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Defense begins case with newly discovered emails of Janet Abaroa

Posted May 21, 2013

— Defense attorneys for a man on trial for allegedly killing his wife in their Durham home eight years ago called their first witness Tuesday morning to testify about flirtatious emails between the wife and her former boyfriend in the weeks prior to her death.

Jason McCullough, a digital forensics examiner, testified that he recovered about two dozen fragments of email messages recovered from the hard drive of Janet Marie Christiansen Abaroa's work computer that were part of an ongoing email exchange with another man.

The emails and other findings were discovered last week and were the subject of a motion on Monday to dismiss the case against Raven Abaroa due to evidence discovery violations.

Raven Abaroa, 33, is charged with first-degree murder in 25-year-old Janet Abaroa's April 26, 2005, stabbing death – a charge he has denied.

Defense attorney Amos Tyndall unsuccessfully argued Monday that the emails could have affected the defense's trial strategy, how the jury was seated and how state witnesses were cross-examined.

For three weeks, prosecutors have portrayed Raven Abaroa as an unfaithful, verbally abusive and controlling husband feared by his wife.

But the emails, Tyndall said Monday, "has essentially turned this case on its head" and paint a different picture of the Abaroas and their relationship.

In an April 7, 2005, message, for example, Janet Abaroa writes of her husband: "He's pretty funny, but I do like that I can be honest with him and tell him anything."

Tyndall told jurors in opening statements that police focused solely on Raven Abaroa as a suspect and ignored evidence that could have indicated otherwise. They also mishandled or improperly preserved other evidence in the case, he said.

McCullough testified Tuesday that had he known about the hard drive in 2005, steps could have been taken to preserve the emails on the email server and that they could have provided a better snapshot of her email and Internet activity.

The hard drive, however, was only discovered last week locked in a cabinet at the Durham Police Department.

24 Comments

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  • canucmypointofview May 22, 9:25 a.m.

    @kikinc: I too think there are too many people that were overlooked in this investigation to make this jury locked into a guilty conviction. But then again, look how many swingers were overlooked in the Cooper trial!

  • datenobunaga2 May 21, 4:19 p.m.

    It all sounds like sloppy police work and legal representation. If it is stored in evidence, then it would be listed as recovered, in response to the search warrant.

    It was lost for some time, that is why no one could review it. It didn't miraculously materialize until the trial was underway. This to me, is more of an eye brow raiser on behalf of the state. This is exactly what the defense has been trying to point out, sloppy police work, and of course the state wants to protect its own.

  • Milkman May 21, 4:19 p.m.

    What other exculpatory evidence is "locked away" at the DPD or intentionally destroyed? I don't know if this guy is guilty or not, but I do really want him to have a fair and just trial!

    So far, I'm pretty sure he's not gotten one.

  • Mom2two May 21, 4:06 p.m.

    It all sounds like sloppy police work and legal representation. If it is stored in evidence, then it would be listed as recovered, in response to the search warrant. Obviously, no one bothered to review it prior to trial...not the defense or the prosecution. Just sloppy...pretty typical of all I have seen of Durham.

  • kikinc May 21, 3:13 p.m.

    So I just read the emails. I think they should have looked at her ex-boyfriend's girlfriend at the time. It's said that if the current girlfriend had known the exes had seen each other and were still corresponding, Janet would probably get a beat down. And those emails were pretty flirty. I do think that if they had been released earlier, this trial would have been different.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU May 21, 3:13 p.m.

    "For three weeks, prosecutors have portrayed [the husband] as an unfaithful, verbally abusive and controlling husband feared by his wife."

    Different stroke for different folks. This describes a billion Mid-East families.

    Ok, so he's mean, sexist and scared her...but prove the murder. At least explain the unknown DNA, blood & hand/finger prints.

    Everything else is just a distraction, fluff, that won't help with the "reasonable doubt" in the jury room.

  • rlee1117 May 21, 3:09 p.m.

    He will be found guilty just watch! It is like some of the others with no proof that still got found guilty!

  • whatelseisnew May 21, 3:08 p.m.

    This is why all of this stuff should never come into the court room. It is all very simple; EITHER the State has compelling evidence that will get the Jury to issue a guilty verdict, or it does not. All this other stuff is just a waste of time, and I can tell you it is very irritating to sit on a Jury and be forced to listen to this kind of nonsense. I sat on a jury where both sides spent most of the testimony time trying to make each side look bad. We heard the only MEANINGFUL testimony from the ME, a Police officer, and two eye witnesses. All the other garbage was wasted time.

  • canucmypointofview May 21, 3:01 p.m.

    Somebody help me out: If you are charged with first degree murder, can the judge tell the jury that they can consider other things instead, like manslaughter? Seems like I remember that happening in one of the other "the husband did it" cases...

  • veroprior May 21, 2:16 p.m.

    Do they not realize that these emails give Raven even more motive to kill her? If she was (or he thought she was) fooling around? It might mitigate from first degree, but it's not going to get him off the hook.

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