Day three: Prosecution suggests strangulation
In addition to dozens of abrasions, bruises, and broken bones, Justine Elizabeth Abshire suffered another type of injury before her death, a medical examiner testified today.
"These findings are what you find in manual strangulation," said Dr. Todd Luckasevik, a former Fairfax County medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on the 1997 Western Albemarle High School graduate, and who detailed deep-tissue bruising in her neck muscles coupled with hemorrhages in one eye and lips– hallmarks of strangling.
Further, Luckasevik explained to the jury, the massive injuries included 113 that were obvious to the naked eye in addition to numerous severe internal injuries including lacerated and bruised lungs, broken ribs, a shattered pelvis and a lacerated spleen and liver.
Several of the wounds, however, failed to bleed, suggesting that they occurred after death, Luckasevic testified, noting a lack of blood at the scene and saying he found less than half the blood he would have expected pooled in her chest and abdominal cavities. Prosecutors contend the missing blood is evidence Justine was killed elsewhere and then brought to Taylorsville Road, where Abshire staged a hit and run.
"I can say definitively she was not standing upright when she was struck by the vehicle," said Luckasevik, offering that injuries sustained by the 27-year-old kindergarten teacher– with several exceptions– are consistent with someone getting run over while lying in the road.
As reported in the Hook, at a bond hearing in February, prosecutors alleged that Eric Abshire has a history of choking women, citing a restraining order the mother of his two children took out against him in which she claimed he'd throttled her in front of their daughters. Orange County Commonwealth's Attorney Diana Wheeler said at that bond hearing that a medical examiner "couldn't rule out strangulation" in Justine's death, but today marked the first time the extent of the neck injuries was made public.
Eric Abshire's proclivity for other women and his behavior on the days around his wife's death dominated morning testimony as a friend and former business partner took the stand and recalled serving as Abshire's "alibi" when Abshire didn't want Justine to know he was with another woman.
"I just told her I was with you last night," Abshire would tell dump truck business associate Lee Green, according to Green's testimony. Green was among the friends Abshire called hours after he reported finding his wife's body on Taylorsville Road, and according to his testimony, the widower's behavior seemed unusual for a grieving man.
"He showed me naked pictures of a girl," said Green, who recalled Eric's words as he displayed the images of a former girlfriend.
"He said, 'They might not want to see these today,'" Green said, explaining that "they" referred to Justine's parents who were en route to Abshire's Fredericksburg Road house from their then-home in Tennessee. Abshire was never "the marrying type," added Green, who professed surprise when Abshire married Justine in May 2006, less than six months before her death.
Other testimony Friday came from State Police Special Agent Mike Jones, the lead investigator of the case, who asserted that a changing story by Abshire raised police suspicions.
Among the details that Jones cited: the time Abshire arrived home the night Justine died, a stop at Arby's for dinner that Abshire said on different occasions occurred before or after he visited his mother, a patient at Martha Jefferson Hospital. Abshire, Jones noted, also couldn't remember which roads he traveled after he traded his car for his motorcycle at the All American storage unit in Ruckersville, and went riding.
Jones also mentioned being "struck" by Abshire's nickname for his wife.
"He called her 'Thing,'" Jones said.
Jones' testimony will continue Monday, with the prosecution's case expected to extend well into next week.Read more on: Justine Swartz Abshire