Seeking Justice for Justine

From a distance, it seemed like 27-year-old Justine Abshire had everything going for her. The beautiful young woman from Barboursville, Va., was living her dream of teaching a kindergarten class full of children who adored her; a newlywed, she had hopes of having her own children. But this picturesque life met a mysterious death in early November 2006.

Ever since, her family has been seeking one thing: justice for Justine.

According to Justine's husband, Eric, she called him at 1:19 a.m. on Nov. 3, 2006, saying that her car had broken down and that she needed him to come and get her. A road map indicates that she was about five miles from home.

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"I got my [motorcycle and] I went riding down there to see if I could find out what was wrong with her car," said Eric Abshire. When he got there, he said he found Justine lying in the road.

"There are no words to describe it," he said. "That's a situation nobody, unless they've ever lived through it, could describe …I just held her and talked to her."

Abshire says he was overcome with emotion.

"I [sat] there with her. I covered her up with my jacket, and when I finally came to my senses enough I went and called for help."

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Abshire says he ran to several nearby houses and finally found a neighbor who called 911. According to records obtained by "Primetime," the call was placed at 1:57 a.m.

"I didn't even realize that I had my cell phone until probably an hour later."

Soon Justine was declared dead at the scene. Her death certificate indicates that she died from "multiple trauma" caused by "being struck by a motor vehicle." The local and state police had what appeared to be a textbook hit-and-run case.

Marvin's Observations

However, something seemed to be troubling investigators as to the details of how Justine died. Mike Jones of the Virginia State Police, the lead detective on the case, told "Primetime" that something looked "suspicious."

In fact, the suspicions began precisely where Justine's life ended -- on Taylorsville road. Justine's parent's Steven and Heidi Swartz made a trip there looking for clues, and there they met Marvin, a neighbor who came to the scene that night.

(If you have any information about what happened to Justine Swartz Abshire on the night of Nov. 3, 2006, please call 800-572-2260 or 540-829-7400) and CLICK HERE to visit the Justice for Justine Web site.

Marvin told Justine's parents that he did not see any broken glass, skid marks or tire marks on the road in the early morning hours of Nov. 3, 2006. Heidi then asked him if it looked like there was an accident, and Marvin replied, "Not to me it didn't."

The notion that there were no classic signs of a hit-and-run does not sit well with Justine's family, and it troubles the police as well.

"The best way to put it is cases evolve, they begin to make the jump from a traffic case and then into a criminal investigation," said Jones.

Then, Jones tells "Primetime" something that changes the course of the investigation: "Nothing is consistent with a standing pedestrian being struck by a car. I will say based on physical evidence, somebody, or someone caused her death."

To Justine's family, other things seem inconsistent with her character. Justine was a young woman who was apparently scared of her own shadow, who did not like to drive alone at night. What would lead her to be found lying in the middle of the road, 600 feet -- the equivalent of the length of two football fields -- away from her car?

Steven Swartz says the story does not make sense. "She supposedly has car trouble, pulls the car over, gets out of the car, opens the trunk for no good reason. She leaves her purse in the car, she leaves her coat in the car, she leaves her keys in the car?"

Heidi Swartz added, "And if she called [Eric] to say, 'Come help me,' and if she knew that he was on the way, why on Earth would she get out of her car?"

And Jones said the investigation into her death found nothing wrong with her car.

"Car was working," Jones said. " We since had it looked at by certified technicians, and that was found to be no mechanical defect."

Rumors Swirl Throughout Town

With so many questions, it's not surprising that the small town began creating its own answers -- right or wrong. Justine's mother Heidi said she heard the most shocking news since her daughter's death shortly after the memorial service.

"It was [a] day, or two days after Justine's memorial service. I walked into this little restaurant, and I just had one of those, what I call 'mother moments,' when it just washed over me, and I just lost it. I just burst into tears, and this woman behind the counter said, 'Oh my gosh, what's wrong? Are you sick?' And I said, 'I'm sorry, I've just lost my daughter. You may have heard about it.' She was the kindergarten teacher who was hit and killed by the car.' And she looked at me and she said, 'That was no hit-and-run. She was murdered, and her husband is the prime suspect.'"

Virginia State Police have not declared Eric Abshire a suspect and he maintains that he's fully cooperated with police, talked to them several times and has nothing to hide. He denies any involvement in her death and feels that he is a scapegoat in this situation.

"You've got all these people that are sitting there making suspicions, accusations about stuff … I think that they have run out of leads, and they're just looking for someone to blame. I know deep down in my heart that somebody knows what happened…their conscience will finally get to them."

Tonight, Wednesday, July 30, "Primetime: Crime" investigates the mystery that has stumped so many. For the first time Eric Abshire comes forth and tells ABC News exclusively what happened on the night of Justine's death and addresses all the scrutiny against him. He tells "Primetime" correspondent Jay Schadler details that even the police may not know.

IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO JUSTINE SWARTZ ABSHIRE ON THE NIGHT OF NOVEMBER 3, 2006, PLEASE CALL EITHER NUMBER BELOW.

800-572-2260 and 540-829-7400

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