Jury selection to begin in trial of Durham man accused of killing pregnant wife

jporter@newsobserver.comApril 22, 2013 

— Jury selection in the trial of a Durham man charged with murdering his pregnant wife in April 2005 is set to begin Tuesday morning.

A judge denied a request Monday from Raven Samuel Abaroa’s attorneys for copies of recorded phone conversations that they say show Tim Dowd, a friend of Abaroa’s wife Janet Christiansen Abaroa, gave information to detectives.

The defense attorneys said Dowd has had contact with investigators multiple times, making him “more than a witness, but a part of the investigation.”

Assistant District Attorney Charlene Coggins-Franks said Dowd is a spokesman for the Christiansen family. “(Dowd) is a representative, a go-between for an extensive family,” she said. “He was like a surrogate parent to Janet and Raven Abaroa.”

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando F. Hudson said Dowd’s part in the investigation has been that of a witness and not of a state official.

Also Monday, a notice of intent to use hearsay evidence gathered by Coggins-Franks said Janet Abaroa told Dowd’s daughter in January 2005 that she was scared of Raven Abaroa and asked for help in getting him into counseling.

The notice says Janet Abaroa talked to Dowd in February 2004, when she was pregnant with the couple’s first child. She allegedly told Dowd her husband had been threatening and abusive toward her, that he couldn’t’ control his temper and that he had separated from her and was dating other people. She said she didn’t want to raise their child alone and asked Dowd to ask Raven Abaroa to seek counseling, according to the notice.

Abaroa, 33, is charged with first-degree murder in Janet Abaroa’s death. Police say she died of a stab wound to the neck.

Abaroa says he found his wife’s body in the couple’s house on Ferrand Drive in Durham after returning from a soccer game in Morrisville and called 911.

Janet Abaroa, then 25, was pregnant at the time of her death, and the couple’s first child, 6-month old son Kaiden, was in another room at the time. He was unharmed.

Defense attorneys have been working to suppress evidence against Abaroa. A judge ruled this month that files which Janet Abaroa’s sister found on a computer disc can be used as evidence against him. Abaroa was staying with Janet Abaroa’s sister at her home in Virginia when she found the files. It is unclear what is in them but allegedly they date to around the time of Janet Abaroa’s death.

Defense attorney Amos Tyndall requested Monday that potential jurors be interviewed privately when they are being questioned about “sensitive issues” related to their experiences with domestic violence and spousal abuse. Tyndall noted the publicity surrounding the case.

Hudson said he is not concerned about pretrial publicity, but he did express concern about how deeply the attorneys will question the jury panel about their experiences with domestic violence and similar issues.

Porter: 919-932-2008

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