A family of five found dead in a murder suicide in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, includes a toddler who survived a heart transplant as an infant.
The local District Attorney, John T. Adams, identified the deceased parents as Mark and Megan Short, according to The Reading Eagle. Also killed were the Shorts’ young children, Liana, Mark and Willow, who were ages 8, 5, and 2, the DA said. All died of gunshot wounds, the newspaper said.
The DA said in a news release posted to Facebook that investigators found a handwritten murder suicide note next to one of the parents, as well as a handgun. They did not disclose its contents.
The District Attorney said on Aug. 15 that Mark Short killed his family and then himself and wrote the suicide note. The DA also said that police had responded to a previous domestic violence call at the family’s home in July and officers told Megan Short how to get a restraining order against her husband when she said she was afraid of him, but she did not seek one, according to The Morning Call newspaper. The DA also said she was planning to move out of the family home when the murders occurred. He called it an “abusive relationship,” said The Morning Call.
The detective in charge of the case had told The Reading Eagle on Aug. 8 that investigators would reveal who pulled the trigger when they were 100% certain. The detective “says he wants to be certain he has the right suspect before he names the killer,” said the newspaper.
In April, Mark Short, 40, wrote of Willow, who had a heart transplant at 6 days old: “They get big so quick. My littlest one will be 2 in two weeks.” The family dog was also shot and killed by Mark Short, the news release and DA said.
Megan Short, 33, wrote frequently about having a child with a heart transplant and vividly described her own struggles with PTSD. Willow survived the transplant for two years, only to be shot in her own family home by one of her parents.
The Shorts were having persistent domestic issues, according to authorities and a Megan Short friend who spoke to Heavy. The DA did not detail what those issues were to the news media but noted the point in the news release.
The friend, who asked that her name not be used and provided Facebook screenshots of her conversations with Megan to Heavy, said, “Megan and I have talked about her PTSD and her failing relationship with her husband, but I never would have seen this all coming.” Another friend told The Reading Eagle that Megan had confided she was in an abusive relationship and was leaving her husband, and the newspaper said she had indicated she was planning to move out of the family home on the day she died.
The friend who spoke to Heavy said she was speaking out because Megan was a good person whom she considered an inspiration and the news media was focusing on Megan’s PTSD and not her husband’s anger over another relationship.
She said that Megan told her she had been in a relationship with another woman she met through transplant circles and added, “He was very upset she left him for another woman.” The Shorts were trying to repair their marriage, said the friend, whose son was also an infant heart transplant recipient and bonded with Megan over it. She said that PTSD is a known phenomenon in transplant circles and that people should not discount the crumbling relationship as a possible motive.
The family members were found dead inside their home in a subdivision called Brookfield Manor. Sinking Spring is a borough of just over 4,000 people located in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Willow Short Had a Heart Transplant as an Infant 2 Years Ago & Her Mother Wrote About Having PTSD
According to The Reading Eagle, the newspaper ran a story in 2014 on Willow Short, who had undergone a heart transplant at 1-week-old. The story said the baby was “thriving” and started, “Few parents would call listening to a baby’s cries one of the blessings of child rearing.”
Megan Short wrote on The Waiting List: “Willow’s first wail was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard, but it didn’t take long before she was intubated within hours of her birth and I could no longer hear her voice.” She required 16 blood transfusions and open heart surgery at six days old, she wrote.
In May, Megan Short wrote that she was thinking of the mother who donated Willow’s heart. “As we go into Mother’s Day, my mind is on the mother who made the decision to donate her baby’s organs,” she wrote. “I am so sorry that your baby is not with you now, but I hope it brings you some peace to know that we are so grateful for the time you have given us with her. I am sure Mother’s Day is especially hard for you. We received the call the day after Mother’s Day 2 years ago.”
Megan described her own emotional pain, writing, “It was so difficult to see her upset. But not be able to hear her cry, it was heartbreaking. After her transplant, doctors were able to remove the breathing tube. Hearing her voice and seeing her face without all the tape is one of my favorite memories.”
Megan Short wrote frequently on the Waiting List Facebook page about her child and family.
In May, Megan Short wrote, “Willow was diagnosed with complex congenital heart defects prenatally. She was expected to be stillborn, but she came out fighting! At only six days old, she received her gift of life! We think of the tiny donor and his/her family every single day. We are so grateful that they said yes to organ donation during their darkest of days.”
The family created a Facebook page called Willow’s Heart Journey. The last post, in May, said that the child, now 2, was not rejecting her medication. The page says, “The journey of one amazing little miracle who beat the odds!”
Megan also wrote about what she described as “My latest Blog post. Sharing my experience in hopes that it helps someone. PTSD in parents of chronically ill children is not discussed or studied as much as it should be.”
In the blog post, she said, “There are very few moments when you can clearly see your life as separated into the before and after. Having a child born with a severe congenital heart defect has been the most significant shift of my life. Like many moms, I have always put my family’s needs ahead of my own and forgotten to make time to take care of myself. Having a child with a life-threatening illness intensified that. I was so focused on learning everything I could to keep my child alive and to minimize the impact on my other children that I didn’t see the full impact that it had on me.”
She described having anxiety, nightmares, and triggering events, and noted, “I don’t think PTSD ever truly goes away but, with therapy, medication, and the right support, I have begun to loosen its grip on me. As I work on my own mental healing, I wanted to share my experience so that other heart parents know they are not alone.”
When Megan Short shared the blog post on Facebook, a relative responded, “Amazing piece Megan!!! You are an inspiration to so many❤️hugs.”
2. The Family Struggled to Get Prescription Drugs for Willow, Which Was Featured in The New York Times
The family was also featured in the New York Times in 2015 in a story that talked about the family’s struggle to get anti-rejection medication for Willow, said The Reading Eagle.
