Dateline   |  July 06, 2013

Shattered, Part 2

The medical examiner performing the autopsy on Justine Abshire determines that while there were more than 113 external injuries to her body, they weren't consistent with someone standing and being struck by a vehicle.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

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>>> justine abshire was found dead on a rural virginia road after midnight five miles from her home. an apparent victim of a hit and run but little about the accident scene made sense. trooper hobbs scoured the road looking for any of the telltale signs he usually sees from a car accident .

>> i'm looking for vehicle debris, any kind of skid marks , things like that. i've got none of that. you know? no paint chips on her clothing, no tire marks on the road, no broken glass , no broken plastic from headlights.

>> and you almost always find that kind of debris?

>> yes, sir.

>> so you're curious about things you weren't seeing, huh?

>> correct.

>> not only was there no debris there was relatively little blood in the road.

>> she had huge lacerations on her head, should have been blood everywhere. and basically there were just two little small puddles of blood . not a lot of blood for what should have been there.

>> and that didn't make sense either.

>> right, correct.

>> the victim's husband eric told the trooper that he and his wife had had a minor spat that night and she was driving around to blow off some steam when her car broke down. okay. but when trooper hobbs checked out the mustang he found nothing apparently wrong with it.

>> i have the keys to the car. well, let's see if the car is, you know, broken down. i put the keys in the ignition. it starts right up. we think, well, maybe it won't go in to gear. i put it in to gear, it rolls forward.

>> car's working fine.

>> car's working fine.

>> and already strange hit and run case was now looking even more complicated. the husband meanwhile eric had been out in the road for hours.

>> he wanted it hurried up. it was you need to hurry up and get her out of the road.

>> but an emotionally exhausted husband who wanted to get his wife's body off the road and in to a funeral home was perhaps understandable. the troopers work out here on the scene was wrapping up. he'd turn his notes over to senior investigator special agent mike jones of the virginia state police . jones would run the case from here out.

>> what did i think i had here? thought i had a lot of work to do.

>> one of jones's first tasks to accompany the body to the medical examiner's office. with little forensic value of the scene itself, the m.e. science would start to explain what had happened to this young woman , an accident, foul play. when the trooper spoke with eric at his house just hours after he'd come upon justine 's body he talked about a grim scenario that occurred to him. maybe someone unknown had happened upon his wife, a woman in distress.

>> he offers a theory that justine was out on the side of the road and that some unknown individual was attracted to her, her beauty and pulled up and tried to abduct her. maybe she was running off.

>> you have any suspicions of what might have happened?

>> i like to see she got hit and she wasn't scared to land. i think that, you know, these people and somebody out there driving, i think they drove by, saw a beautiful woman on the side of the road and turned around and tried to get her in the car and i think she got scared and started running. she saw their face and they hit her.

>> at this stage of the investigation, it could be anything.

>> the range is wide open . and we had to start tracking in a direction that made sense.

>> the medical examiner, dr. todd lucasevic performed lots of autopsies but this victim appeared to be different.

>> you're unzipping the bag. is there a moment you say something like, i don't like what i'm saying here?

>> almost instantly with the lack of blood on her clothing.

>> what do i have here?

>> i said to the technician, this doesn't appear to be a typical hit and run . those tips of lacerations bleed profusely and she had no blood on her clothing new york city blood on her skin and really no blood within the body bag .

>> so there's an absence of blood that catches your interest right away.

>> correct.

>> and equally troubling, while more than 113 external injuries her body, they weren't he thought consistent with someone standing and being struck by a vehicle. was it possible justine hadn't been a hit and run victim at all? how could that be?

>> you typically see a bumper bruise where the bumper hits the calf, the knee and it's also going to cause a fracture underneath that bruise.

>> you say i know what that is?

>> correct.

>> did you see it on justine ?

>> no, i didn't.

>> there was more he wasn't finding.

>> usually tire tread on the skin or the clothing. there was no evidence of glass, no evidence of transfer of paint chips or metal. there was no evidence whatsoever. there was actually no evidence of debris from the road, no pebbles, no asphalt, anything like that.

>> yet with injuries this severe, he wasn't rules out that a vehicle was smau involved in justine 's death. your best guess is a vehicle involved causing the injuries?

>> correct.

>> but it didn't appear that person was standing?

>> that is correct.

>> but if a vehicle had been involved in the teacher's death, how? the m.e. needed more tests.

>> i was prepared to fill out the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head, trunk and extremities but we needed further investigation.

>> he turned to agent jones taking notes throughout the autopsy. i said, you have to treat this as a homicide. this is homicide until proven otherwise.

>> a homicide? a murder case. but where to start? if she had been killed and by what reason? so little to go on, agent jones called in all the troopers from the scene for a brainstorming session.

>> after we finished the autopsy, get division headquarters and we had a roundtable. everybody was parted out to run in different directions.

>> what had happened to justine abshire? the crime scene and autopsy could only tell the investigators so much.

>> i didn't by any means have enough to make any conclusions that day. i walked away with, well, i need to come back and inquire further.