RALEIGH, N.C. – Canadian authorities said Saturday they have begun seeking out acquaintances of a man described as a "witness" in the disappearance of a 9-year-old Virginia girl and the deaths of her parents.
Garrison Storm Bowman, who owned a trailer in North Carolina near where the girl's remains were found Sept. 25, has been held in Canada since Thursday and has been charged with immigration violations, officials said.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Bowman had been living in the town of Inuvik, about 700 miles north of Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories.
"We will scan the population in Inuvik to determine who might have had dealings with Mr. Bowman and find out from them what they know about him," RCMP spokesman Sgt. Phil Johnson said in a telephone interview.
Johnson said the request to help in the probe came from authorities in Virginia, North Carolina and, he believed, the FBI. He added that Bowman was charged Aug. 31 with impaired driving and has a hearing Nov. 7 on that charge.
Investigators with the Henry County, Va., and Rockingham County, N.C., sheriff's departments want to interview Bowman in the Aug. 15 slayings of Michael, 50, and Mary Short, 36, and in Jennifer's disappearance.
They describe Bowman, a 60-year-old carpenter, as a "witness" in the case.
The girl's remains, identified Friday, were found Sept. 25 south of Stoneville, 1 miles from a trailer that Bowman owned. Investigators have searched that trailer and Bowman's rented farmhouse in Mayodan.
North Carolina authorities seized nine maps, one of which was marked to show the location of the Shorts' home, last week from Bowman's trailer. A house he rented was searched in August.
An affidavit accompanying search warrants said Bowman had threatened to kill a man in Virginia in a dispute over moving the mobile home from one site to another in Rockingham County, two newspapers -- the News & Record of Greensboro, N.C., and The Roanoke (Va.) Times reported Friday.
Michael Short owned and operated a mobile-home moving business in Virginia.
Neither Rockingham County authorities nor Canadian immigration officials in Edmonton immediately returned phone calls Saturday seeking comment.
His neighbors in North Carolina recalled that Bowman displayed an American flag on his blue van long before the terrorist attacks. But they said they knew little else about him.
He didn't talk much about his life, they said, but would lend a hand if asked. They also found it hard to believe that authorities want to talk with him about the Shorts.
Bowman used the farmhouse as a workshop and stored equipment in a trailer on the land, said Stanley Lee Smith, 51, who lives two houses away. Bowman lived in a second trailer on the property, Smith said.
Smith said Bowman traveled a lot, often leaving for two to three months at a time. He didn't know where Bowman went and could offer few other details about a man who had been his neighbor for several years.
He doesn't believe Bowman was involved in the Short case.
"People just need to point a finger," he said.
Donnie Newman, who often repaired Bowman's vehicles, said the two would chat while Newman worked, but Bowman rarely talked about his life.
"I don't even know where he's originally from," Newman said.
Larry Landreth, who often hung out at Newman's repair shop, said Bowman began talking months ago about visiting Alaska, where he had been before.
"He said he went to where the blacktop ends and all you had was rock and dirt roads," Landreth said.
Mayodan Mayor Billy Ray Smith frequently saw Bowman around town driving the blue van.
"He was sort of one of those characters that -- one day he was here," he said. "I never knew where he came from."