The New York Times story started out, “As the end of each month nears, Megan Short frets.” It talks about how Willow needed drugs so her body wouldn’t reject her transplanted heart and details her mother’s struggles making sure she could refill the drugs.
The story focused on the concept of a “specialty pharmacy,” which the Times called “a new breed of drug dispensary that has risen to handle the exploding number of medicines that cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”
The story includes a photo of Megan Short holding her baby as well as a picture of the Short family releasing balloons on the first anniversary of Willow’s heart transplant. Megan had written that Willow’s “defects were extremely rare and the combo of them were not previously documented” so doctors feared she would be born stillborn.
In her blog posts, Megan also described in great detail the difficulties of protecting a child with a heart transplant, saying, “We would use a plastic rain cover over the car seat to prevent germs” and “The weight of not knowing if she will ever live a day outside of the hospital is very heavy.”
In May 2015, she wrote, “We found out about Willow’s heart defects at our routine ultrasound right before Christmas. That was an especially difficult holiday season for me as I could not help but think that I may never get to celebrate my baby’s first Christmas. Spending this past Christmas at home with my husband and all three kids was one of the best days of my life. It was also very emotional because I just kept thinking that the donor family was experiencing the one thing I had been so afraid of: they were spending the holidays without their baby.”
3. Megan Said She Loved Another Woman but Mark Called Megan the ‘Most Beautiful Girl That I’ve Ever Met’
The Facebook screenshots between Megan and her friend chronicle Megan’s crumbling marital relationship in her own words and shed light on tension between Megan and Mark in the months before the murder suicide. Heavy has removed the name of Megan’s girlfriend. Megan had also broken it off with the girlfriend, but her relationship with Mark was still troubled, said the friend.
“Many relationships of medically challenged children end in a divorce. It is incredibly hard to maintain the life you had before,” she told Heavy. Her comments in the screenshots are in blue.
The friends also communicated about transplant related issues as well as relationships. “She left him and was dating another heart mom she met…but as of June 30th she was trying to work things out with Mark but she still had feelings for the other girl and they were still talking,” she told Heavy, explaining that it was wrong to only consider Megan’s PTSD when assessing what happened.
On Facebook, both Mark and Megan Short repeatedly posted photos of their family, especially their children. “Happy family” one relative wrote under a photo. The Reading Eagle newspaper received similar accounts from neighbors, who said they didn’t notice anything amiss.
In December 2015, Mark wrote of Megan: “She’s still the most beautiful girl that I’ve ever met. I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have her as my wife and the mother of my three amazing children!”
Mark Short’s cousin, James Short, confirmed to NBC 10 that Megan was trying to leave the relationship and added of Mark, “He was a family, family guy. He was all family. He worked himself to death to try and keep his family together. It was just work, work, work and family. That was it.”
James Short said Megan met Mark when she was 17, and that Mark worked in real estate.
According to The Washington Times, the Short family’s bodies were discovered at 3 p.m. on Saturday Aug. 6 inside their home. That’s the day the D.A. says Megan was planning on moving out. Authorities have not disclosed the details of the suicide note.
4. The Deaths Are an ‘Apparent Murder Suicide,’ Reports Say, & the 5-Year-Old Son Loved ‘Rough Housing’ & ‘Monster Games’
The deaths were being called an “apparent murder suicide,” and authorities said that all of those who died were members of the same family, said ABC 6 Philadelphia.
A relative wrote of the son, Mark, in July on Facebook, “Today, this little guy turns 5…I can’t get enough of his smiles, loving, rough-housing and monster games (for some reason, though, I am always the monster).”
Some family photos show the children at Disney World.
The murder suicide happened on Saturday afternoon, CBS Philly 3 said. Here is the District Attorney’s full press release on the case:
The bodies were discovered after Megan did not show up for a lunch she had scheduled with a relative, the release said.
5. Megan Said She Related to ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ Posted a Meme About Being in a ‘Dark Place’ & Read Books About Murder
“Never stop smiling! You have such a beautiful smile Megan!” a friend wrote on Megan’s Facebook page in late July. When a friend wrote to ask Megan if she wanted to go see the movie Alice in Wonderland, she wrote back: “Yes. I connect with Alice. With wonderland.”
However, on June 1, she posted a meme that read, “Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but actually you’ve been planted.” Another meme she posted in 2015 said, “Just remember that sometimes the way you think about a person isn’t the way they actually are.”
The friend said that she considered Short inspirational for how she handled Willow’s illness.
“She truly was so sweet and caring,” she said. “She knew when my son had big doctors appointments and she was always the first person to wish us luck and asked how things went. When we got home from the hospital she sent us a special face mask and would dress willow up in Superman gear to support (the friend’s son). She was always the one to up lift others in our pediatric transplant support group, and assured you things got easier.”
In May, Megan posted that she was reading the book Worth Dying For by Rita Herron. The book jacket says, “One man wants to kill her the other will die to protect her. Just when the residents of Slaughter Creek think they’re safe, a sadistic serial killer strikes.”
Megan also wrote that she was reading another book by the same author called Her Dying Breath, which is about a serial killer targeting men in a small town.
She also recently read Harlan Coben’s Fool Me Once, described as, “Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya’s husband, Joe—who was brutally murdered two weeks earlier.”
Megan wrote on Facebook of that book, “Finished in a day. Couldn’t put it down. Very well written.”
The family lived in a 4 bedroom 2.5 bath home worth over $400,000, according to online home records. Police obtained a warrant to enter the home after 8 p.m. on the Saturday the murders occurred to continue the investigation, The Reading Eagle said.