DURHAM — A former teammate of the Durham man on trial in the fatal stabbing of his pregnant wife eight years ago said Monday that he did see Raven Abaroa at a soccer game the night of Janet Abaroa’s death.
Jason Strange, a UNC-Chapel Hill student at the time, played in an indoor soccer game in Orange County with Abaroa between 9 and 10 p.m. April 26, 2005. Abaroa arrived after the start of the game and did not stick around after it.
“He was not what I’d think of as a typical team sports participant,” Strange testified. “Usually players are social with their teammates; teammates talk to each other. It was almost as if he didn’t want to be there, like he would just come to get some exercise and then leave.”
Abaroa, 33, says he found his wife’s body in an upstairs room of their home at 2606 Ferrand Drive in Durham when he returned from the game. He is charged with first-degree murder.
Jurors also heard from Sandy Gareton, Abaroa’s boss in early 2005 at a company that taught computer skills.
Abaroa had not met sales goals and had been taking time off from work in the days before Janet died, including Tuesday, April 26.
“Janet came in to pick him up at 4:30,” she said. “I told him, ‘You haven’t been here for two days, your sales are at $13,000 and now you’re leaving early?’ He said, ‘She came to pick me up, and we have to go.’ And then they left.”
Computer records show Abaroa accessed the company database and materials from a medical terminology course from his personal laptop outside of the office on different occasions.
Abaroa did not return to work after April 26.
“I got a phone call from Raven’s mother saying I wouldn’t be seeing Raven because Janet Abaroa died,” Gareton said. “She said it was a suicide. Raven emailed me later to thank me for my concern and invited me to Janet’s funeral. He didn’t collect his personal things from the office or talk to me again.”
In January 2005 Abaroa admitted stealing about $15,000 in merchandise from a sporting goods company he worked for, according to another former supervisor, Ray Wilson, the executive director of Sports Endeavors Inc. in Hillsborough.
Wilson said that in December 2004, some orders Abaroa had placed were brought to his attention.
“It wasn’t unusual for Raven to make orders for customer service that he would have placed without payment,” Wilson said. “We had to comb through for any that looked suspicious, and there were a lot going to the 2606 Ferrand Drive address.”
“We figured out it was Raven Abaroa’s home,” he continued. “We had a list of 22 suspicious orders, paid for by checks we never received.”
When Abaroa returned to work from a Utah vacation, he was taken to the Hillsborough police station and admitted to fraud. He was never tried in court.
Janet Abaroa, who worked at the same company, was not implicated; she resigned after the incident.
Wilson played soccer with Abaroa on a recreational company team.
“On the field, he was a bit of a hothead,” Wilson said. “There are people who take it too seriously and engage in verbal battles with other people, sometimes pushing- and shoving-type altercations. We did have to talk to him about it.”
But at work, Abaroa was a “good, professional and engaging employee.”
“He was generally a good performer, particularly with me,” Wilson said. “He got good reviews.”
Other coworkers said they had a normal working relationship with Abaroa.