Dateline | July 06, 2013
>>> special agent jones ' investigation was moving beyond the autopsy and crime scene to bore in on just who this couple, justine and eric , really was. the strange stories he was starting to gather would turn out to be as important as any lab results.
>> you've got a mystery to solve.
>> it was a mystery. it was.
>> at the close of the christmas holidays, two years before her sudden death, justine returned to emerald hill elementary. on her finger, that diamond engagement ring she fought so hard for from the man she loved and dated for six long years.
>> everybody is thinking, well, is she really going to marry him? is he really going to marry her? and some of it was, he finally came to his senses, saw what a precious person he was.
>> eric was getting ready to start a construction business. to justine , his new venture and their marriage would be the beginning of the life she dreamed of since she was a little girl . a husband, a house in the country, and a baby. to her friends, it was a disaster waiting to happen.
>> consensus was that eric was not the guy for her.
>> they didn't seem to match. she was a very sweet young thing that taught kindergarten and he was mr. tough guy. so where's the match? you know, it's like you have to have some cross-ties to connect. and i never could see what the cross-ties -- what was the connection?
>> still, pat and kathleen, her teacher friends, came around.
>> we planned a really nice shower, and we were excited and she wasn't.
>> she wasn't?
>> pat hosted the shower with all of the crepe paper you would expect from fellow kindergarten teachers but justine 's gloom never lifted. perhaps it was just a bad case of bridal jitters.
>> she didn't seem very happy. the whole time during the shower i wanted to get her aside and say, you don't have to marry this person. but that conversation didn't happen.
>> justine 's mom, meanwhile, was fearful her daughter was heading into a train wreck of a marriage. the may wedding was two weeks away. they had booked a charming bed and breakfast in the rolling hills of the virginia countryside, but justine was the polar opposite of a bridezilla. she didn't pick up the dress, order the cake or finish sending out invitations.
>> i just didn't feel right. part of me was concerned because i had heard for years about eric 's opposition to get married that she was going to get left standing at the alter, that he was going to get cold feet and there would be 100 people there and her in her pretty white dress and he just wouldn't dress up. obviously if that's a possibility, you want to protect your child.
>> heidi and steve got in the car and drove to virginia. surprise intervention of sorts. it turned out poorly.
>> what did you see?
>> oh my god. just blind rage.
>> oh yeah. she stormed into this hotel room . i've never heard her talk to anybody like that. she just screamed at me and called me names and said she hated me and she would never, ever forgive me for intruding on her life. i was shocked. i was absolutely shocked.
>> you're seeing your daughter come unglued right before your eyes.
>> absolutely. absolutely.
>> was eric the elephant in the room ?
>> of this confrontation?
>> at one point in the conversation before she had calmed down, she said something to the effect of, do you understand how hard you have made things for me by coming up here? that stuck in my mind. what did she mean by that?
>> maybe she was telling her parents to back off, that she had come of age. she was, after all, 27, a woman with a profession she loved and her decisions from here on out would be her own.
>> we pushed as far as we could and so now the only strategy available to us was the opposite. let's have the wedding, let's make it as nice as we can, let's make it as enjoyable as we can and that's exactly what we tried to do.
>> and they pulled out all of the stops. the beautiful ceremony went off without a hitch. sister lauren, the maid of honor. there was dancing and a private chef picked out by heidi. a picture perfect may day in a charming setting.
>> and it looks like weddings in a hundred thousand different family albums.
>> that's what it looked like.
>> there was a lack of joy. mostly i would say that was it. there was a lack of joy. it was like you're going through p p prefunctory motions and it was just very strange.
>> the bride posing with her new husband would be dead in five month's time. some of the guests would never see justine alive again. the day after taking his vows, eric took off on his motorcycle.
>> he left the next day and he never came back. he didn't continue to stay at the bed and breakfast with her.
>> he wasn't there for the gathering for the opening of the wedding presents. justine saw her family off alone.
>> we never saw him again.
>> stranger still, holly, justine 's closest sister's college roommate wasn't even told that there had been a wedding.
>> i didn't know she was getting married. she didn't send me an invitation.
>> you're her best friend .
>> uh-huh. yeah.
>> but maybe not so surprising since holly had never made much of a secret of her dislike of eric .
>> i honestly hated him from the first second i saw him.
>> despise. really. just gut instinct. i felt sick. i felt nauseous.
>> to be in his presence?
>> uh-huh. yeah he made me want to throw up.
>> what was it about him that made you make that decision so quickly?
>> i didn't like the way he looked at her. i didn't like the way he kind of treated her and he kind of acted like he was better than she was and i didn't ever see him valuing her.
>> from the moment justine met eric , holly thought her friend was taking a slow-motion tumble into an abyss. this dear friend from their private women's college, nice homes and solid upbringing with a loving family was now living in a dreary little cinder block house.
>> she was living in a world that so different than the world essentially we came from. it wasn't even really reality.
>> and to eric 's cousin tracy, that was all part of the problem. in her opinion, justine 's friends and family flat out didn't think eric was good enough for her.
>> i just think that from the beginning they didn't approve of eric and --
>> and as you remember, that was really the source of all of that kind of anxiety at the wedding?
>> the simple fact was, she said, this was a guy and girl in love, newlyweds.
>> whenever i would see them together they always seemed happy.
>> the couple was even looking at buying a big piece of land in the country. eric was planning to build his new bride a fine new house and justine all mopey, not in august. only three months before she died when cousin tracy snapped this picture of her at her brother's wedding. the whole big abshire family had embraced eric 's bride she said and made her feel welcome.
>> they had a great time. justine and eric really had a good time at the reception.
>> agent jones sifted through these stories told about a couple's life that ended on this road. eric , her husband cradling her body. while investigators started the long search for answers.
>> we were starting to determine that, okay, she's an accomplished teacher during her daytime and then she has a separate life and the two hardly mixed.
>> and investigators needed to know exactly how justine had spent her final day.
>> something was totally --
>> what do you think was going on with her, as you look back? she was a wreck, huh?