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Detective: Abaroas spent more than they made

Posted May 9, 2013

— Durham prosecutors laying out their case against Raven Abaroa for the stabbing death of his wife, Janet Abaroa, spent Thursday morning questioning one of several lead detectives in the 8-year-old murder case who said he believed couple was struggling financially.

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"I can say that, based on all the records I saw during this investigation, it appeared to me that they were spending as much as they were making," Durham police detective Bennie Bradlee said on the eighth day of testimony in Raven Abaroa's trial.

The 33-year-old is charged with first-degree murder in his 25-year-old wife's April 26, 2005, stabbing death. He has denied any involvement in it, saying he returned home from a soccer game to find her body.

Defense attorneys have said that police focused only on Raven Abaroa and ignored evidence that suggested someone else killed Janet Abaroa.

The state hasn't offered a clear motive for the crime but has painted Raven Abaroa as a controlling and verbally abusive husband with a penchant for spending money and who had financial problems and embezzlement charges to show for it.

During a review of financial records seized from the couple's home in 2005, Bradlee, who led the murder investigation from April 2005 until July 2005, said he took note of paperwork for four auto loans with monthly payments ranging from $123 to $356, an insurance policy valued at $500,000 for Janet Abaroa and a $1 million life insurance policy for Raven Abaroa.

Bradlee also found a check in Janet Abaroa's organizer for more than $1,100 to a bankruptcy attorney, but he never found any documentation showing the couple actually filed for bankruptcy.

He also learned from Raven Abaroa's supervisor in April 2005 that he liked high-tech "toys" and the "latest gadgets."

"She stated in conversations that she had with him that he had personal financial issues, and he said it was to the point that he had four vehicles and might have to sell one in the future, which I guess would be to free up some monthly income," Bradlee said.

Janet Abaroa's friends have testified that they didn't know much about the couple's financial struggles but knew from Janet Abaroa, a faithful Mormon, that she had struggled in her marriage and that, in the months prior to her death, she feared her husband and his temper and was concerned that he might have bipolar disorder.

"She had made a commitment with him and God, and she wanted to keep that commitment despite everything that had gone on, despite the turmoil she had been through, despite what she described as the verbal abuse and rage episodes," her sister Sonja Flood testified.

Flood said she found out about her sister's death in a phone call from her father and mother.

"They were told that she had committed suicide, and he asked me to come over and help them make sense of things and try to figure out where to go to from there," she said. "Then we were just frantically trying to figure out what was going on."

She said she found out the case was being investigated as a murder from a story in the news.

Flood also testified that, a few weeks later when Raven Abaroa stayed with her at her home in Virginia, she found in his duffle bag a compact disc of what she said appeared to be a backup of his computer's hard drive. The disc was labeled April 25, 2005, the day before her sister's death.

"It was alarming to me, because (police) said they didn't believe it was a break-in because the only things were missing was a laptop and knives," she said.

Her husband made two copies of the CD, but Flood said she waited to give them to police because she was unsure of the discovery and had mixed emotions.

She felt that Raven Abaroa might have had something to do with her sister's death. But she also felt that turning over the evidence would betray him.

"I was really mixed because Raven was someone Janet loved, and I loved Janet, and even though thinking he had committed this act, it was still hard to sort through it," Flood said.

Investigators have testified that Raven Abaroa told them that before he went to play soccer, he left a laptop in his home office – the room where Janet Abaroa's body was found.

But authorities never found the computer.

As for the knives that Flood said were never found, witnesses said Raven Abaroa, at one point, collected knives.

Bradlee said Raven Abaroa told him that he had some stored in a bin in the office. But as far as Bradlee knew, investigators seized only a set of knives from the kitchen and one from the glove compartment of the couple's Dodge Durango.


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  • sweetlyght May 10, 2013

    I'm sorry I'm still not seeing enough to sentence this man to life in prison. I know at least 3 people who collect knives. Most young couple people spend as much as they make it takes time to become an equtiable employee, and it's normal to discuss life insurance and policy rates at some point in time... and that conversation was almost a year before the murder. Anyone who has life insurance talks about it at some point in time. I'm not seeing concrete stuff here.

  • caroexc May 9, 2013

    Almost everyone spends more than they make. Its called credit but it doesnt mean, in and of itself, it is a motive to kill.

  • tigresspen May 9, 2013

    In all the questions defense has asked witnesses I have yet to see where they have shown their strategy of sloopy investigation, focused on Raven alone. LE was unable to rule Raven out as a POI in the murder therefore they had to investigate him further. He, to me, showed guilt in what he said and did the night of the murder and afterward. I hope in their CA the state has avisual for jurors with all these pieces of puzzle listed. They are numerous. I simply can't see anyone else going into that home that fateful night and committing murder without stealing anything. Janet had no enemies. There was no evidence of a berak-in.

  • whatelseisnew May 9, 2013

    "When basic necessities costs exceed your income, of course you are going to outspend your income. Thanks Bush"

    What does Bush have to do with your income. Sounds to me like you need to find a better job. Oh an Obama has nothing to do with your income either, you still need a better job.

    As to this family spending more than they earned, millions and millions of people in this country do that, from the EBT users to people that make a lot of money. I am not sure how that is all that significant in this case. Sounds to me like this guy was not all that worried about the spending. If this wife was complaining most guys ignore that, particularly if they are bringing the money in. If this guy is guilty, I hope they have compelling evidence to convince the jury.

  • VT1994Hokie May 9, 2013

    Why has this case taken 8 years to get it solved? I know it's not solved yet, but I surely hope that it will be soon. Someone didn't do their job.

  • lisa4 May 9, 2013

    eric52272 ------ I agree with you!!!!!

  • valleyGirl May 9, 2013

    If he did not do it, then would there be DNA from someone else. I mean it does seem unlikely that no DNA would be left by the killer. Come on, all Janet's friends says she locked the doors. Raven said she often forgot. Someone is lying. Who has the most to gain from lying. I rest my case.

  • Save It May 9, 2013

    I though I read he only earned just above $30K? How does someone earning that little finance 4 cars? Even with a stellar credit score I would think the debt to income ratio would limit him to financing one. Regardless... sounds like he was a pose making humble salary afraid someone was going to find out he wasn't a six figure executive.

  • joshuawlamb May 9, 2013

    "When basic necessities costs exceed your income, of course you are going to outspend your income. Thanks Bush."

    Did Bush sell him 4 cars...?

  • Obamacare survives May 9, 2013

    sunshine1040, but if he left he would get nothing. If he kills her and walks, he gets half a million. Do the math.