redneck’s sidearm out and whack him up against the side of the head?

Good news?

They found the skeleton of a child.

It wasn’t Jennifer Short.

But was the skeleton of somebody’s child.

A child probably missing for a long time.

A child whose parents have no doubt been going through hell every day since, wondering what happened.

Good news?

Not bloody likely.

We may never know whose body was found on that farm in North Carolina because once tests determined the remains weren’t part of a high-profile case, the news media dropped the story. Jennifer Short? Hey that’s news. Just another dead little girl? Ho hum.

The Short case drew media like flies to cow shit. They descended on the small Southwestern Virginia community of Bassett, a poor town hard hit by layoffs from the area’s only business – a furniture factory.

Police found Short’s parents shot execution style, the little girl missing. Execution style murders just don’t happen in a town like Bassett.

A nationwide manhunt went out. Amber Alerts were called. Cops and volunteers searched the many wooded areas and hollows around Bassett. Nothing. She was gone. Vanished. Without a trace.

By mid-September, the trail was colder than a Blue Ridge Mountain winter. Every store throughout Southwestern Virginia sported a poster of Jennifer. Has anybody seen this girl?

Apparently, nobody had.

Then bones were found earlier this week. Hope for resolution combined with dread of discovery.

Then back to square one.

“We really want to find Jennifer alive,” says Sheriff Page.

A long shot to be sure, but while they are hoping, maybe somebody could take the time to find out just whose little girl was found on that remote farm in North Carolina?

Then maybe another family can find resolution to a long nightmare.