An east Columbus home decorated for Christmas 2015 became a house of horrors the following January when three people were bound with various types of tape and bludgeoned with a 20-pound dumbbell as their blood splattered the walls and pooled on the floor beneath them.
For three hours Tuesday morning, jurors in the triple-homicide trial of Rufus Leonard Burks IV viewed gruesome photos from 3057 Bentley Drive as a crime-scene investigator explained how police collected evidence in the slayings of Gloria Short, 54; her son Caleb Short, 17; and granddaughter Gianna Lindsey, 10.
Gloria Short lay face down in a central hallway, blue painter’s tape around her wrists and extended to encircle her head and neck. Packing tape was around her thighs. A puddle of blood was beneath her head and more was spattered on the walls.
Just three to four feet away, in an adjacent living room, Gianna lay face up, some scraps of blue tape on her hands, neck and leg, as if she had worked her way free from the bindings. The bloody dumbbell was on the floor beside her. Like her grandmother, she had a pool of blood at her head.
Some of her grandmother’s blood had splashed onto her, indicating her body was there when Gloria Short was being beaten.
Down the hall, in a spacious walk-in closet off the master bedroom, Caleb lay on the floor, so brutally battered some of his teeth were knocked out. He also was bound with tape, with some brown grass stuck to the adhesive, indicating he was outside when the tape was applied.
Police Cpl. Derick Solt testified most of the house was in disarray. Spreading from the bodies of Gloria Short and Gianna was a debris field extending into a nearby dining room and kitchen, where some of the grandmother’s blood also was spattered.
In that debris were pieces of a heavy watering pot, a yellow teapot, and a broken lamp. A piece of the teapot was covered in blood, and appeared to have skin and hair on it, said Solt, who collected fingerprints from it.
Parts of the house appeared to have been ransacked, with drawers pulled out, clothes scattered about, and two of Gloria Short’s purses emptied onto the bed in the master bedroom, Solt said.
Investigators spent about 10 days collecting evidence at the crime scene, accumulating so much that some had to be stored in a secure records room at police headquarters, as its property and evidence division lacked adequate space, Solt said.
Officers worked into the night on the first day, so the bodies could be sent off for autopsies. Upon later learning Gloria Short and Gianna had apparent stab wounds in addition to the head trauma, officers collected a bent pocket knife they found beside an open kitchen drawer, Solt said.
That first day of processing the crime scene was Jan. 4, 2016, the day nurse Robert Short Sr. came home about 7:25 a.m. after working the night shift at Northside Hospital and found his wife, son and granddaughter slain.
“Oh my God! Someone killed my family!” he sobbed to a dispatcher when he called 911 at 8:02 a.m.”They’ve been tied up and beaten. Who would do this to my family? Who would do this?”
He would learn the answer to that question was a boy he and his wife had treated like a member of the family: Jervarceay Tapley, then 16, who had spent summers with the Shorts and joined them on fishing trips and vacations to Disney World.
Tapley, who prosecutors say recruited Burks, then 15, and Raheam Gibson as accomplices, pleaded guilty last week to three counts of malice murder. Gibson, who was 19 at the time of the crime, also has agreed to plead guilty, and is expected to testify at Burks’ trial.
Gibson told police he never entered the house after Tapley called Caleb Short outside by tapping on his bedroom window and Burks helped bind Caleb with tape.
Authorities say all the trio gained from this violent rampage were some of Caleb’s clothes, including the Nike Air Jordan sneakers he collected, about $600 in cash Gloria Short had withdrawn from a bank machine the day before, around $400 in coins the Shorts collected in a box made for storing wine, a video game player and some games.
Two vehicles were taken, a GMC Envoy and Volkswagen Beetle, but they were abandoned later in Columbus’ Oakland Park neighborhood off South Lumpkin Road.
Burks is being tried on 10 counts, three counts of malice or intentional murder; three counts of felony murder for allegedly killing the three victims while committing the felony of aggravated assault; two counts of auto theft; and one count each of kidnapping and first-degree burglary.