Lisa A. Davis, of The Tampa Tribune; December 15, 2000, Friday, Final Edition Copyright 2000 The Tribune Co. Publishes The Tampa Tribune The Tampa Tribune December 15, 2000, Friday, Final Edition
(NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla.) -- A fire scene turns into a drug investigation.
New Port Richey police are trying to determine who is responsible for marijuana plants that were growing in the home of Mark Short, who they say, is the son of former Pasco Sheriff John Short.
Firefighters stumbled upon eight towering plants and several smaller ones in a bedroom closet when searching for a cat after a fire at Short's home was under control Thursday.
Police were called to the home at 5922 Illinois Ave., just a few blocks south of New Port Richey City Hall.
After investigating, detectives and patrol officers waited outside for Mark Short and his wife, Heidi, to return home.
A moment after they did, Heidi Short reappeared outside the front door in tears.
"I can't believe this," she cried, stomping her feet as she walked out to the tree-lined street. "It's not fair. It's not fair."
A few minutes later, Mark sat on the front lawn and removed his shoes and socks, then stood up, removed his red shirt and emptied his pocket in front of a police officer. Soon, clad in a fresh shirt, he was whisked away without handcuffs by a detective in an unmarked vehicle.
"(Heidi Short) wasn't even aware (the marijuana plants) were in there," said police Cpl. Jackie Pehote. "And (Mark) admitted that."
At the police station, investigators say, Short was questioned about the plants.
"He was not placed under arrest because he informed us that he rents the room out to someone," said Pehote, who added police are trying to locate the roommate, whose name was not released.
Mark Short could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.
After a couple of hours at the station, Short was released, Pehote said. But the investigation is continuing.
Crime scene technicians and detectives confiscated the plants and growing accessories.
"We haven't found this much in a while," Pehote said of the plants.
The cause of the fire had nothing to do with the drug paraphernalia, investigators say. The fire started under a fish tank in the living room, said fire Chief Danny Azzariti.
No one was home when neighbors noticed smoke coming from the house. The Shorts' two cats, Sammy and Patty, were saved and uninjured. The fire was contained quickly but caused considerable smoke damage, investigators said.
Records show Mark Short, 35, was convicted in Pinellas County of a larceny charge and placed on probation in 1985, which he completed.
His father had his share of legal trouble when he in office. He was elected to sheriff in 1976 and again in 1980. He was forced to surrender his badge after his 1984 indictment on corruption charges, although he was later exonerated.