Abaroa murder trial closing arguments set for Wednesday
Posted May 28, 2013
Updated May 29, 2013
Durham, N.C. — Closing arguments have been scheduled for Wednesday morning in the trial of Raven Abaroa, accused of fatally stabbing his wife in their Durham home more than eight years ago.
Prosecutors on Tuesday called three rebuttal witnesses, including an ex-boyfriend of 25-year-old Janet Marie Christiansen Abaroa who had been involved in a flirtatious email exchange with her weeks before her April 26, 2005, death.
Raven Abaroa, 33, has maintained that he is innocent of the first-degree murder charge that could send him to prison for the rest of his life if he is convicted.
Defense attorneys wrapped up their case last week after four days of testimony that centered on repairing what they have called a dishonest portrait of their client and the relationship he had with his wife.
Scott Hall's testimony Tuesday was in response to emails between him and Janet Abaroa that were discovered less than two weeks ago on a computer hard drive.
The messages, dated in March and April 2005, talked about the two meeting in Virginia – an encounter that never happened, Hall said, because the messages were just the two of them being "flirty" and joking around.
Raven Abaroa's defense has said the emails show a different image of Janet Abaroa, whom prosecutors painted as a broken woman who feared her verbally abusive and controlling husband.
Hall, on cross-examination, said Janet Abaroa never gave him any indication that there was trouble in her marriage and that she actually talked about how Raven Abaroa was someone she trusted and could talk to about anything.
In fact, defense attorneys pointed out, Hall told investigators in 2005 that Janet Abaroa always put her husband in a favorable light.
"She did," he said. "I would hear, at least after her death, different than that. The only thing I could assume was that she was embarrassed that her relationship wasn't going well."
When prompted by the defense, however, Hall admitted that what Janet Abaroa said about her husband could have been true but that he thought if she had been truly happy, she would have mentioned him in a conversation they had had about all the things she was grateful for in her life.
Hall and Janet Abaroa dated for about three years in high school, he said, but they broke up when she went off to college. They lost touch but reconnected in 2003 over dinner with mutual friends at TGI Friday's.
The dinner, he said, was the last time he saw her until her funeral. He was at home in Virginia on April 26, 2005, with back problems, he said.
Raven Abaroa has said he found his wife dead in an upstairs office of their home on Ferrand Drive when he returned home around 10:40 p.m. from playing in a soccer match.
An autopsy found she had been stabbed three times, including a fatal wound to the neck, and was in the very-early stage of pregnancy.
Testimony in Raven Abaroa's trial lasted 19 days with prosecutors calling 66 witnesses over 14 days before resting their case last Monday. Defense attorneys called 17.
Jurors on Tuesday also looked at records of the couple's bank accounts and heard from witnesses about a laptop docking station that was never seized from the couple's home.
The state hasn't offered a clear motive for jurors but has provided evidence that the couple was struggling financially and that Raven Abaroa had been convicted of embezzling, had several extramarital encounters with other women and was verbally and physically abusive toward his second wife.
The defense contends that police focused only Raven Abaroa for mistakes he had made in his life and ignored evidence that could have cleared him.
That includes unknown DNA in a blood stain on a door, an unknown finger print on a closet door, a bloody shoeprint by Janet Abaroa's body and two dozen reports of suspicious activity in the neighborhood in the weeks prior to the death.