Dateline   |  July 06, 2013

Shattered, Part 8

Justine’s father Stephen Swartz’s suspicions grow after he discovers the couple’s mountain of debt.

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

>>> there were the stories of other women, the stories of eric 's volcanic temper. but for steve swartz, the corporate businessman, it was when he started looking into his daughter's finances, he began to nurse his darkest suspicions about his former son-in-law. he was shocked to find by his estimate the husband and wife were $130,000 in debt.

>> it was like five or six times her take-home salary. it was credit card debt at high interest rates. no way would you ever pay that off.

>> a big chunk of that debt was a dump truck that eric bought to buy a hauling business. he put the loan for the truck in justine 's name.

>> between the dumptruck payment and the insurance on the dumptruck and the upkeep on the dumptruck, that was just enough to tip them over the edge financially to where things became unsustainable. after that point was when she began to have insufficient fund charges show up in her checking account.

>> they are running on fumes. they're in negative numbers every month.

>> that's right.

>> justine paid for everything.

>> even, they would sadly discover, the big rock of an engagement ring she triumphantly brought home that christmas holiday .

>> she bought and paid for it. she never told us that. she indicated to us that eric , you know, picked it out and surprised her with it.

>> but perhaps most ominously, when it came to the couple's finances, about three months before she died justine had called her father to ask for a $40,000 loan. eric wanted to expand his fledgling construction business. steve had no idea at the time how deeply in debt his daughter was.

>> she was very upset when i told her i couldn't do it. and it wasn't upset in a, you know, petulent or angry kind of way. she seemed kind of devastated by it. i could hear her voice cracking on the other end and then she started to cry.

>> is this a watershed moment where eric maybe realizes, justine is not going to be my bank anymore?

>> i think very much so because by that time it was already evident to him that he had pretty well tapped out all of her resources. i mean, her credit lines were all run up.

>> and if you can't give us that $40,000, what use are you?

>> right.

>> well, that's exactly right. he had gotten everything that he could get out of her and now she was just a liability.

>> steve swartz shared the results of his financial digging with special agent jones and investigators hadn't forgotten how in those early interviews with eric he'd weirdly bragged about justine 's credit rating .

>> anything else that we should know or you need to tell us?

>> no. all i can tell you, when you look it up, her credit was absolutely spotless and like i said mine was not because we made sure we paid her for the house and it was in her name.

>> eric initially told us that his credit was slow and they protected her credit .

>> justine , good for credit ?

>> good for credit .

>> investigators were piecing together their own picture of the couple's finances. they had come upon some insurance. there were four policies on justine and it was the one on the dumptruck bought in justine 's name that really caught their eye. if she were struck by an uninsured motorist, say in a hit and run , that one policy could pay out a million dollars.

>> when you add up all of the money, do you have enough there for motivation?

>> i think so. it was a very substantial amount.

>> she was worth quite a lot dead?

>> yes, sir.

>> and investigators discovered that eric was familiar with how insurance worked. they found he had successfully filed several high dollar vehicle claims in the six-year period before justine died.

>> over a period of time there was more claims than what you'd normally find with somebody.

>> interesting money angles for sure, but agent jones knew he didn't have enough to build a case on. and eric , while cooperating, also made it clear to the investigators he would only go so far.

>> the question is, um, if need be, would you submit to a polygraph examination?

>> no. i'm not taking it.

>> any reasoning for that?

>> just because i know they are completely inadmissible in court so it's pointless to take one.

>> the case always seemed to end up back at square one and special agent mike jones knew that his suspicions, no matter how deep, were not enough to secure an arrest warrant.

>> it's a difference in knowing and proving.

>> but justine 's family wasn't waiting. they would publicly volley the most direct charges. they were coming to believe not only that their former son-in-law killed their daughter but that he might just get away with it.

>> he's very clever. he's much smarter than most people give him credit , too.