911 call, home video top list of requests from Abaroa jurors
Posted May 30, 2013
Updated May 31, 2013
Durham, N.C. — Jurors in the first-degree murder trial of Raven Abaroa deliberated for more than five hours Thursday, asking to hear his 911 call on the night his wife was killed eight years ago as well as a home video he made less than a month before his arrest.
Abaroa, 33, who faces an automatic life sentence if convicted, has said he returned home from a soccer match on the night of April 26, 2005, to find 25-year-old Janet Abaroa stabbed to death in an upstairs office and their 6-month-old son unharmed in another room. An autopsy later found that she had also been pregnant.
Testimony in the five-week trial spanned 19 days and consisted of 82 witnesses and 565 pieces of evidence.
Deliberations continue Friday at 9:30 a.m.
After more than four hours of closing arguments, the jury of seven men and five women spent about 35 minutes deciding the case Wednesday afternoon before being dismissed for the day.
Upon their return Thursday, they asked to review the 911 call as well as crime scene photos, bank statements, phone records, Janet Abaroa's day planner, DNA reports and photos of Raven Abaroa on the night of April 26, 2005, as well as the clothes he was wearing.
The video they wanted to see was one Raven Abaroa made less than a month before his Feb. 1, 2010, arrest. The four-minute clip, made immediately after a phone call with a Durham homicide detective, shows him talking about being frustrated and needing to win the lottery.
"If I were to win $3 million, I'd dedicate $2 million to fighting this," Raven Abaroa says, adding that he'd use the rest to secure a future for his son and "oh, and to make Janet's name more recognized."
It ends with him sitting quietly for about a minute with a pen in his mouth before he reaches up to turn off the video camera.
"That might be the best most honest look you've gotten at the defendant this whole trial," DurhamCounty Assistant District Attorney Luke Bumm told jurors during closing arguments Wednesday.
"He needs to win the lottery, because that will end his problems. He talks about a fight. What's he fighting against? He's not fighting to find the killer of his wife who still might be out there. He's already preparing for the fight. As for Janet, how'd he treat Janet? She's an afterthought."
Prosecutors offered no clear motive for the crime but said Raven Abaroa lived beyond his means and was in financial straits. A $500,000 life insurance policy on his wife, they said, could have solved his financial problems.
The state portrayed Janet Abaroa as a broken and submissive wife who feared her unfaithful, controlling and verbally abusive husband.
But defense attorneys argued that emails showed her as a strong-willed woman who trusted her husband and could do what she wanted and that the state "molded' a case against their client, portraying him, Janet Abaroa and their marriage as something it was not.
They argued that police ignored evidence that could have led them to another culprit. For example, a blood stain on a side door to the home contained unidentified DNA. A bloody shoe print at the crime scene was never identified, and a fingerprint on a closet door matched neither Janet Abaroa nor her husband.
"That's another piece of evidence that points away from Raven – like that footprint – that they are trying to explain away because it doesn't fit their story," defense attorney Mani Dexter argued.
Other evidence, she said, was improperly preserved or not collected.
"We have to want to know the truth before we can find the truth," Raven Abaroa's other defense attorney, Amos Tyndall, said. "And when you go to the crime scene, if you don't want to know the truth, you can't find the truth."