Lead detective faces tough questions from Abaroa defense
Posted May 15, 2013
Durham, N.C. — The fifth and final lead detective investigating the fatal stabbing of Janet Abaroa spent much of Wednesday morning being cross-examined by her husband's defense attorneys, who have said that police ignored or improperly handled evidence in the eight-year murder investigation.
Raven Abaroa, 33, is on trial for first-degree murder in his 25-year-old wife's April 26, 2005, death.
Arrested five years later, he has maintained that he was at a soccer game when Janet Abaroa died and that he returned to the couple's Durham home to find her body in an upstairs office. Their 6-month-old son, Kaiden, was also home at the time but was not harmed.
Prosecutors have painted Raven Abaroa as a verbally abusive and controlling husband who cheated on his wife and had been in trouble for embezzling money from his job.
Defense attorneys are trying to show that, although Raven Abaroa might not have been an ideal husband, there's no physical evidence to suggest that he killed his wife but that there was evidence that might have cleared him.
Detective Charles Sole, who inherited the case in 2009, however, dismissed some of the defense's claims during his testimony Wednesday.
For example, investigators found DNA in a blood stain on a door that belonged to an unidentified person. But Sole said the print was on the interior glass door of a common entrance to the house and that DNA already on the door’s surface could have gotten into the blood sample collected by investigators.
Defense attorneys have said that investigators also ignored evidence of a K-9 police dog picking up a scent that ended at a creek in front of the Abaroas' home, where police found some coins that were never examined.
Sole, who was also the K-9 handler on the case, said the search with the dog was actually an article search and not a scent-tracking search but that the term was mistakenly included in investigators' notes.
Defense attorneys could begin calling witnesses soon. Last week, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson told jurors that he expected the state to wrap up its case this week.
So far, more than 60 witnesses have testified about everything from the crime scene to Raven and Janet Abaroa's marriage to exhuming her body from her grave to find out if she had been wearing her contacts when she died.
Prosecutors, however, haven't offered a clear motive for why Raven Abaroa would have wanted to kill his wife and told jurors during opening statements that the case is based on circumstantial evidence.
They presented testimony Wednesday afternoon from insurance claims analysts and investigators that Janet Abaroa had a $500,000 life insurance policy.
Raven Abaroa, who was the beneficiary, notified the company shortly after her death but didn't submit a claim until months later. It still hasn't been paid out because of the murder investigation.
Janet Abaroa's friends and family have testified that she was scared of her husband and his drastic mood swings and that she thought he might have had bipolar disorder.
"When she was around him, she was nervous," her sister, Erica Bakey, told jurors Wednesday afternoon.
Bakey testified that, during college, her sister had to get permission from Raven Abaroa before going places and that later on in their marriage, he was always with his wife and never let her be alone on family visits.
"It felt like she was slowly disappearing," Bakey said. "The joking, happy, upbeat sister I knew – by the time Kaiden was born – wasn't there anymore. Her personality was gone."
At one point, the couple had separated after Raven Abaroa admitted to having an affair, but they eventually got back together when Janet Abaroa found out she was pregnant with Kaiden – a decision she made after she considered having an abortion or giving the baby up for adoption.
According to an autopsy report, she was in the early stages of pregnancy when she was killed.
Sole testified Tuesday and Wednesday that one of many things that made him suspicious of Raven Abaroa was the lack of a struggle at the crime scene.
There were no signs of forced entry, and the house had been in order except for the small upstairs room where police encountered Janet Abaroa's body.
"The nature of her injuries was a knife wound. In order to do that you had to be close. Given the account of Mrs. Abaroa's physical ability, her child is in the next bedroom, I'm pretty sure she's not just going to give up," Sole said. "There was nothing disturbed. It was all in one central location between the desk and the wall. There was nothing knocked over in the room."