STONEVILLE, N.C. – The remains of a body found in rural North Carolina do not appear to be those of Jennifer Short, the 9-year-old Virginia girl who disappeared last month, officials said Thursday.
The skull and bones were found on Wednesday and police initially thought they might be the remains of Jennifer, who they believe was kidnapped from her home 30 miles away after her parents were shot to death there.
Investigators brought a sample of hair from the skull and other evidence to Roanoke, Va., where Jennifer's belongings are being held, in an attempt to make a preliminary finding.
"The microscopic analysis indicated that this hair sample probably was not Jennifer Short; however, that is not a definitive answer," Henry County Sheriff Frank Cassel said Thursday.
He said further tests will be run on other remains, and a DNA analysis will be conducted.
"We still have hopes of finding Jennifer alive," Cassel said. But he added, "The longer time goes on, the less likely that is."
Authorities and search dogs descended on the area where a small human skull was found Wednesday, about 30 miles from the Short home in Henry County, Va., where Jennifer disappeared on Aug. 15.
The skull "appears to be from somebody young," said Jeannie Justice, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office in Rockingham County.
Rockingham County resident Eddie Albert discovered the skull Wednesday afternoon after noticing his two dogs tossing around what he at first thought was a brown wig, said his daughter, Lisa Albert.
"There were small fragments of jaw, teeth and other bones strewn all over the place," Page said.
Authorities searched for the rest of the body Wednesday night. They drained a pond near Albert's property, but there was no immediate indication whether anything had been found.
For days after Jennifer's disappearance, authorities combed the rolling hills behind her parents' house on horseback and four-wheelers. Search dogs picked up the girl's scent only in her house and the neighboring convenience store, where the family regularly shopped.
Jennifer's parents, Michael Short, 50, and Mary Hall Short, 36, were shot to death in their red-brick ranch house along busy U.S. 220, about 35 miles south of Roanoke. No arrests have been made.
Wednesday's discovery came four days after a Henry County judge made Jennifer's uncle and aunt her legal guardians.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.