Local News

Slain Durham woman's body exhumed

Posted July 19, 2010

— The remains of a woman killed in her Durham home five years ago were exhumed from a Pennsylvania grave site Monday so authorities can search for evidence in her death.

Janet Abaroa, 25, was pregnant with her second child when she was stabbed to death in an upstairs room at her and her husband's Durham home on April 26, 2005.

Police arrested her husband, Raven Abaroa, on Feb. 1 in southern Idaho and charged him with first-degree murder in the case. He had moved to Utah and Idaho with the couple's son, Kaiden, after the stabbing and later remarried.

Raven Abaroa, 35, has maintained that he was at a soccer game when his wife was killed and that he found her when he returned home later that night.

He initially had no objections to exhuming his wife's body, but he then refused to sign a court order approving the move. His attorney, Amos Tyndall, filed an objection with the Pennsylvania court, saying the police tests "have no scientific validity" and were "designed to support conclusions the analysts have already reached about the case."

According to court documents, Durham police exhumed Janet Abaroa's body to get fingerprints, casts of her hands and to see marks made on her skeleton by the weapon and to check if she was wearing contact lenses.

Janet Abaroa's family released a statement Sunday night saying that they would not be present for the exhumation and that they are disappointed with one portion of it.

"The family is disappointed that their request to suspend video taping during the portion of the procedure that would involve the removal of Mrs. Abaroa’s sacred burial clothing was denied by Mr. Abaroa and his attorney, Amos Tyndall. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints himself, one would expect that Mr. Abaroa would understand the significance of this request, especially considering it has no evidentiary value."

The family said they "have decided not to be present for the exhumation nor the re-interment. The family will, at a later date, have a private gathering at the cemetery."

The family also expressed gratitude to Pennsylvania authorities and the coroner who "have assured the family that, throughout the exhumation process, Janet’s body will be treated with respect and dignity. Their assurances to the family have made the decision not to be present bearable," according to the family's statement.

"This is tough," said Tim Dowd, a spokesman for Janet Abaroa's family. "It's tough losing your daughter. It's even tougher saying, 'Please take her from her final resting place.'"

Janet Abaroa's body was be taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa., for testing.

The fingerprints and casts of her hands could allow investigators to determine if blood stains found on Raven Abaroa's clothing came from his wife while she was alive, according to court records. Also, family members said Janet Abaroa always removed her contact lenses before bed, and Raven Abaroa has said that she was in bed before he left for the soccer game.

"This is about justice for Janet," Dowd said. "We're the voice of Janet. We're the only voice she has now. So, I think that our goal here was to just prove to the court that, as excruciatingly difficult as this is, it's necessary."

Raven Abaroa remains in the Durham County jail under a $5 million bond.


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  • Lickad Jul 19, 2010

    Leave her alone!

  • Me-N-Nc Jul 19, 2010

    'Raven had a bloody hand print on his shirt. A cast of Janet's hand is needed to prove it was her print. Raven said when he found her, she was dead.'***** I have been at a scene that a mother ran over to her sheet covered, lifeless child's body and grabbed his hand and placed it on her shoulder and laid her head on it crying. It can happen.. It is sad.... Strength be with all of as we walk this earth.

  • Havyn08 Jul 19, 2010

    As GOPACK80 said, if the woman was found already dead, her bloody fingerprints would not be on her husband's clothing. It also sounds like her bones are going to be looked at. The marks made on her bones from the stabbing can be compared to knives that the police have discovered relevant to the crime. Investigators may be able to pin down a murder weapon this way.

    Unfortunately, many investigations are often hurried. In real life, things are not even close to the way they are portrayed on shows like CSI. Many departments do not understand that these tests need to be performed, or they don't know how to perform them. Families of victims often scream at cops to be, "on the street!" looking for the "bad guy," not investigating the scene, or in the lab. There is little patience. It's frustrating for all involved. At least the evidence is still accessible in this case, and will be discovered now. Better late than never.

  • GOPACK80 Jul 19, 2010

    whocares said:Why do the police want her finger prints and casts of her hands? If there were defensive wounds to her hands wouldn't that have been found in the first autopsy?
    Raven had a bloody hand print on his shirt. A cast of Janet's hand is needed to prove it was her print. Raven said when he found her, she was dead.

  • dogsrule12cheek Jul 19, 2010

    I pray or her Family especially her mom, this has to be 10'xs as worse than the Funeral, knowing her clothing would be disturb as she once again.

    Justice for Janet and her Family please !!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bill of Rights Jul 19, 2010

    mawilkins: Judges don't grant orders to exhume bodies lightly. Whatever the reason is, I'm sure it's a good one - and if it helps bring a conviction or exoneration in this case, then it seem like a good idea.

  • Timetogo Jul 19, 2010

    'Ducky' would have gathered that info the first time... he he he

  • Crankyone Jul 19, 2010

    This is nothing more than a delaying tatic and a "hail mary," to find some technicality to get the husband off.

    The husband should realize that God does not grade in consideration of technicalities.

  • whocares Jul 19, 2010

    I agree with mawwilkins. Why do the police want her finger prints and casts of her hands? If there were defensive wounds to her hands wouldn't that have been found in the first autopsy?

  • mawilkins Jul 19, 2010

    Why wasn't this testing already done? You would think this would be important clues in finding out what happened. 5 years have passed. Things have been compromised in that time. I understand things happen, but that seems like it would be really important information and some of the first tests that would have been done.