Eric Abshire

In the early morning hours of November 3, 2006 newlywed, Justine Abshire's body was found on the side of the road in Barboursville, Orange County, Virginia by her husband, Eric. He, and later his defense would say she was a victim of a hit and run accident.  A prosecutor would say it was only staged to look that way. 

As I have stated in earlier blogs when someone, be it a defense attorney or a prosecutor, needs an "expert" for their case they are sure to find one to tell them what they want to hear.  The problem is that not experts can be right when they are arguing separate sides.  Since I am obviously not a medical expert or even a novice, especially in this area, it is hard for me to judge as to which scenario given by the experts is more likely to be the correct one.  The strange thing about this one is I almost feel as if the injuries suffered by Justine Abshire as described by each of the experts gave more credence to the other sides case and yet their ultimate conclusion sided with the side they testified to. 

For the prosecution their expert claimed that Justine's injuries were not consistent with a hit and run accident.  They noted several massive injuries to her spleen, liver, lungs and kidneys and claim that being hit by a vehicle would not have caused these types of injuries. In fact, they would claim there was over 113 external injuries to the body that included scrapes, bruises, and even fractured ribs. They claimed twenty-three of these injuries were in the facial area. The defense would claim that the organs were not that overly affected but that a neck injury accounted for the lack of blood at the scene as well as they believe it was consistent with being hit by a car.  Again, I am not a medical expert in this field but I would gander to guess that if someone had been hit by a car, the car was probably going at a decent speed, especially considering this appeared to be on a back country road, there would have been significant damage to the body.  I would gander to guess that being hit by a car that was going even at a low moderate speed would cause quite a bit of at least internal injuries.  

The official cause of death was listed as blunt force trauma, that really could amount to anything. The prosecution, I assume through their witness, argued that her cause of death was due to strangulation. The prosecution seemed to have a theory as to why Eric would murder his wife, but in all my research I never discovered really, how they said he did it.  I found nothing that indicated even how the prosecution theorized that Justine's body got to that spot in first place.  Eric's defense would contend that he had received a phone call from Justine about 1:20 in the morning saying she was having car issues there and that when he arrived he found her body on the side of the road.  It was about 700 feet from where the car was located.  And, the prosecution could have used that scenario in determining how Justine was on that road, but they did not.  They would argue that her car was examined and nothing could be found wrong with it.

This does not at all mean that the prosecution did not have any evidence that leaned toward Eric Abshire's guilt.  Just as in most trials it would likely come down to which scenario and story the jury believed... the prosecutor or the defense. So what exactly did the state say proved Eric Abshire was guilty in the murder of his wife?

Much of their case rested on a man named Cecil Roebuck.  He would testify that he was out looking for a bus that he apparently believed was for sale in the area for a project for a float he was building in one of the side businesses that he had.  He would say that he left his home in Charlottesville around 11pm on November 2nd to search for this bus that he apparently eventually found but discovered it was not for sale as he had assumed.  Soon after Roebuck claims to have gotten lost and was turning around when he witnessed Eric Abshire waving him down.  He would claim that Abshire stated that the vehicle he was driving was nearly out of gas and asked Roebuck if he could follow him to the nearest gas station.  Roebuck claims he agreed but said after not driving very far down the road Abshire pulled over saying the car had run out of gas and would he be willing to simply take him home.  Again, Roebuck agreed to do so leaving the car on the side of the road. 

For the prosecution's part they claimed that Roebuck's testimony proved that Eric Abshire was in the area of the crime scene at a time in which he claimed he was not.  For their part the defense argued that at the time in which Roebuck claims to have been with Abshire that he was at a storage unit in which he stored a motorcycle and went for a ride.  They apparently showed a surveillance video of a man, on a motorcycle, coming out of the storage facility lot at that time.  The defense would also argue that Roebuck had a case pending against him on charges of felony fraud.  To add to this there was a reward offered of $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for Justine's death. I have to say that on the surface the defense had a point with this.  Having the issue of having his own legal troubles, with the reward, and the strange idea that someone would go out practically in the middle of the night looking for a "disassembled" bus as he described it in obviously an area he did not know well seems fairly odd.  But again, it would come down to if he sounded credible.

Prosecutors claimed that the murder occurred basically for two reasons.  The first was that earlier in the evening Eric Abshire had been speaking to his ex-girlfriend, who he shared two children with, on the telephone.  Allison Crawford would testify in court that around 11:45 pm, less than two hours before Eric would claim to have found Justine's body, Eric had told her that he had made a mistake in getting married.  He questioned her about reconciliation and she had told him that was not a possibility since he was married. Prosecutors would claim that there had been forty-three calls between Eric and Allison on the November 2nd.  These calls may not have all been valid however and I will go into that in a bit.

