A Pennsylvania mother shot to death by her husband, who also killed the couple's three young children, told police in the weeks before her death that she feared her husband, authorities said Monday.
Megan Short, 33, called police to her family's Sinking Spring, Berks County home July 18 — just shy of three weeks before the murder-suicide — after she had a dispute with her husband, Mark, Berks County District Attorney John Adams said Monday. Adams said officers advised her that she could file a protection-from-abuse order — something she told them she planned to do, but never did, he added.
Megan Short told responding officers that day that she feared her husband would harm her.
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She had reason to: The next day, Adams said, Mark Short went to a gun shop in Lancaster County and purchased a .38-caliber handgun and bullets. He would later use that gun, Adams said, to shoot his wife and three children — 2-year-old Willow, 5-year-old Mark Jr. and 8-year-old Liana — and the family's dog to death before turning the gun and killing himself with a single gunshot wound to the head.
Mark Short, who had lost his job as a loan officer not long before the murder-suicide, hand-wrote a note after he killed his wife and children, before killing himself, investigators said. They would not reveal what the note said, but said that it did not show any remorse or reasoning for the killings. Each child, Adams said, died of a single gunshot wound, and investigators found six spent .38-caliber shell casings in the home.
Megan Short had posted on Facebook in the months leading up to the murder-suicide that her husband was abusive and that she planned to leave, friends said after the killings. Authorities said she rented an apartment in Yardley, Bucks County July 25 and planned to move there the day of her and her children's deaths. She posted on Facebook asking for help moving the day before, Adams said, though Mark Short also allegedly planned to help his wife move.
Mark Short took the three children to Hersheypark the day before the killings, Adams said.
Police found the bodies of the 40-year-old father, his wife, the three children and the dog Saturday, Aug. 6 after Megan Short's mother called them concerned when her daughter never showed up for a lunch they planned. The mother told police then that her daughter and son-in-law had been having problems in their marriage.
When police arrived at the home, there was no answer, so they had to force their way in through a kitchen window, Adams said. They found the bodies in the living room, the children still dressed in their pajamas.
Authorities said they don't know why the Shorts' marriage disintegrated, but small insights into their lives came from posts by Megan Short on Facebook alleging abuse by her husband and detailing her plans to leave the marriage, as well as from Mark Short's relatives, who spoke with NBC10 last week.
Mark Short's aunt said Megan was young when they began dating and eventually married. Mark was seven years her senior.
The couple struggled with Willow's, the youngest child, illness — a severe congenital heart defect that required her to have a heart transplant when she was just days old.
In April, Megan Short wrote about the post-traumatic stress she continued to suffer as a result of Willow's sickness on a blog, Philly at Heart. News stories in the New York Times and the Reading Eagle detailed the family's difficulties obtaining medication the little girl needed to survive and grappling with the after effects of her heart transplant.
Hundreds of people attended funerals for Megan Short and the children held in Northeast Philadelphia late last week.
Megan Short's family has not spoken out about her death, but Mark Short's relatives in Folcroft, Delaware County, described him as a family man.
"You wouldn't think he would do this kind of thing," Mark Short's cousin, James Short, said. "But in the situation he's in right now, you never can tell with people."