Medical examiner: Janet Abaroa died rapidly

May. 02, 2013 @ 07:24 PM

Janet Abaroa likely died within a few minutes after she was stabbed at the base of her neck at her Durham home, a medical examiner testified Thursday.

Thomas Clark, who formerly worked for the North Carolina Medical Examiner's Office and who performed the examination on Janet Abaroa's body, testified that a wound at the base of her neck cut an artery leading to her arm and would have been rapidly fatal.

Clark, however, said he could not determine the time of death, because too many environmental factors would have affected his ability to be precise.

"Time of death is better done on television than in real life," he said.

Raven Abaroa, 33, who is standing trial for first-degree murder in his wife's death, told police that he came home from a soccer game on the night of April 26, 2005 to find his wife in hunched over on the floor of their upstairs home office. When he turned her over, he said, he saw what he believed was a gunshot wound in the middle of her chest.

Police officers testified that when they saw Janet, she was on her back and her shirt was pulled up to her neck, hiding the wound at the base of her neck.

Clark displayed autopsy photographs on a large screen that showed Janet Abaroa's wounds.

The photos showed a round wound in the center of her chest, and a one-inch long wound at the base of her neck. Another photo showed a wound to the middle finger of her left hand that went through the finger.

"The wound to the neck was fatal," Clark said.

The wound to the chest did not hit any arteries and the sharp object that made it slipped between the heart and the lung, he said.

A woman Janet Abaroa's size would normally have about six liters of blood, and Janet Abaroa lost two liters of blood that collected in her chest cavity from the neck wound, Clark said.

Assistant District Attorney Charlene Coggins-Franks asked Clark whether it would be possible for there to be wet blood on the body if the person had been dead for several hours.

Clark said it was possible, depending on factors such as temperature, humidity, air flow and the flow of blood out of the body.

Janet Abaroa was newly pregnant or recently had been pregnant at the time of her death based on her hormone levels, he said.

After Clark finished his testimony, Crime Scene Investigator Donna Jackson took the stand again. She had been going through bags, boxes and envelopes full of evidence she collected at the Abaroas’ home on Ferrand Drive, and telling the jurors when she collected it.

In his cross-examination of Jackson, Tyndall, in a conversational tone, asked Jackson about some of the evidence she collected and why it was not sent to the SBI lab for analysis.

She said she did not test or send coins that a K-9 search dog found at a creek in front of the house to be tested for blood. She did not find any blood on the keys to the Durango that Raven Abaroa drove that night and did not send them to the SBI lab for further testing, she said.

He also asked about a bloody footprint that was found near Janet Abaroa's body. "Somebody went down and said, 'Check with the other investigators on the scene,' and it was referred back to me it was an EMS personnel," Jackson said.

Tyndall asked her if she collected any shoes from an EMS worker; whether she was aware if any shoes from an EMS worker had been sent to the crime lab to be tested for blood, or if she had measured the footprint on the floor, and Jackson answered no to each question.

Tyndall also asked if she saw any blood drops or stains in the upstairs bathroom or master bathroom, and she said no.

At 5 p.m., Tyndall suggested it was a good time to stop for the day, and Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson recessed court for the day, telling the jury to return Friday morning at 9:30 a.m.