PHOTOPHILE- Remembering Justine: Vigil brings dozens to Orange

Several teachers from Culpeper's Emerald Hill Elementary hug as they mourn the loss of their colleague and friend.

There were tears and smiles in Taylor Park in downtown Orange on Saturday evening, November 3, as dozens of friends and family of Justine Swartz Abshire gathered to remember the kindergarten teacher who died in an apparent hit and run on a dark Orange County road on November 3, 2006.

In the immediate aftermath of Justine's death, state police hoped to solve the case quickly; however, a year later, the crime remains unsolved. Justine's parents, Heidi and Steve Swartz of Chattanooga, Tennessee, have offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case, and they've also publicly questioned the story provided by Justine's widower, Eric Abshire, about the night she died.

Despite their concerns about Abshire, the family invited him to join them in remembering Justine, handing him a bag of blue "Justice for Justine" bracelets to distribute among his friends and family who were not present when he arrived at the vigil at around 7pm. 

Steve Swartz says he's thankful for the opportunity to communicate with Abshire, whom he had not seen in months, and that he told his son-in-law that despite his and Heidi's concerns, they remain open-minded.

"All we're really after is the truth," says Swartz, "whatever that is."

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Thank you to all who turned out to remember our daughter with tears and laughter at the vigil. It means so much to us to know that she is still in your hearts, just as she is in ours.
We will continue to work for Justice for Justine, and hope that anyone who has any information that might be useful to the police will come forward. The reward stands and we will not quit.

As the days move forward, please keep her and the quest for justice in your hearts and the bracelets on your wrists to remind us all of her beautiful life and tragic death.

I think the vigil was a good idea, no one will forget Justine, she was a sweet and gentle person.