Local News

Abaroa defense asks judge to dismiss murder case

Posted May 20, 2013

— The Superior Court judge presiding over the trial of a man accused of killing his wife eight years ago denied a motion Monday to dismiss the case after defense attorneys said critical evidence wasn't turned over to them until last week.

Raven Abaroa, 33, is charged with first-degree murder in the April 26, 2005, death of Janet Abaroa, 25, who was found stabbed to death in their Durham home.

The evidence at the center of the defense's request has to do with emails and the Internet search history found on the hard drive of Janet Abaroa's work computer, which was discovered Thursday morning in a locked cabinet at the Durham Police Department.

Amos Tyndall told Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson that fragments of messages recovered from the device revealed that Janet Abaroa was having daily contact with a former boyfriend in the weeks before her death and that the two had talked over email messages – some flirtatious, some sexual in nature – about meeting in either Norfolk, Va., or Richmond, Va.

The emails were within weeks before she died – the last one dated April 7, 2005 – and Tyndall said that the information "has essentially turned this case on its head."

Prosecutors have painted his client as an unfaithful and verbally abusive husband who kept control of her finances, and witnesses have testified that Janet Abaroa feared her husband and tried to always please him.

The motion states that the messages contradict witnesses' testimony that Janet Abaroa "was terrified of Mr. Abaroa and was subservient to him to the point of having no independent will."

"These emails turn that image on its head," Tyndall said. "Withholding those emails has allowed the state, through its witnesses, to present a very dishonest portrait of Mrs. Abaroa, a dishonest portrait of my client and a dishonest portrait of their relationship."

Tyndall asked for the court to strike the state's evidence and dismiss the case, saying he had asked for the hard drive before trial and that the messages could have changed the defense strategy, including how witnesses were questioned and how the jury of seven men and five women was seated.

"Getting this information at about the time that the state is ready to rest its case and has presented an image of my client for three weeks – frankly that is going to be hard to undo," Tyndall said. "I think the state would be hard pressed to present the same image with the information."

The state, however, contended that the emails weren't withheld intentionally and that they wouldn't have changed how the prosecution presented its case.

Hudson refused to grant the motion, as well as a subsequent motion to declare a mistrial, finding that there was no evidence of discovery violations.

Prosecutors rested their case Monday afternoon after 14 days of testimony and 66 witnesses, including police detectives, crime scene investigators, Janet and Raven Abaroa's friends, family and co-workers, an ophthalmologist and members of the couple's church.

Jurors spent several hours reviewing dozens of pieces of evidence, including shoes, a cellphone and a knife that Raven Abaroa told detectives they overlooked and that he found years later in a box of belongings.

Raven Abaroa has denied any involvement in his wife's death, having told investigators he was at a soccer game and returned home that night to find her on the floor in their home office.

Tyndall told jurors during opening statements on April 29 that although Raven Abaroa might not have been an ideal husband, there's no physical evidence to suggest that he killed Janet Abaroa but that there was evidence that might have cleared him.

Among that evidence is an unknown fingerprint on a closet door and unknown DNA found in a blood stain on a side door leading to the driveway of the couple's home.

Defense attorneys are expected to call their first witness Tuesday morning.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Raven Abaroa faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

44 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • canucmypointofview May 21, 10:40 a.m.

    Wow! Was this chick living a double life or what?

  • ConservativeVoter May 21, 10:28 a.m.

    They had the hard drive for 8 years. It's hard to believe that they just remembered that they had it.

  • Bealzebub May 20, 5:32 p.m.

    Wow. How many times will the Judges allow the Durham DA's to basicly knee-cap the defense like this?

  • ConservativeVoter May 20, 5:19 p.m.

    The Durham DA and PD should be asked why they didn't investigate the boyfriend as well.

  • liveurownlifepeople May 20, 4:30 p.m.

    If the defense came up with some evidence last minute like this..All cane would have broken loose from the Pros side and it certainly would not have been admitted and a mistrial would have been declared... No matter if he did it..Brad Cooper did or Jason Young did it... Your chances of a fair trial in this area are NONE

  • whoami May 20, 4:16 p.m.

    and should also be a concern for the judge, who is supposed to be the vanguard for ensuring a fair trial. whoam

    ===================================

    You do know you're talking about Orlando Hudson, right?
    Bartmeister

    *****
    Yeah, I figured pointing out his multiple credibility issues was beating a dead horse.

  • JAT May 20, 4:04 p.m.

    wonder how many of her friends and relatives she may have told about the emails and they just 'forgot' to mention it to anyone to keep her looking good. regardless, if he's found guilty of anything, there's instant reason for appeal which Hudson could have prevented. More waste of our money

  • Bartmeister May 20, 3:41 p.m.

    and should also be a concern for the judge, who is supposed to be the vanguard for ensuring a fair trial. whoam

    ===================================

    You do know you're talking about Orlando Hudson, right?

  • observantone18 May 20, 3:28 p.m.

    Based on a search of WestLaw and Lexis-Nexis, Judge Hudson is pretty solid in his judicial decisions. Very strong, in fact.

    Regarding the Raven Abaroa murder trial, Judge Hudson has been very fair to both the prosecution and defense. The defendant has created many problems for himself with his multiple, conflicting statements to law enforcement. His behavior since the victim's murder has not helped his case either. However, the judge is solid. If I were trying a case, I'd want to make sure I had my i's dotted and t's crossed before going before Judge Hudson. And, if for whatever reason I needed a defense attorney, I'd want Amos Tyndall. He is good - he knows his client and the case. His team appears very passionate about providing a strong defense for their client. But, they can only work with what they have, and in this case (here is my opinion), the defendant hasn't given them much to work with...

  • whoami May 20, 3:28 p.m.

    How do we know she didn't get with the ex-boyfriend before Raven killed her? Maybe he followed her where she met the ex and that's what got her killed. Obamacare survives

    We don't know that. That is the point. The non-disclosure of this evidence could have a beneficial impact to the accused, or may hurt his case more. The fact the evidence was not disclosed or brought up in testimony should be of concern to both sides from an ethical standpoint, and should also be a concern for the judge, who is supposed to be the vanguard for ensuring a fair trial.

More...