Day two: Trial opens with gruesome details, timeline emphasis

A shoe, two gold earrings, and a cell phone were among the items found along Taylorsville Road near the lifeless body of kindergarten teacher and 1997 Western Albemarle High School graduate Justine Elizabeth Abshire, but while investigators measured fabric "drag marks" stretching a dozen feet along the road leading to her body, several other things were missing.

"I've never seen a hit and run where the body was dragged so far with no brake or skid marks," testified former Orange County Sheriff's Deputy Joseph S. Hogsten, who was among the first investigators on the scene and also noted the absence of vehicle debris.

"In any vehicle crash," Hogsten testified of the more than 100 crashes he's investigated involving cars, pedestrians or animals, "always, the debris is located at the point of impact."

Hogsten was one of 14 witnesses to take the stand today as the prosecution launched its case against 36-year-old Eric Abshire, charged with first degree murder for the November 2 or 3, 2006 death of his wife.

In an opening statement that lasted about 20 minutes, Orange County Commonwealth's Attorney Diana Wheeler laid out details of a circumstantial case with a clear mission: to convince the jury that Abshire killed Justine elsewhere, then brought her to Taylorsville Road, where– motivated by his involvement with other women and the $1.5 million in insurance prosecutors claim he stood to gain– he staged a hit and run. To make the case, Wheeler focused on the events as reported by Abshire.

"The defendant is the person who controlled the timeline," Wheeler said. "It's his word that says she came home after class, his word that says she was alive at 1:19[am]. The evidence shows she probably wasn't alive at 1:19."

Wheeler further suggested that the man who allegedly slept with another woman between Justine's death and her funeral was hardly focused on his wife's well being the night of her death.

In a "long phone call" to another woman just before midnight on November 2, about two hours before he'd claim to find Justine's body, Abshire purportedly professed a desire to "be with her, the other woman," Wheeler said.

"We don't have to prove motive," she told the jury, but "we do know that love and money can lead to some tragic circumstances."

Abshire's defense attorney Charles Weber also focused on time in his opening statement and sought to plant doubt in jurors' minds about what he calls an "ambiguous timeline."

"The claim is she was already dead at 1:19," said Weber. "Wait til you hear full testimony before you decide."

One thing Weber did concede: that jurors would likely find Justine a more lovable person than his client, a former dump truck driver who allegedly cavorted with at least eight women during the course of the courtship and ill-fated marriage.

"It's not a popularity contest, not a beauty contest," said Weber. "It's whether Mr. Abshire deliberately, premeditatively killed his wife."

The October 13 proceedings proved especially difficult for members of both the Abshire and Swartz families. As court opened, Abshire's two teenaged daughters, sitting on either side of their mother, Allison Crawford, wept as they looked at their father. As opening arguments began, Crawford escorted the girls from the courtroom.

Except for her father and sister– both of whom are witnesses and are therefore excluded from the courtroom– Justine's friends and family sat stoically through most of Thursday's proceedings which included the prosecution's detailed descriptions of Justine's injuries. However, crime scene photos showing the blond woman's facial injuries and her body's position in the road proved overwhelming to her grandmother, who was ushered from the courtroom quietly sobbing.

Further testimony from investigators and a medical examiner is expected on Friday, October 14.


"I've never seen a hit and run where the body was dragged so far with no brake or skid marks," My belief, this is the testimony that the jurors will remember and will be, in the end, Mr. Abshire's undoing.

"I've never seen a hit and run where the body was dragged so far with no brake or skid marks..."

Since when is 12 feet considered to be "so far"? I certainly don't know what happened out there, and would never pretend to know. But a lot of drunk drivers never brake or skid before they hit a person or object. If Abshire is innocent, the person who struck Justin Abshire might not even know they hit her.

I doubt the above remark is going to convict anybody, but I'm also sure the county has a lot more and better evidence too.

You right gasbag, you right

Who brings a 16 year old and a 12 year old to see their father on trial for murder? Are you serious?

Having worked in the field, I can tell you that drunk or not as soon as a person or animal is hit, the natural reaction is to brake, even in the case of a drunk driver who never stops to see what he hit, he still brakes. plus there would have been debris at the impact site had she been hit by a moving vehicle. the fact that there was no debris from the car means that her body was placed and then drug for the 12 or more feet before it broke free. Also, because she was dead before she was hooked on the bumper, the blood evidence will prove that. so, gasbag, you are incorrect, sorry but facts are facts. Mr. Abshire , if found guilty, will go to the gas chamber and good riddance to bad rubbish

A young lady who had been charged and convicted of drunk driving in Albemarle County was a year later charged again in Henrico County. The only difference in Henrico being the fact she ran over two people at two seperate locations and never even relaized she had hit either of them. When she sobered up she still denied running over anybody.

Noahlyn u wrong playa. Stop attackin da gasbag jus cuz its da gasbag

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This is to Courtney Stuart, The Hook and ingnorance:

To The Hook and ignorance:
You should not allow people to comment on innocent children. It is easy to cast an opinion of what is appropriate in this situation, but there is no right or wrong answer. Those children love their father and shame on any person that has the absolute lack of character to mention them on this website. Shame on you and the person you are. Leave them out of this. This website is simply a forum for ignorance to have a voice.

Shame on you for worrying more about a story than innocent children. This website should be monitored continuously for those types of comments. Inappropriate content includes more than profanity or racial slurs. Show some humanity and remove the comments that pertain to underage children.

@ To those who throw stones.....
These people (the Hook) DO NOT CARE!

Throw Stones,

I have a right to free speech and it is sickening that these underage children were brought to a murder trial....I would not EVER let my kids see their FATHER on trial for murder, that is upsetting as it is, also that these kids probably think their daddy is coming home. So tell me where the real ignorance is??? The children were mentioned in the article which I commented