Second wife testifies of physical abuse by Raven Abaroa
Posted May 13, 2013
Updated February 24, 2015
Durham, N.C. — Raven Abaroa's second wife testified Monday during his first-degree murder trial that he called her names and threw her against the wall on the day of her bridal shower – testimony that defense attorneys unsuccessfully argued to keep jurors from hearing.
Raven Abaroa, 33, and facing life in prison without the possibility of parole, is accused of fatally stabbing his first wife, Janet Marie Christiansen Abaroa, 25, who was found in the upstairs office of their Durham home on the night of April 26, 2005.
He moved to Utah a few weeks after her death with their 6-month-old son, Kaiden. In December 2007, he began dating Vanessa Pond, and the two eventually married on Sept. 6, 2008.
Pond testified Monday that she was getting ready for the bridal shower when the two began arguing and that Raven Abaroa – whom she only referred to as "the defendant" – shoved her into a wall and used his fingers to poke her in her chest so hard that it hurt for several days thereafter.
She was unsure what prompted the encounter, she said. Before it ended, he was nose-to-nose yelling at her while she begged him to stop.
"To him, when he sees a woman cry or he sees weakness, he feeds on it, and he just goes at you harder and harder, and so I was there on the bed just begging him to stop," Pond, in tears at times, said.
"He said he didn't care if I died. He said he wanted to hit me so bad and that he couldn’t get in trouble anymore. I still don't know what that means," she continued, recalling that Raven Abaroa then swung his hand back and stopped before hitting her face.
She flinched, she said, and he walked out of the room laughing.
"I had to compose myself, and I showed up about an hour and a half late to my own bridal shower," she said.
Raven Abaroa, arrested Feb. 1, 2010, in Idaho, has denied killing Janet Abaroa, and the state has offered no clear motive for the crime.
Prosecutors, however, have painted him as a controlling, manipulative and verbally abusive husband who cheated on Janet Abaroa multiple times. Numerous witnesses have testified that she was scared of him because of his mood swings and had considered leaving him before she found out she was pregnant with Kaiden.
But defense attorneys have been quick to point out that Janet Abaroa never spoke of any physical abuse and that, by all accounts, those who knew them said they appeared to be a happy, normal young couple.
The defense maintains that Raven Abaroa was at a soccer game when his wife was killed and that detectives ignored evidence, including DNA found in a blood stain on a side door leading into the house and an unknown fingerprint in an office closet that might have helped clear him.
Pond said Monday that Raven Abaroa told her after they had been out on a few dates that his late wife was murdered in a home invasion but that, on the advice of his counselor, he didn't want to go into further detail.
Her curiosity got away from her, she said, and she spent hours on the Internet reading about the investigation and watching a 2007 interview Raven Abaroa did with FOX 50's NC Wanted.
"I was absolutely beside myself," she said.
Her concerns led her to further conversation with Raven Abaroa, who told her that police were trying to frame him. She also talked with detectives on the case, and at one point, her parents even sat down with Raven Abaroa and asked him point-blank if he killed his wife.
"He did not respond with a yes or no," Pond said. "His response was 'but I loved my wife.' He danced around the question and ended up changing the subject."
Still, despite her reservations and the bridal shower incident, she said, she went through with the wedding.
"I was really the only one in the position to get the information that they needed. So, I felt like I could do that. I went through with (the wedding), and if he wasn't guilty then we could have a great relationship with a lot of bumps along the way, but if he was guilty I was hoping that I could help."
But as her suspicions about her husband's involvement in his late wife's death grew, so did concerns for her safety, as well as that of her 5-year-old daughter.
"He wanted the perfect wife. If I didn't act the way he wanted me to at church or with his friends, or if our house wasn't exactly the right way, then there was hell to be paid," Pond said.
Still, she was worried about what would happen if she left, so she tried to get him to leave on his own.
"I felt like if I had left, it would have ended badly," Pond said.
By Christmas Eve 2008, the couple separated. Their marriage was annulled last year.
Also testifying Monday was Raven Abaroa's former co-worker, who said she had sex with him on a late-night road trip to Charlotte in the fall of 2003 because she felt unsafe and was unsure what he might do to her.
The woman testified that the two developed a friendship when she first met him when she was 17 and in high school.
"He was definitely a charmer, very flirtatious, and with me being so young in age, I was very naïve to it," she said.
In college, however, the relationship changed. She testified that on the way back from the Charlotte trip Raven Abaroa started making unwanted sexual advances toward her and that they pulled off at a highway rest stop, where they had sex.
"I finally realized that I'm going to need to follow through with what's happening here," the woman recalled. "I felt like I was unsafe and that something was going to happen."
"I just wanted it to be over," she added.
She said that on the way back, she felt so uncomfortable and nervous that she started running her hands through her hair in case something happened to her.
"I'll leave my hair in here, something, so if they search the car they'll be able to find my DNA and know that I was here in case I go missing or something happens to me," she recalled thinking.
She never talked to Raven Abaroa after that night, she said.