April Barber had the kind of wedding most girls only dream about: a beach in the Bahamas, at sunset, a beautiful dress and a handsome groom, Justin Barber.
But April's aunt, Patty Parrish, says April was hardly a traditional bride. "She was more of a country girl at heart," Patty remembers. "She had a gorgeous white dress that I remember cramming into her suitcase, and here we are trying to get the wrinkles out of it the day of the wedding."
If anyone deserved such a happy day, it was April; so many of the days before it had been difficult and sad.
"Her mother had passed away when April was 17. She died from cancer and that was very difficult," Justin explains.
As 48 Hours correspondent Harold Dow reports, her mother's death made April grow up fast. Her father fell apart and later got into trouble over drugs. So April briefly took over the mothering of her younger brother Kendon, who was only one, and her sister, Julie, who was nine.
"She took care of us. She would get me up for school, get me off to school. She'd cook us dinner. She just took the place of our mother," Julie remembers.
Losing her mother also gave April's life a purpose: she went to college determined to pursue a career in medicine, treating cancer patients.
"She definitely didn't take life for granted, and had pretty clear goals about what she wanted out of life," remembers April's best friend Amber Mitchell. She says college also opened up a whole new world for April.
In 1998, when she was 23, April's world became even brighter. She met Justin, at the time a top student in the University of Oklahoma's MBA program. Amber was there the night they met.
When Justin first brought April home, his mother, Linda, took to her right away.
"I liked her immediately. She was very beautiful. Very natural. You could just tell she was a good person. She was just wonderful. She fit in real well with the family," Linda remembers.
It was just ten months after they began dating that Justin and April eloped to the Bahamas.
"I was worried that it was really quick and maybe they didn't know each other well enough yet to do that. But I supported her completely, because she was happy and I wanted to see her happy," Amber remembers.
When they returned from the honeymoon, April and Justin moved to Georgia for work. And April's siblings, Julie and Kendon, came to live with them for a while. But it didn't last—it was too much for the young couple to handle.
"Of course it was difficult for them, 'cause they were so young and trying to raise two kids. It was very hard, I understood that. But they tried their hardest to give us everything that we could possibly want or need," Julie remembers.
Then, just two years into the marriage, Justin and April's careers forced them apart. April, who worked in radiology, took a new job in Georgia. But Justin, a business executive, was transferred to Jacksonville, Fla., nearly three hours away. They saw each other mainly on weekends.
Asked if he wanted April to quit her job and live with him, Justin says, "It wasn't just a normal job that she took there, it was the next step up in her career. And it was a very, very good opportunity for her at an early age. And so I fully supported that."