Killed As Her Baby Slept
When 25-year-old Janet Abaroa was found dead at her home in 2005, North Carolina police discovered that the married mother of one was also pregnant.
Born Janet Christiansen, she was the seventh of 10 siblings and grew up in a Mormon family. In 1998 she met fellow soccer player Raven at Southern Virginia University where she played soccer.
After just two years together, they were married at the Mormon Temple in Washington, D.C. in August 2000 before settling in southeastern Virginia. To outsiders, their marriage was perfect.
Police took Raven to the station as the house was searched and he told them that on the night of 26 April 2005, he had left the home around 8.30 pm to play soccer, leaving his six-year-old son Kaiden sleeping, and his pregnant wife reading in bed.
Raven returned at 11 pm after stopping at a gas station, to find his wife fatally wounded in an upstairs office. He called 911, and as the paramedics urged him to attempt CPR he told them that she had already turned blue, and she was “gone”.
“She’s been shot or something. There’s blood everywhere,” Raven Abaroa told a 911 dispatcher at the time.
Upon investigation, it was found that Janet had been stabbed multiple times. Some of the blows were so violent that the force had cut into her ribs.
Homicide investigators found the crime scene strange.
Stabbing deaths normally result in a struggle taking place as the victim tries to fight off their attacker, but this had not been the case with Janet.
Suspicions fell immediately on Raven, and as police found that the only knives missing were from Raven’s extensive knife collection, they grew even more convinced that he was involved. Raven’s laptop was also missing, but nothing else was taken from the home, this caused the investigators some concern.
At the scene, initial officers noted that Raven’s top was covered in blood, which he said was from attempting CPR, but police found suspicious spots of blood on the back seat of his car.
As police looked into Raven’s background, they learned that he was a serial cheater and that their marriage was far from happy.
Suspicious of her brother in law, and worried he might try and run, Janet’s sister, Sonja searched Raven’s things and discovered a hard drive from the missing laptop which she handed over to police. Searches on it included phrases like “mortal wounds” and “times of death”.
Police also found that Raven was in a lot of debt, and had recently taken out a large insurance policy on his wife — they were convinced he had killed his wife. But when the results of the car blood confirmed it was human, they couldn’t get a DNA profile.
Raven moved on and married another woman, Vanessa Pond before that marriage turned violent and had it annulled. In 2009 another detective reviewed the case and found inconsistencies.
Detective Charles Sole looked at the CCTV footage from the gas station that Raven said he was at. It confirmed that he was there, but not wearing the hooded top which would later be bloodstained. Sole believed this visit was part of Raven establishing an alibi.
While searching through the crime scene photos, Sole also noticed that on the dresser was Janet’s contact lens case, but no lenses were inside. Janet’s family confirmed that she was meticulous about taking her contacts out before she went to sleep, but they were not recorded as having been at the scene.
Raven said his wife was in bed wearing her reading glasses when he last saw her, and Sole believed he could catch Raven in a lie.
After a battle in court, Janet’s body was exhumed, and in 2010 it was sent to forensic ophthalmologist Charles Zwerling, who found pieces of yellow particles that turned out to be contact lenses.
This gave police the physical evidence they need to charge Raven and he was indicted for murder.
The trial that followed, however, ended in a deadlocked jury and so Raven walked free.
A retrial was set, but Raven took an Alford plea for voluntary manslaughter, receiving a sentence of just ten years behind bars.
He was released from prison on Christmas Day 2017.
Tragically, in a final act of cruelty before going to jail, he assigned custody of Kaiden to his family, and Janet’s family have not seen him since.
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Other true crime stories from Tracey Donnelly:
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The Riverside Killer
He was murdering almost one woman a month, but the police couldn’t seem to catch him.