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Janet Abaroa was scared of husband, friend testifies

Posted May 7, 2013

Photo courtesy of the Christiansen family
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— 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.

Meghan Dowd Councill Abaroa trial testimony (Day 6)

"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."

Raven Abaroa Janet Abaroa's friends paint picture of a troubled marriage

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."


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  • canucmypointofview May 8, 2013

    @tigresspen - agreed. But are the dogs going to equate the missing ducks in Cooper's trial? Wonder if the landlord moved his personal things between the hail storm and April 2005...again hmmmm

  • tigresspen May 8, 2013

    Yes, the dog events caught my attention canucmypointofview. He refused to let a friend put dogs in shed during a hail storm saying landlord stil has possessions in it. Dogs stayed outside at and Janet kept one inside when Raven was gone because she felt safer. The dogs would sleep in kitchen in their pens or on porch in pens yet the night Janet died they were in shed. They barked at deer at night. The neighbor even thought it strange because he saw deer the night Janet died but didn't hear the dogs barking. All the dog stuff is a big hmmm to me.

  • WralCensorsAreBias May 8, 2013

    I wonder if wral will be able to bring coverage today? I mean it might sprinkle you know.

  • canucmypointofview May 8, 2013

    @tigresspen - yes, I did read about the events that took place in those 8 years. Exhumation of the body (because they didn't do a complete autopsy the first time - who doesn't take eye contacts out??) Calling in a psychic - he re-married and moved, yada yada yada. Still should not have taken 8 years. I'm just waiting to hear what the final "puzzle" piece is that finally brought on the murder charge. And I've yet to hear it. I do hope, though, that the jury is paying attention to all the talk about the dogs. Gotta be something there the way the state keeps bringing them up. Then again, these are people that didn't think to get out of jury duty to begin with..

  • tigresspen May 7, 2013

    Dragnet1: If you are thinking a smoking gun coming out, then sit back and breathe easy. The smoke has been told through witnesses who have testified. Puzzle pieces are fitting together nicely. The last couple mornings of evidence was powerful. Yes, I think state is proving their case. I'm not saying guilty yet because more witnesses are yet to come but the mind keeps leaning that way more and more.

  • Milkman May 7, 2013

    Agreed Dragnet. This guy really sounds like a total loser, but so far, not a cold blooded killer. If he wanted his freedom, then why not kill the child as well?

  • ConservativeVoter May 7, 2013

    Another murder trial by lies, innuendo, and hearsay.

  • Wacky_dood May 7, 2013

    I still don't see any evidence that indicates beyond a reasonable doubt this guy killed his wife.

    So far, the prosecution has demonstrated he is a thief, a cad and a hot head.

    Still waiting for the bombshell that shows he murdered his poor wife...

  • geraniumposey May 7, 2013

    I think it is the triumph of hope over experience--you want things to get better, so your marriage can reach an even keel, but, alas, things never do get better with an abusive philandering husband. These kinds are jealous of babies in the family--they are self-absorbed and need all the attention from the wife, all the while chasing other skirts, themselves. Terminal narcissism. It's difficult to see through these anti-social personalities because they tend to be so manipulative.

  • highcountry May 7, 2013

    My friends would have straight up threatened to whip him. And I would have called my daddy!!