Durham, N.C. — A man on trial for killing his wife more than eight years ago videotaped phone conversations he had with police and then appeared to talk with himself on camera, according to a video that investigators seized from his home after his arrest.
"He would have a conversation with me and a conversation with the camera afterward," Charles Sole, the fifth and final lead investigator in the murder case of Janet Marie Christiansen Abaroa, testified Tuesday.
Raven Abaroa, 33, is accused of first-degree murder in his wife's April 26, 2005, stabbing death at their home on Ferrand Drive in Durham. He has maintained his innocence, saying he was at a soccer game when she was killed.
The recording jurors saw Tuesday appeared to have been made in January 2010 – according to a time stamp on the video – less than a month before he was arrested in Montpelier, Idaho.
"I've got my work cut out for me, geez," Raven Abaroa says in the clip. "I need to win the lottery. This fight – you need money, and you need power."
"I can feel myself feeling frustrated," he says in another portion of the video.
Sole, who took over the investigation in August 2009, said Raven Abaroa was still a person of interest in the murder case at the time but that several pieces of evidence led him to name him as a suspect.
For example, an interview he did with FOX 50's NC Wanted in October 2007 drew Sole's attention, he said, because statements Raven Abaroa made were inconsistent with what he told police investigators in the hours after he found his wife's body.
"It just kind of drew my attention," Sole said. "Things that you shouldn’t be inconsistent on, too, kind of bothered me."
Prosecutors have offered no clear motive for the crime but told jurors during opening statements that their case is based on "words and actions" before and after Janet Abaroa's death that, when put together with all the evidence, will prove that Raven Abaroa is guilty.
They have, however, painted him as a controlling and verbally abusive husband with a temper whom Janet Abaroa feared.
But defense attorneys say police focused only on their client and ignored evidence that could have cleared him, including an unidentified fingerprint and DNA sample found at the crime scene and reports of break-ins in the neighborhood in the weeks prior to Janet Abaroa's death.
Sole defended the investigation, saying that he looked into the police reports of the break-in but determined that they involved broken glass and items stolen from homes.
In the Abaroa case, he said, "there was not the rummaging you would see in a breaking and entering. There were items left that would have had great value."
Sole also told jurors that Raven Abaroa claimed he found a knife years later in a box of belongings his stepfather packed up that police failed to collect.
"He claimed this knife was left visible at the crime scene, and that just wasn't true," Sole said.
Other witnesses have also talked about inconsistencies in what Raven Abaroa told them and what he told investigators.
For example, on Monday, his longtime friend, Mackensie Folster, said he told her in 2006 that he found his wife in a fetal position in their bed even though police found her body on the floor of an upstairs office.
Raven Abaroa also said that Janet Abaroa was pregnant with their second child and that they had told his family the news and were planning to tell her family.
An autopsy found Janet Abaroa was likely in the early stages of pregnancy when she was killed, but a close friend testified that Janet Abaroa denied being pregnant when she talked to her on the afternoon of her death.