Friends of Durham woman testify in husband’s murder trial

jporter@newsobserver.comMay 3, 2013 

Janet Christiansen Abaroa was 25 years old when she was fatally stabbed in her Durham home April 26, 2005.

COURTESY OF TEARSFORJANET.COM

— A member of Raven and Janet Abaroa’s church who visited the couple the night Janet was killed said he saw nothing unusual in the home.

Mike Guzman, a home teacher for the Durham Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was counseling the couple about their financial problems.

“There was nothing unusual about their interaction that night,” he testified Friday in Durham County Superior Court. “They got along fine.”

Raven Abaroa is charged with murder in his wife’s stabbing death April 26, 2005. He says he was at a soccer game when he came home and found his wife’s body.

Guzman met with Raven Abaroa at a mutual friend’s home the morning after Janet’s death to offer him support. He said he initially understood Janet had committed suicide, then learned her death was ruled a homicide. He and Abaroa spoke on the friend’s back porch.

“His behavior didn’t make sense,” Guzman said. “A lot of what he said was gibberish, but then, he had been crying.”

Guzman recalled a childhood story that Abaroa told him.

Abaroa had taken a birdhouse he built to school, and his teacher didn’t like it because it was pink. Abaroa said the teacher was stupid.

Abaroa also told Guzman that when he had found his wife on the floor, he grabbed her and she asked him, ‘Why do I hurt so bad?’ ”

Other friends and acquaintances also testified Friday.

Dawn Eckhoff babysat the couple’s son Kaiden, and she and her husband Greg would often chat with the Abaroas when they picked up the baby after work. Both agreed the Abaroas seemed like a happy couple and good parents.

On the day of Janet Abaroa’s death, the couple were in a hurry to get to a car dealership before 5:30 p.m.

“Raven Abaroa seemed stressed or agitated,” Greg Eckhoff said. “He wasn’t his normal, talkative, social self.”

Jeff Bickert, the husband of Janet Abaroa’s sister, Krista, talked with Janet often on the phone. He travelled to Durham on business in February 2005, and the Abaroas watched his new puppy at their home on Ferrand Drive while he was in town. He said he knew of the couple’s marital and financial problems from talking to Janet, including when they split up in 2004 after Raven’s infidelities.

Bickert said Janet changed when Raven was around.

“She was more quiet, less jokey,” he said.

Janet acted more like her usual self on a night during the trip when Bickert was at their home and Raven was out at a soccer game, he said.

In the months before her death, Janet hadn’t mentioned any more problems between her and Raven to Bickert, he testified.

“She made a conscious effort to work things out,” Bickert said. “She told me Raven had gone to talk to members of their church about what happened and that he was trying to be a better husband.”

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