Picture further emerges of Janet Abaroa's worries about husband
Posted May 8, 2013
Durham, N.C. — Less than five months before Janet Abaroa was found dead in her Durham home in 2005, her husband had asked about life insurance policies of up to $1 million on both of them, a longtime friend of the couple testified Wednesday in Raven Abaroa's first-degree murder trial.
Adrian Nelson, who worked for an insurance company in Utah at the time, said Raven Abaroa quizzed her on different policies during lunch one day on a visit in late 2004.
But with some health issues that Janet Abaroa had, Nelson told Raven Abaroa that it was unlikely that his wife would qualify for a policy with a death benefit more than $500,000.
"He told me he could do better, he could find a better company for cheaper," Nelson said.
Prosecutors haven't offered a motive for Janet Abaroa's April 26, 2005, stabbing death but have called a number of witnesses who have testified about financial problems as well as Janet Abaroa's worries about her marriage.
The couple briefly separated in early 2004, when Raven Abaroa moved out after cheating on her.
"She said he couldn't stand to look at her and that he felt guilty," Nelson testified. "I'd get an email (from Janet) a week later, and (Raven) was preaching about how much he loved her and how much she meant to him."
If the relationship were going well, Nelson added, Janet Abaroa was always waiting for it to turn bad again.
Janet Abaroa had also considered moving away, her friend, Britney Romito, testified. But she decided to work on her marriage when she became pregnant with their son, Kaiden – a decision she made after she ruled out having an abortion or giving the baby up for adoption.
"She told me her greatest fear was that her child would ever be alone with Raven," Romito said.
Once a fun, happy friend who was quiet and strong, Romito said Janet Abaroa had become "beaten down" by her husband's emotional and verbal abuse.
"The loving, charismatic Janet that I knew no longer existed after being in a relationship that was so abusive for so long," she said. "Her only motivation – once Kaiden was born – was Kaiden and keeping Raven happy."
Defense attorney Amos Tyndall said during opening statements last week that Durham police focused only on Raven Abaroa during their five-year investigation and ignored evidence that suggested someone else killed Janet Abaroa.
On Tuesday, Tyndall told Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson outside the jury's presence that the prosecution seems to be throwing out a number of possible motives but that the tactics were nothing more than "character assassination" on his client.
Arrested in February 2010, Raven Abaroa has denied any involvement in his wife's death, saying he was at a soccer game in Morrisville when she was killed.
Durham police detective Bennie Bradlee testified Wednesday afternoon that when he interviewed Raven Abaroa just hours after the crime that Raven Abaroa said he returned home to find his wife on the floor and called 911 on a cellphone because they did not have a landline phone.
His account of that night to Nelson, however, differed from Bradlee's testimony.
According to her, Raven Abaroa said he returned home, saw Janet Abaroa lying in blood and tried to use the office phone to call for help but that it was dead.
"I don't know if this is before or after," she said. "He said he tried to do CPR and that's how he got blood all over him."
He ran to his Dodge Durango, but it was locked, Nelson said, so he went back inside to get his keys, unlocked the SUV and called 911.
At one point, he said he held his wife and "she was really warm, and then, he said he held her again and she was really cold," Nelson said.
Bradlee made no mention of the office phone or Raven Abaroa trying to do CPR. He said Raven Abaroa told him he retrieved the cellphone inside the house.
The couple's accounts about their marriage also differed.
Bradlee said Raven Abaroa told him that Janet Abaroa "had problems and engaged in arguments" and that once she started working on the problems, "the marriage got better overnight."
"He said they were not prone to argue," Bradlee said, and that the last time they had a "difference of opinion" was three or four weeks before the murder.
Nelson said that Raven Abaroa told her after Janet Abaroa's death that he never cheated on her and that although they had some problems, she had forgiven him.
"He told me that he had treated her perfectly," Nelson said. "He said, 'I did more for her than most husbands do for their wives.'"
But Romito said Janet Abaroa knew about at least three extramarital affairs and thought there were more.
Raven Abaroa also told Nelson when they both lived in Utah in late 2005 that he had stayed in touch with police and that, on one occasion, he told her that police told him they found unknown DNA in the home and that they were "profiling the suspect."
When Nelson followed up with investigators, they told her they had not had that conversation with him.
Nelson said she cut off communication with him several years after the crime when he sent her an email asking her to be a character witness for a primetime news show reporting on the murder case.
"I couldn’t do it anymore. I had caught him in enough lies," she said. "I felt like I couldn't do it anymore so I changed my phone number and blocked his email."