Medical examiner: Janet Abaroa died quickly from fatal neck wound
Posted May 2, 2013
Updated May 3, 2013
Durham, N.C. — Janet Marie Christiansen Abaroa lost approximately a third of her blood after being stabbed to death eight years ago in her Durham home and was likely pregnant at the time, a witness testified Thursday in her husband's first-degree murder trial.
Dr. Thomas Clark, a former medical examiner with the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said the 25-year-old suffered three stab wounds – one to her left hand, one to her chest and one to her neck.
"The wound to the neck was fatal," Clark said. "The blood loss would have been rapid. Unconsciousness probably occurred within a short period of time, measured in a small number of minutes. Death would have followed quickly."
Clark, however, could not determine the order in which the wounds were inflicted.
Hormone levels also indicated that Janet Abaroa had been recently pregnant, although, during cross-examination, Clark said the levels could have been high after a very recent miscarriage.
Raven Abaroa, possibly facing life imprisonment, cried through much of Clark's testimony, as did some of Janet Abaroa's family members.
The neck wound, Clark said, cut the right subclavian artery, a major artery beneath Janet Abaroa's collar bone, and punctured her right lung, causing her to bleed into her chest about 2 liters, or approximately 70 ounces, of blood.
The average amount of blood in the body of an adult female Janet Abaroa's size – 5 feet 7 inches, 122 pounds – Clark said, is about 6 liters.
Clark, however, said it was impossible to determine when death occurred, noting that a number of factors, such as the temperature in the house, can affect a body's decomposition.
"The time of death determination is something better done on television than in real life," he said. "On television, it's easy and accurate. In real life, it isn't."
According to Durham police, the Abaroas had a guest at their home until about 7 p.m. on April 26, 2005. Sometime later, Raven Abaroa left for an indoor soccer match in Morrisville and returned home at about 10:40 p.m. to find his wife crouched on the floor in the upstairs office of the couple's Durham home.
Investigator Amanda Laeng-Craig testified Monday that Raven Abaroa told her that his wife was on her knees with her head on the floor – a position in which she would often lie for menstrual cramps. When she didn't respond, Laeng-Craig said Raven Abaroa told her that he turned on the light, turned her over and saw blood.
Clark said it was possible – but he could not say for sure – that Janet Abaroa could have continued to bleed for hours after her death because of the body's positioning and that it would appear that the bleeding was "recent."
Prosecutors have offered no motive for the slaying and said during opening statements Monday that their case will be built upon circumstantial evidence that, when pieced together, will give jurors reason beyond a doubt that Raven Abaroa is guilty of murder.
A court document filed by prosecutors last month claims Janet Abaroa told family members and friends that she was scared of her husband and that he had a temper and anger problems.
Janet Christiansen, testified Monday that her daughter confided in her that Raven Abaroa was verbally abusive to her but never hit her. A neighbor also testified that she heard the couple engaged in what she called "very heated, very intense" arguments in their home on several occasions.
Raven Abaroa, who was arrested in February 2010, has admitted that the couple had marital problems but has adamantly denied that he had anything to do with his wife's death.
Defense attorney Amos Tyndall told jurors during opening statements that investigators focused only on his client as a suspect and ignored evidence including a fingerprint found in the office closet, a blood stain found on a door with unknown DNA and a bloody shoe print next to Janet Abaroa's body.