Jury begins deliberating Raven Abaroa case
Put the puzzle pieces together and it will reveal that Raven Abaroa planned and executed his wife Janet Abaroa on the night of April 26, 2005, a prosecutor told a jury during closing arguments Wednesday.
Raven Abaroa, 33, is standing trial for first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Janet Marie Christiansen Abaroa, 25. After nearly a month of evidence, the jury heard arguments from both the prosecutors and the defense attorneys before beginning its deliberations late Wednesday afternoon.
The jury did not reach a verdict and will resume deliberating at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
In his closing statement, defense attorney Amos Tyndall pointed out what he said were numerous flaws in the investigation of Janet Abaroa's murder. Investigators presumed Raven Abaroa was guilty so everything he did or said appeared suspicious, Tyndall argued.
Tyndall pointed to evidence that may have led investigators to look for other suspects, but each time the evidence went in another direction, they stopped and went back to try to find more evidence against Raven Abaroa, he said
Assistant District Attorney Charlene Coggins-Franks began her closing argument by showing a photograph of Janet Abaroa on a big screen next to her marriage vows.
She then went through the evidence, piece by piece, starting with the 911 call Raven Abaroa made after he came home from a soccer game and found his wife dead in the upstairs office of their home.
The first thing Raven Abaroa told the 911 operator was that his wife was dead, Coggins-Franks said. He didn't ask for an ambulance, and he didn't try to give her CPR, she said.
The prosecutor pointed out many inconsistencies in Raven Abaroa's statements and speculated he wanted to keep the couple's son, Kaiden, for himself.
"There's only one way he can keep that little boy, and that is if Janet is not around," she said.
Coggins-Franks showed the jurors photographs of peanut butter and jelly jars on the kitchen counter and said Janet was making lunch for the next day when her husband called her to come to the upstairs office.
"He's waiting for her with the knife, waiting for her. She steps two feet into that room. Bam right there. She never saw it coming," Coggins-Franks said.
She clutched her chest, dropped to her knees, and Raven Abaroa stepped around behind her and stabbed her in the base of her neck, the prosecutor said. She fell face down because he was behind her, Coggins-Franks said as she dropped to her knees in front of the jury.
As she made her point about each piece of evidence, a puzzle piece would be added to a photograph projected on a big screen in the courtroom. By the end of her closing argument, the puzzle was complete and showed a photograph of Raven Abaroa.
Tyndall, however, had a list of his own inconsistencies in the state's case, and said finding the hard drive from the computer Janet Abaroa used at work near the end of the trial was symbolic of the state's case against Raven Abaroa.
The hard drive revealed emails Janet Abaroa sent to her old boyfriend and painted a completely different portrait than the one the state painted of her as meek and controlled, he said.
"None of us would have guessed what was on that hard drive and the power of that unknown information," Tyndall said.
When a lab worker found DNA mixed with a blood stain of Janet Abaroa's that didn't match Raven's DNA, no further investigation was conducted to try to find out whose DNA it was, he said.
When a fingerprint at the scene didn't match Raven Abaroa's, the fingerprint analyst testified it was an embedded print, but she never mentioned that to anyone in eight years, he said.
When a police dog alerted to a coin in the creek in front of the house, no one checked it for fingerprints or DNA, he said. Instead it was deposited in the bank.
Tyndall also talked about the testimony of Meghan Dowd Councill, a friend of the Abaroa family. She testified the Abaroas visited her family's home in Smithfield, Va., around Christmas 2004 and that Janet began to tell her that things were "getting weird" with Raven and she was afraid of him. Their conversation was interrupted when Raven Abaroa walked in the room, and Janet dropped her head and looked like "a scared animal," Councill testified.
Tyndall told the jurors to check the bank records. They track a trip that Janet and Raven Abaroa took when they drove to Utah and back over the 2004 Christmas holidays, he said. They weren't in Virginia, he said.
The state needed that testimony to show that things weren't going well between the couple in the months before she was killed, he said.
The jury will have to find Raven Abaroa guilty of first-degree murder or not guilty. The verdict sheet does not include options for the jury to find him guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter.