DURHAM — Jurors saw a home video Tuesday in which Raven Abaroa implies Durham police left a knife behind in the house where his wife was murdered eight years ago.
A police investigator who testified in Durham County Superior Court said that did not happen.
Prosecutors played footage from two videos seized from an Idaho residence where Abaroa was staying before he was arrested in 2010. In one video, Abaroa describes a knife he said he found in belongings that had been packed up at his Durham home and sent to him by his stepfather. The knife and Abaroa’s hands are visible in the video, and he speaks off screen.
In the second video, Abaroa’s face is visible, and he makes follow-up comments to a conversation he previously had recorded with Durham investigator Charles Sole.
Abaroa, 33, is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of his pregnant wife, Janet Abaroa, at their Ferrand Drive home in 2005. Abaroa says he found his wife’s body in an upstairs room upon returning from a soccer game in Orange County.
In August 2009, Sole became the fifth Durham police investigator in the case. He told jurors he thought Abaroa should be treated as the primary suspect because “inconsistent statements ... things you shouldn’t be inconsistent on, bothered me.”
Sole told jurors that Abaroa contacted him about the knife and suggested police had overlooked it at the crime scene, which Sole said did not happen.
“(Abaroa) actually in the phone call said he thought it was joke,” Sole said. “He said, ‘I can’t believe you’re investigating my wife’s murder, and you guys leave a knife in the crime scene’ – and then Raven comes upon it years later and decides to send it to us. That kind of concerned me.”
Forensic evidence in the case also raised a red flag with Sole, including a sweatshirt Abaroa told the first investigator, Bennie Bradley, he was wearing the night of the murder.
“In (Bradley’s) report there is great detail given to why (Abaroa) is wearing the sweatshirt, unlike other items of clothing he was wearing,” Sole said. “Seeing the great detail with what he said about putting the sweatshirt on, and then seeing video in the (convenience store where Abaroa bought a Gatorade after the soccer game), where he didn’t have the sweatshirt on, was a big inconsistency to me.”
Sole’s first contact with the case occurred the night of the murder, when Sole worked with the Durham Police Department’s K-9 division; he and his dog, Bronco, were tasked with searching the outside property to determine whether someone had fled on foot.
Sole said Bronco did not “engage” with anything in the yard, signaling to police the dog found no scent of anyone leaving the property recently.