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Picture further emerges of Janet Abaroa's worries about husband

Posted May 8, 2013

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— 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 Abaroa trial testimony (Day 7)

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."


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  • valleyGirl May 9, 2013

    Raven should just confess, and spare everyone this sadness of testifying in court. Man up Abaroa.

  • Deb1003 May 9, 2013

    Is this going to be yet another case where the primary evidence is hearsay and speculation, or is there real, concrete evidence that links him to her murder?

  • tigresspen May 8, 2013

    datenobunaga2: I have not assumed I know what you have or haven't done. As I said each case is individual. But what people say they would do is most likely not what they actually would do because of that. I, too, have seen DV and helped. I have studied many cases and yes it is hard for many to leave their abuser for differing reasons- again due to each case being individual. I mentioned a book earlier called Time's Up written by Susan Murphy Milano. Sadly Susan died of cancer this past Oct but her books and advocacy lives on. In 'Time's Up' A Guide on How to Leave Abusive and Stalking Relationships (Chapter 4) there is a document called EAA (evidentiary abuse affidavit)- very important affidavit. That document helps victims. At the beginning of the book you'll find the definition of FEAR Facilitate Ending Abusive Relationship

  • ConservativeVoter May 8, 2013

    The DA is going the route of the Brad Cooper and Jason Young trials.

    Present no evidence but get a conviction based on lies, rumors, and innuendos from her friends who don't like the husband.

    Most husbands I know would get convicted if something happened to the wife and the friends of the wife who don't like the husband took the stand to testify against the husband.

  • datenobunaga2 May 8, 2013

    @TIgresspen. Oh I've been there, seen it, done it, lived it, and helped a few friends. So don't assume you know what I have or haven't done or experienced just like I won't assume that can't see why it was so hard for her to leave. You stated that you can and I will take you at face value.

  • tigresspen May 8, 2013

    Folks never disparage a DV victim unless you have lived through their situation. You may say you'd do this or that but in truth you likely wouldn't... Each case is individual. Leaving is not as easy as people think and I can see why it was so hard for Janet.

  • datenobunaga2 May 8, 2013

    classy. Let's insult the victim for trying to stay and make things work, while we make excuses for her husband.

    I don't care if it's classy or not. It's my opinion and how i feel about the victim. In this day and age there are so many resources and places to reach out to.Every job I have worked has touched on the topic of domestic violence and offered resources through work to get help. WIth so many firends she could have tried to break free. Perhaps she could have turned to her church since they seemed to like playing councilor. Either way my feelings are unchanged.

  • F0urAutumn May 8, 2013

    "I am losing respect for all of them including the victim for being a door mat."

    classy. Let's insult the victim for trying to stay and make things work, while we make excuses for her husband.

    Nice job.

  • veroprior May 8, 2013

    I hope this spaghetti approach the prosecution is employing won't bounce back and smack them in the mouth. I hope they tie all this in to motive. The insurance might help, if they can find that he did purchase a policy. And if he attempted to collect on it. Five months or less might not fly...

  • tigresspen May 8, 2013

    With all the evidence we've heard about Raven's demeanor, outwardly, he seemed composed and in control but inwardly he had a rage that was burning.And a love for knives that created an itch to experiment. It appears from the evidence heard that he experimented on Janet since the creepy peeping Tom was a failure.