State rests its case in Abaroa trial
Newly rediscovered evidence showed Janet Abaroa was having a secret email relationship with an old boyfriend shortly before she was killed in April 2005.
Her husband, Raven Abaroa, is standing trial for first-degree murder for allegedly stabbing her to death at their home on Ferrand Drive in Durham on April 26, 2005.
The state rested its case Monday afternoon, and .the defense plans to begin presenting its evidence Tuesday morning.
Late last week, prosecutors announced they had just found evidence that had been in a locked cabinet at the Durham Police Department for eight years. It included a copy of the hard drive of the computer Janet Abaroa used when she was working at Martin Marietta in the four months leading up to her death.
After reviewing some emails that Janet sent and received on that computer, defense attorney Amos Tyndall made a motion to dismiss the case against Abaroa.
Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson denied Tyndall's motion and also denied his second motion for a mistrial.
In asking for the dismissal, Tyndall argued that if he had seen those emails before the trial started, it would have changed his trial strategy. He also argued he would have had ammunition to use when he cross-examined some of Janet Abaroa's family and friends, who painted a portrait of Raven Abaroa as controlling and abusive and of Janet Abaroa as submissive and weak.
"The information discredits and impeaches the testimony of the state's witnesses," the motion states. "The emails directly conflict with the dishonest image that the state's witnesses presented of Mr. and Mrs. Abaroa's personalities and their relationship."
In his written motion, Tyndall included portions of emails between Janet Abaroa and her former boyfriend, Scott Hall. In them, Janet and Hall discussed their past, their present and the possibility of sneaking off to meet each other in the future.
They wrote about Hall's jealousy of Raven Abaroa.
"What do you mean you went through enough when I was at school?" Janet wrote to Hall on April 7, 2005, referring to when she went off to college. "You were the one who wanted to end things forever before I went there.
"Besides you didn't have much to be jealous of. When I got with Raven, it was purly (sic) for physicall (sic) reasons. Not many people were willing to get it on at a mormon (sic) school," the email continued.
"I was still in love with you but he was around so he kept me entertained," Janet Abaroa wrote in the email.
The two flirted with each other and joked about the change in Janet's body after having a baby. In one email, she told him she forgot to wear any underwear that day and that Raven got a lot of peeks at lunchtime.
In one email sequence, Janet Abaroa wrote about staying out until 4 a.m. with Hall and picking her husband up at the airport at 6:30 a.m.
"He could tell I didn't have much sleep so he figured I stayed a little to (sic) long with you that night," Janet Abaroa wrote. "He's pretty funny but I do like that I can be honest with him and tell him anything."
In other emails, she wrote about making arrangements to visit Hall in Richmond, Va., rather than Norfolk, Va. She wrote she didn't have an excuse to go to Norfolk but would have an excuse to go to Richmond since a girlfriend lived there.
"It's not about being an angel or not an angel," Tyndall told Hudson. "It's about having the ability to confront the portrait the state is projecting."
The state presented a "very dishonest picture" of Raven Abaroa and his relationship with his wife, Tyndall said.
The hard drive also showed Janet Abaroa used the Internet to access her bank account, which was contrary to witnesses who testified Raven Abaroa controlled their money, leaving Janet without money even for lunch, Tyndall said.
"I understand your argument, but is there a lesser sanction than to strike the state's evidence?" Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson asked Tyndall.
Tyndall said that telling the jury to ignore certain testimony would be like trying to un-ring a bell.
"I don't know how jurors could not consider what Mrs. Abaroa's sister said," Tyndall said. "She's a nice person. She loved her sister, and she says [Janet's] just a fragment of the person who went to college."
After the jurors read a number of documents and looked at some evidence, the state rested its case.
Tyndall, making the standard motion to dismiss at the end of the state's case, argued the state had not proven that Raven Abaroa killed his wife.
The state did not present the murder weapon and did not show any evidence of a cleanup at the home, he said, and there was no evidence of blood inside the Dodge Durango Raven Abaroa drove that night.
Hudson denied Tyndall's motion to dismiss, and Tyndall said the defense would begin presenting evidence Tuesday.