Dateline   |  July 06, 2013

Shattered, Part 4

Special Agent Mike Jones goes to the epicenter of  the young kindergarten teacher’s relationship with her husband.

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

>>> it was just after 2:00 in the morning when trooper ben hobbs had come upon a sobbing eric abshire cradling his wife's body beside this road.

>> he was kneeling beside her and crying.

>> he what? put his leather coat over her?

>> he had put his leather coat over the top of her.

>> after the couple's quarrel earlier in the night, she had taken off to blow off some steam.

>> she had left and then called him shortly before i got there, said, hey, i'm broke down, i need you to come and get me.

>> eric assumed the whole storming out and i broke down story was a ploy by justine to get some attention, a pout and a little snit. before making up.

>> i had no doubt in my mind she was just going out and making a -- big circle and coming back home.

>> herufully told anyone who would listen, he was haunted by that split second decision to let her walk out of the house. he hoped investigators could find the person who struck and killed his new wife.

>> in situations like this --

>> but eric worried investigators had too little to work on.

>> never tapped their brakes, tried to swerve. away from her.

>> and the medical examiner would tell lead investigator mike jones that justine 's injuries were not consistent with a person being hit by a car while standing.

>> it didn't add up. we left with more questions than we did answers.

>> special agent jones knew he needed to hear more of the human story if he was ever going to find out what had really happened on this road.

>> we got to go back into the epicenter and the epicenter is justine and eric , and we've got to understand these two individuals.

>> the couple had met when justine was in college and to earn a little pocket money she got a cash register job at a lowe's. and it was there that she struck up a relationship with eric , a store manager and marine veteran.

>> what do you think she saw in him?

>> he's a very strong person and he's very decisive and determined. he did have two children, but he was working and taking care of them and she liked that. she really respected that about eric .

>> but here was the complication about eric . with two children from a previous relationship, decisive eric was determined to have no more. he was opposed to marriage. justine on the other hand wanted a husband and children. lauren said to say good-bye to eric and move on with her life.

>> what are you doing with him? those are the two things that you ultimately want in your life.

>> but justine stayed with eric . they had been a couple for months, but she still wasn't introducing him to the parents.

>> he's the phantom boyfriend?

>> yeah. when you know your child is seeing someone on a steady or on an exclusive basis, you would kind of at least like to see who they are.

>> finally, after a year and a half of nudging her daughter, heidi got to meet the boyfriend for dinner.

>> i just insisted that i meet him.

>> dinner was awkward. eric squirmed as though he wanted to be a thousand miles away.

>> my feelings were, well, okay, i don't really get it, you know, but it's really not mine to get, you know. it was justine 's boyfriend.

>> did you think that he was the guy?

>> no.

>> that this was the intended?

>> no.

>> and justine and eric did have their ups and downs . they were one of the chronic on again and off again couples. at one point her former college roommate holly thought they might finally break up for good. for years she had been trying to convince justine to leave eric and come live with her on the west coast .

>> you had a plan in place. all you needed really was a commitment and a boarding pass?

>> yes. and i told her i would pay for the plane ticket, fly out there, pick her up, and bring her to oregon.

>> after one particularly bad justine and eric period, holly was so convinced that justine was finally coming, she rented a two-bedroom apartment for them. but in the end, her plan not only went nowhere, it backfired.

>> i just feel her distancing herself.

>> perhaps justine thought holly was interfering too much in her relationship. but there was one breakup where justine did leave eric and went to stay with her parents in tennessee. still, the two managed to patch up their difficulties.

>> i never really thought that there was a match. it didn't seem like a good fit to me.

>> so you thought he'd just disappear from the scene?

>> i thought eventually it would run its course, they would break up and she would move on.

>> but she never did. for years, justine and eric slogged through their on again/off again relationship.

>> there were times she would come see me on the weekends and figure out what she wanted to do next and know that this wasn't the right relationship for her. but they never really broke off communication. there would always be the phone calls.

>> he was always in the orbit there?

>> yes.

>> finally, justine gave eric , who, remember, had started the relationship saying he wasn't the marrying kind, an ultimatum. give me a ring or be gone.

>> he came home late on christmas eve and gave her the ring back and said, you win.

>> oh, come on.

>> that's what she said.

>> here at the 11th hour?

>> uh-huh. and she showed up with a gorgeous like $5,000 diamond on her hand. and said we're engaged. and that was how we found out.

>> and it would be a wedding no one would forget.