Local News

Judge orders remains of slain Durham woman be exhumed

Posted July 9, 2010 6:03 a.m. EDT
Updated July 9, 2010 7:06 p.m. EDT

— A Pennsylvania judge on Friday ordered that the remains of a woman killed in her Durham home five years ago be exhumed 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 the couple's Durham home on April 26, 2005.

According to court documents, Durham police want to exhume 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.

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

Police arrested Abaroa's 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."

"We're concerned about their methods. That's what we're concerned about," Tyndall said as he entered court Friday afternoon.

The judge rejected their arguments and said authorities could dig up Janet Abaroa's remains from a rural Pennsylvania cemetery on July 19. The body will then 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.