Janet Abaroa wanted to leave, chose to stay, friends testify

May. 08, 2013 @ 07:13 PM

For a while, friends say, Janet Abaroa planned to leave her husband.

But that changed after she reconciled with Raven and had a baby, they said.

On April 26, 2005, prosecutors allege, Raven Abaroa stabbed Janet to death. He’s now on trial for first-degree murder.

On Wednesday, friends of Janet Abaroa testified about their friendship with the couple, their college life together and their life after college.

Adrienne Nelson was Janet’s roommate, teammate and friend from Southern Virginia University, where they attended college. She testified that after college, she went on a Mormon mission to Venezuela and received emails from Janet in 2003, discussing her marriage. Janet was concerned that Raven was bipolar and would not take his medication, Nelson said.

Sometimes Raven would tell her that he couldn't stand to look at her, and the next week he’d be standing in front of the church telling everyone how much he loved her, Nelson testified.

When Nelson came home from her mission in 2004, she and another friend from college flew to Durham to visit the Abaroas at their home on Ferrand Drive.

Raven picked her up at the airport. He videotaped her arrival and thanked her for being such a good friend. He credited her for helping to save their marriage, Nelson said.

Then around Christmas 2004, Raven and Janet Abaroa and their new baby traveled to Utah for a family visit. On the day they were leaving, they stopped by Nelson's office, where she worked in the family insurance business, and they went to lunch together.

Raven Abaroa asked about the cost of obtaining a $1million policy or a $500,000 policy on Janet and him, Nelson said. Nelson replied that she wasn't sure Janet would qualify because of previous health problems. When she told them the cost, Raven Abaroa said he thought he could do better with another company, Nelson testified.

Nelson said she attended Janet Abaroa's funeral in Smithfield, Va. Afterward, she said, all the members of their college soccer team joined Raven at their coach's home.

Raven talked a lot about Janet and seemed to want to be the center of attention, Nelson said.

Nelson said that she remained friends with Raven for several years after Janet's death, and he encouraged her to spend time with his son Kaiden so that the boy could get to know his mother through her friends.

During conversations with Raven, Nelson said he told her that he was in constant contact with the investigators in Durham and, one day in 2005, he came by her office and was excited, she said.

"I just got off the phone with the investigator and they found a third DNA that did not belong to me and they're profiling a suspect," Raven allegedly told Nelson.

Once he had left her office, Nelson said that she called the investigator in Durham, and the investigator told her that he was not in constant contact with Raven Abaroa and did not tell him they had found a third DNA at the house.

Nelson decided to cut off communication with Raven Abaroa because she was fed up with his lies, she testified.

"I just felt he was lying to me," she said.

Under cross examination by Mani Dexter, Nelson admitted that she told an investigator that after the birth of the baby, Janet and Raven appeared happy. She also said she had gone on a camping trip with Raven and continued to be friends with him for several years after Janet's death.

Another college friend, Britney Ann Romito, testified that she met Janet and Raven "on day one," when she arrived at Southern Virginia University. Janet went out of her way to make Britney feel welcome on the soccer team, she said.

Janet and Raven got married while they were still in college, and "they were like a perfect little couple from the outside," Romito said.

They looked good together and everything appeared to be normal between them, she said.

As time went on after graduation, they kept in touch by telephone, and Janet began telling her that that Raven was mentally and emotionally abusive and that she was thinking about leaving him, Romito said.

When Janet found out she was pregnant, she felt that she had to stay, Romito said.

"She told me her greatest fear was that her child would ever be alone with Raven," Romito said.

Under objections from Abaroa's attorney, Romito told a story that she attributed to Raven, about chasing a prowler away from their home in Virginia with a knife.

When she asked Raven Abaroa why he chased the prowler so far, Abaroa told her he was going to stab him to death.

Romito said that she saw Raven Abaroa's knife collection when the couple lived in Virginia.

She also testified that Janet asked her to be careful about sending cards or gifts to her or Kaiden because she didn't want her husband to know that she had been talking to her. Janet used a pay phone to call instead of using a cell phone, Romito said.