Family Looks for Answers after Daughter's Tragic Death

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Reported by Leyla Santiago
November 10, 2006

One couple received a call in the middle of the night last week when their daughter's body was found after a hit and run in Orange County.

Friday night, those parents spoke out publicly for the first time since their devastating loss. NBC29's Leyla Santiago exclusively sat down with the family.

This family is in need of closure as they cope with the puzzling death of Justine Abshire, a Western Albemarle High School graduate. The family said the newlywed was already planning to build a home with her family and looking forward to vacations in Jamaica before her sudden death last week. 

Mr. and Mrs. Swartz received the shocking call after Justine Abshire was found dead after a hit and run.

"I asked him to repeat it. I asked him to repeat it because you know it's every parent's nightmare. It's the worst possible thing. It's the kind of thing that as a parent you always think about and you immediately try to force it out of your mind because it's just to awful to imagine and it actually happened," said Justine's father, Stephen Swartz, about finding out the news.

As for coping with the pain, Justine's mother Heidi Swartz says, "I think you get through it by being sad sometimes and by sort of taking in all the love that's around you."  

The newlywed, known to friends and family as Beane, is described as a timid young woman whose passion for children and teaching made a difference in the lives of hundreds. Family members say the 27-year-old Emerald Hill teacher's greatest accomplishments involved mentoring children.

Hers is a nurturing love the family will miss during the upcoming holidays and on a daily basis.

"I'll miss the phone ringing on Thursday night saying, ‘hey, Mom...I'm driving home from class and I thought I'd just call and say hi,'" said Mrs. Swartz. "It's hard. It's so hard she was my baby, but I don't want people to forget her."

For the family, it is reason enough to fight for her memory and answers to her unexpected death.    

Family and friends are offering a $10,000 reward for anyone who can give state police information that could lead to a conviction of the person or group responsible for Justine's death.

They want justice for a daughter, a wife and a stepmother whose last words to her family were ‘I love you.'

If you have any information about Justine's death, you can call Virginia State Police at 1-800-572-2260.