The summer evening when, after an argument, Eric pinned Justine against the wall; the faint outline of finger prints on Justine’s fair skin.
These warning signs were the only indicators Lauren would receive. She was concerned, but each time she suggested Justine break things off with Eric, Justine would excuse his behavior.
“It was a balance of always wanting her to come to me if she needed me, and harboring these secrets for her to try to keep a lifeline to her,” Lauren said.
As the years went by, Eric slowly isolated Justine from her family and friends. He also wreaked havoc on her financial situation, sending the Kindergarten teacher who had always been good with budgeting into $120,000 of debt.
“I remember telling her you can’t be around this violence much longer without getting hurt,” Lauren said.
This warning became all too true on November 3, 2006, when Lauren and her parents were told that Justine had been killed in a car accident.
Lauren, who was living in Philadelphia, rushed to Virginia, where she and her parents tried to piece together the mystery surrounding Justine’s alleged hit and run death.
It took several years for prosecutors to build a case against Eric, who was finally arrested in 2010 and found guilty of murdering Justine after a three week jury trial in 2011.
“Knowing he is in jail is the only peace I have—knowing he can’t do this to anyone else,” Lauren said.
With Eric serving a life sentence in prison in Virginia, Lauren is trying to focus on the good memories she has of Justine.
“It’s enough to hold on to the things that made her who she was—her laugh, her voice, the way she smelled, how much she loved her students.”
Lauren is now keeping her sister’s memory alive by volunteering as a spokesperson for Women Against Abuse. She recently shared her story at the 7th Annual iPledge Campaign press conference, urging others to get involved in the effort to end domestic violence.
If you or someone you know needs help, call our toll-free 24-hour Hotline: