Day five: Abshire expressed marriage regret
Speaking in a soft– at times shaking– voice, Eric Abshire's high school sweetheart, Allison Crawford, testified unwillingly today and revealed that on the night of Justine's death, Abshire, with whom Crawford has two daughters, said he still had feelings for her.
"He asked if there was any chance for our relationship," Crawford recalled under oath of a late-night phone conversation she had with Abshire– one of more than 40 phone calls between the two on November 2, 2006, the last day of Justine Swartz Abshire's life. Crawford also testified that former dump truck operator Abshire, whom she first met at age 12 and began dating as a junior in high school in 1991, expressed regret that night that he'd married Justine.
"I may have made a mistake," Abshire allegedly told her less than two hours before he'd report finding Justine's mangled body on Taylorsville Road.
Crawford, who answered in the affirmative when asked by the prosecution if she'd "prefer not to be here," insisted, however, that the majority of her conversations with Abshire that day centered on the health of his mother, who'd been admitted to Martha Jefferson Hospital earlier and was "not doing well."
She also acknowledged that her relationship with Abshire had been continuous for 10 years, until 2001. Previous testimony has revealed Abshire and Justine began dating in 1999. Crawford said today that she'd met Justine only twice and had learned of Abshire's plan to marry just weeks before the wedding.
The May 28, 2006, wedding at the Mark Addy Inn near Nellysford was also a topic of testimony, as Justine's father, Steve Swartz, returned to the stand and recalled his new son-in-law's seeming lack of interest in the family affair on the day after the wedding.
"He departed, said he was going to ride motorcycles, and I didn't see him again," Swartz testified, recalling Abshire's absence at a planned lunch, dinner and wedding present-opening event. Justine, her father said, spent her second night of married life alone at the Inn.
Some court-watchers may have been surprised by the prosecutor's relatively brief questioning of Crawford, whose name has come up repeatedly through the course of the investigation and trial. There were no questions, for instance, about an alleged choking incident for which Crawford sought and received a protective order against Abshire, nor did prosecutors press her for details on any ongoing romantic involvement with Abshire after 2001, the year she testified their continuous relationship ended.
Much of the day's testimony centered on cell phone technology and on Abshire's use of his phone from the morning of November 2 through the evening of November 3, a time during which an astounding 397 calls were made to or sent from his phone.
Insurance claims adjusters also testified about several of the policies of which Abshire was the beneficiary. Before filing bankruptcy in 2009, he filed one claim and received nearly $330,000, a Prudential claims specialist testified. The money was used to pay off debts including back child support during his bankruptcy.
Justine's younger sister, Lauren Swartz, took the stand to describe matching red luggage she and Justine had received as Christmas presents from their parents around the year 2000. When Lauren came to Justine and Eric's Fredericksburg Road house following Justine's death, she testified, she searched for the luggage but was unable to locate it at the house or in a nearby storage unit. Abshire, she testified, said he "didn't know anything about it."
The prosecution is expected to rest its case on Wednesday, October 19.
Correction: Eric Abshire's house is on Fredericksburg Road. The word 'road' was left off the original post.–ed