Local/State

Raven Abaroa murder trial begins in Durham

Monday, April 29, 2013

Lawyers made their opening statements Monday in Raven Abaroa's murder trial and the first prosecution witnesses took the stand.

Abaroa is charged in the April 2005 stabbing death of his pregnant wife Janet. He allegedly told police he found his wife in their home on Ferrand Drive in Durham after returning from a soccer game. The couple's 6-month-old son was in the home at the time of the killing, but was not harmed.

In its opening statement, the prosecution warned jurors that there would be no eyewitnesses to the killing and that the evidence would be presented in a "twisty and windy" manor because there will be a lot of witnesses testifying, and some are coming from other parts of the country.

"Each witness will provide a piece," said the prosecutor Luke Buum.

Defense attorney Amos Tyndall told jurors the couple had no history of domestic violence, but said the couple had been separated for a time and Raven had admitted to being unfaithful. Tyndall also told jurors about Abaroa's arrest prior to the murder on an embezzlement charge. He pleaded guilty to taking shoes from his former employer to sell them and pocket the money. Tyndall called it a "bad decision" and said the couple was having money problems.

Before jury selection got underway last week, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson denied a motion to dismiss the case based on Abaroa's defense team's claims that investigators zeroed in on Abaroa from the start at the exclusion of other potential suspects.

Judge Hudson ruled that the defense failed to show police operated in bad faith and that they either intentionally destroyed or ignored exculpatory evidence.

The defense argued in court that a blood stain on a door frame of the Abaroa home contained a DNA mixture matching Janet and another person. The defense claimed that initial tests showed no match for Abaroa and that further testing would have excluded him.

In his opening statement, Tyndall brought up the issue again and told jurors they would hear more testimony on it.

He also said detectives found a fingerprint in the home that has never been matched and there was a bloody footprint at the crime scene that belongs to a shoe Abaroa didn't own.

Tyndall said Abaroa is "not a perfect man," but he said that doesn't make him guilty.

The first witness called to the stand by prosecutors was Janet's mother Janet Christiansen. She said she knew of no physical abuse in the relationship, but said her daughter told her Raven would verbally abuse her when he was feeling down.

Prosecutors also played the 911 call that Raven made from the couple's home. In it, he sounds highly emotional and tells the operator his wife has been shot.

When the tape was played, Abaroa took a tissue and began wiping his eyes.

The trial could take up to three weeks.

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durham county, homicide, local/state
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