Durham, N.C. — 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.