The second reason that prosecutors claim Eric murdered his wife has to do with the age old motive of greed.  Family members would testify that the couple had been in financial straits and just a few months prior had asked his father in law for a loan in excess of forty thousand dollars.  Prosecutors would say that they found at least three auto policies that would have paid out one million dollars to Eric if something happened to Justine in a car crash with an "unknown motorist". They also found a policy relating to a dump truck that they would claim was also for a million dollar pay out but would argue that Justine's signature on the policy was forged.  I have to be honest here and say these things seem strange to me. I am unsure I have ever seen a policy in which pays out money from "unknown motorist."  Sure there are policies that save you against "uninsured motorists" and polices that pay out medical expenses but I have never heard of one written the way these policies were portrayed.  And, secondly, despite a handwriting "expert" claiming the signature on the dump truck policy was not Justine's, not only did it not come into play in the case since no one argued the dump truck was involved I have to say I do not give a lot of weight to handwriting "experts."  

Prosecutors relied a bit on cell phone activity. Apparently the phone in which he had either did not give his location all the time or only did so when there was a "connection."  A connection was defined as a call to or from the phone. They could not say if conversations were had during these calls, if they were answered or if they were dropped calls.  All they could say was that the cell phone had a "connection."  So, those supposed forty-three calls between Eric and Allison may not have been that many at all.  Admittedly I did not hear evidence that one or the other of them had attempted several times to reach the other and failed but this is in the realm of possibility.  Add to this that by my understanding much of the area talked about in this case is rather rural country and may or may not have kept calls connected.  However, still using the idea of the phone and the connections the prosecutors would argue that between November 2nd and 3rd there were 397 cell connections made on Eric's phone and yet it had been silent between the times of 12:08 am and 1:19 am.

Eric, through his defense would argue that the call from Justine came in at 1:19 in which she stated she was having car issues.  Eric would claim that he left for the area and found her on the side of the road at approximately 1:40.  There was a little talk somewhere that he did not call 9-1-1 immediately and something about he had said he "forgot" he had his cell on him but it was like a blurp of information so I am unsure just how accurate this was.  I feel like there would have been much more information concerning this and a much bigger deal would have been made. But the reality of it is that it could not have both happened the way Eric Abshire said and the way the prosecution says.

To believe the prosecution theory then we have to believe that Eric spoke to Allison around 11:45 pm and then sometime within the next hour he killed his wife, drove her car out to the rural road and by chance met up with Cecil Roebuck.  We have to presume that Justine's body was not on the side of the road already and possibly in the car that Eric ultimately left on the side of the road.  He then goes back to his home because that is where Roebuck says he dropped him off, he then got back out to the scene in time to remove the body from the car, or transport her body in another vehicle (although in fairness I was unable to determine what vehicle he took to the scene when he reported finding the body and it would not have worked if he had his motorcycle), lay the body on the side of the road and call 9-1-1.  Time is crucial here because I was unable to determine at just what time Roebuck would claim to have encountered Abshire.  I was only able to determine that he lived in Charlottesville and by mapping the distance to Barboursville it seemed to be about twenty minutes, but he had also claimed to have been looking for this bus, finding it, determining it was not for sale and then getting lost on the road.  Regardless there is a period of less than two hours in which Eric talks to Allison, presumably kills his wife and presumably places her in her vehicle, drives to the area where the body would later be found, run into Roebuck, go home, get back to the scene and call the police.  To add to this I found no information about any bloody clothing or any clean up anywhere or even any injuries to Eric Abshire. I am sure if anyone reads this and knows differently they will be quick to let me know. However, from all of the injuries described on the body of Justine I would find it odd that Eric would not have injuries or a scene of a struggle taken some place.

The defense did have two witnesses who testified and while one seemed a bit far fetched the other may have had something to it.  A woman testified that she lived down the road from where the body was found and she had some neighbors at that time who were very rowdy and often drove erratically up and down the road.  She stated at the time this occurred one of their vehicles had a headlight out. But beyond that I do not think she had very much to offer. Another man, named Chris Carver, stated that his brother in law's car obtained some front end damage around the same time and that he believed he saw hair with in the damage.  Not long later the car caught on fire and Carver felt it suspicious enough to contact the police.  I was not able to determine if this was looked into or what the results were.  

In the end the jury deliberated for about two hours and in October of 2011 Eric Abshire was convicted of the 1st degree murder of his wife.  In January of 2012 he was sentenced to life in prison.  I found nothing to indicate that an appeal has been heard on this case yet but I would be interested in seeing one.  

I cannot tell you that Eric Abshire did or did not kill his wife.  We all know that when there is a murder it is generally committed by someone close to the victim. And while a hit and run accident is considered in a legal sense a murder, it is not something you see often as a defense such as this.  I am sure there are others who have committed murders and attempted to make it look like a hit and run, and I am not saying for sure that is not the case here because I do not know.  What bothers me most is the timeline.  Absolutely Eric Abshire could have been told by his ex-girlfriend that they could not rekindle their relationship as long as he was married and he decided to just get it taken care of but by my estimates he would have had to have practically hung up the phone and started right then in the process.  If that was the case I would have expected a lot more evidence against him because it would have likely been done in a very sloppy manner for the time in which he had.

I respect that Justine's family did not like him because if anything he did sound like a rather horrible husband, but horrible husbands are not automatically murderers.  For now the law has spoken.


Comments

  1. He killed himself when all his appeals were denied.

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