Local News

Slain Durham woman's body exhumed

Posted July 19, 2010 5:33 a.m. EDT
Updated July 19, 2010 11:58 p.m. EDT

— 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.