Janet Abaroa was scared of husband, friend testifies
Posted May 7, 2013
Durham, N.C. — A family friend of Janet Abaroa testified Tuesday during her husband's first-degree murder trial that the 25-year-old confided in her just months before her stabbing death that she was scared of him.
"She told me things were getting weird and that Raven was making her nervous, that she was scared of him," Meghan Dowd Councill said.
Before Janet Abaroa could elaborate during the conversation at Councill's home in Smithfield, Va., in late 2004 or early 2005, Councill said, Raven Abaroa walked into the room.
"(Janet) bowed her head and just looked like a scared animal," she said. "I never had the opportunity to speak alone with her again."
Janet Abaroa was found dead in an upstairs room of her home on Ferrand Drive in Durham on April 26, 2005. Raven Abaroa, 33, who has denied killing her, is charged with first-degree murder.
Defense attorneys say that because of past mistakes by their client, Durham police investigators focused their attention only on him and ignored evidence, in the case that could have cleared him of the crime.
Prosecutors haven't offered a motive for the killing but spent Tuesday portraying Raven Abaroa as a controlling husband who verbally abused his wife, cheated on her and flirted with other women, including Councill.
Councill said that shortly after the conversation with Janet Abaroa, Raven Abaroa was sitting on her couch and asked her to look at something on his computer.
"He said, 'Come sit on my lap.' He moved the computer on the side and patted his lap," she said. "I looked at him like he was crazy."
Abaroa also asked Charlotte Revel to sit on his lap, she testified outside the jury's presence after defense attorneys said her testimony would serve no purpose other than to prejudice their client.
Revel said the encounter happened in 2003 when the Abaroas lived in Charlotte. Raven Abaroa had invited her to his apartment to talk about a problem she had been having at work.
When Revel got there, she testified, she found out Janet Abaroa was at work and that Raven Abaroa wanted her to watch a video of him and his wife having sex.
"What he was showing me, I didn't want to see," Revel said. "So, I was trying to pull away from him."
At about that time, Janet Abaroa returned home from work for lunch, she said, and Raven Abaroa pushed her into a closet.
"I was completely freaked out," she said. "I didn't know what to do."
Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson allowed the testimony, saying it helped establish a motive that Raven Abaroa didn't want to be married.
Witnesses also testified before jurors that Janet Abaroa confided to them that Raven Abaroa had a bad temper.
On another visit with her in early 2004, Councill said that Janet Abaroa told her she thought her husband might have bipolar disorder.
"She didn't know who she was going to have to deal with each day," Councill said. "(Raven) was never the same person. His mood could be one way one day and completely different the next."
Raven Abaroa, however, refused to see a therapist, Councill said.
Friend and co-worker Cathy Cheek testified that Janet Abaroa told her that as long as her husband "took his medicine, he was OK," but that when he didn't, he was "verbally mean."
Cheek never said what kind of medicine.
Janet Abaroa had also told Cheek that the couple struggled with their marriage and that they briefly separated in early 2004 after – according to defense attorneys – Raven Abaroa admitted to having an affair.
"She said that he had left her, that he just couldn't do it anymore, that he left and that he needed to get away," Cheek said.
But Janet Abaroa never told Cheek why they separated.
"She just said that she was sad and lonely and didn't understand why he left, why things were the way they were," Cheek said.
Janet Abaroa also feared her husband's reaction when she found out during the separation that she was pregnant with their son, Kaiden, Cheek said.
"She cried and said it wasn't going to be good, that Raven wasn't going to be happy that she was pregnant, because he didn't want a child at that time," Cheek said.
Eventually, Janet Abaroa decided that she wanted try to make the marriage work, but the struggles continued.
On at least two occasions in the two months prior to her death, Cheek said, Janet would call her from a payphone asking if she and Kaiden could spend the day with her "because Raven was in one of his moods."
"Other than the two occasions, did you know of any other problems?" Durham County District Attorney Charlene Coggins-Franks asked .
"I knew they had several problems – financial problems, infidelities," Cheek said. "To me, I called it a mess."
"I told her to take it one day at a time," she later testified, "and hope for the best."