Court sets Jan. 13 retrial date after Raven Abaroa rejects plea deal
Posted June 6, 2013
Durham, N.C. — A Durham Superior Court judge on Thursday set a Jan. 13 date for the retrial of Raven Abaroa after he turned down a second-degree plea deal in the stabbing death eight years ago of his wife, Janet Abaroa.
A jury deadlocked 11-1 last week in favor of a guilty verdict on a first-degree murder charge, forcing Judge Orlando Hudson to declare a mistrial.
Prosecutor Charlene Coggins-Franks said in court that the state offered Raven Abaroa a prison sentence of 19 to 24 years if he pleaded guilty by 1 p.m. to the lesser charge.
If convicted of first-degree murder, he automatically faces life in prison without the possibility of parole since the state is not seeking the death penalty.
Janet Abaroa, 25, was found stabbed to death in an upstairs office of the couple's Durham home on April 26, 2005.
Members of her family said Thursday that they were disappointed that Raven Abaaroa did not accept the state's offer, but that they were not surprised.
"I don't think any member of the family is going to give up until there is resolution," Janet Abaroa's brother, Richard Christiansen, said. "No matter how long it takes, we want to see this process through. We're frustrated, but optimistic for the next time around."
Raven Abaroa, 33, has maintained his innocence, saying he was playing in a soccer game and returned home to find his wife crouched on the floor. He was arrested nearly five years later in Idaho, where he lived with the couple's son, who was 6 months old when his mother was killed.
Testimony in his five-week murder trial spanned 19 days and consisted of 82 witnesses and 565 pieces of evidence. Jurors deliberated for more than 10 hours before Hudson declared a mistrial.
Defense attorneys argued that police focused only on their client as a suspect and ignored or explained away any evidence that could have helped identify another culprit in the case.
But prosecutors argued that Janet Abaroa's death wasn't random and that Raven Abaroa was the only person with any reason to kill her.