Durham, N.C. — Attempting to undo what they say was damage to their client's reputation, defense attorneys for Raven Abaroa continued calling witnesses Thursday to counter the "dishonest portrait" they say was painted by prosecutors – an image of a controlling and verbally abusive husband who was feared by his wife.
Abaroa is on trial for first-degree murder in Janet Abaroa's April 26, 2005, stabbing death – a crime he has maintained that he didn't commit.
Taking the stand Thursday morning – the 17th day of testimony – Raven Abaroa's brother, Derek Abaroa, and a family friend, Misty Foxley, echoed earlier witnesses' statements that there was nothing that made them think Raven Abaroa would have been capable of killing his wife.
Prosecutors have offered no clear motive for the crime, and defense attorneys say there's no physical evidence linking him to it. Despite some road bumps in their marriage, including infidelity and a brief separation, the defense has contended that the Abaroas loved one another.
"They were a happy married couple," Derek Abaroa said. "They renewed my faith in marriage. I was just so happy to see them in love and joking around."
"From our impression, Janet and Raven were getting along fine," Foxley said. "They were having normal marital issues. I never ever saw Janet or Raven, in all the years I've known them, treat each other with disrespect."
In the weeks and years after Janet Abaroa's death, Foxley said, she watched Raven Abaroa mourn his wife and then struggle to move on without her and take on the task of raising alone the couple's son, Kaiden, who was 6 months old when his mother died.
She recalled receiving a photo of Kaiden and Raven Abaroa for Christmas. In the photo, Raven Abaroa was holding a portrait of his wife.
"Kaiden knew that picture was momma," she said.
Raven Abaroa, she went onto say, was a great parent and a good person – a sentiment with which Derek Abaroa agreed.
"I love him," he said. "He's a good man, and he's always been an example to me, especially in the realm of responsibility and growing up."
But Foxley testified that one of the greatest struggles Raven Abaroa seemed to have in the years after the murder was with his Mormon faith.
"I think he's not as strong in his faith as he wanted to be," she said, adding that he "struggled with what people might call a sexual addiction."
"The thing with Raven is that I would always tell him these are real struggles that lots of people have," Foxley added. "I believed he would find that peace and that he would seek that forgiveness and turn things around, but it's taken him a while."
On cross-examination, she said it was "unexpected" that Raven Abaroa hadn't been faithful in his marriage because the couple had both expressed to her that they had wanted a strong marriage and she had counseled him on what it meant to be a good husband.
"I would basically tell him to step it up. He liked that. He wanted to. He needed a person who would help him, encourage him to do that," Foxley said. "He saw that my husband and I lived that way."