Husband Arrested in Murder of First Wife

Durham police charge Raven Abaroa with first degree murder in 2005 stabbing.

February 02, 2010, 10:25 AM

Feb. 2, 2010— -- Almost five years after a murder mystery consumed the suburbs of Durham, N.C., police arrested and charged Raven Abaroa with first degree murder in the death of his first wife Janet.

Janet Abaroa, a beautiful, 26-year-old northern Virginian, was stabbed to death in her own home in April 2005.

Abaroa, 30, is expected to be arraigned this morning at a courthouse in Montpelier, Idaho. He moved to the Salt Lake City area after Janet's death and remarried; he is now being held for extradition to North Carolina.

Abaroa has said he discovered his dead wife's body in the bedroom of their Durham home after he returned from playing soccer that evening. Nothing else in the house was disturbed, authorities say. The couple's 6-month-old son, Kaiden, was left unharmed in another room.

The arrest, which was a joint effort by the Durham Police Department, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations and the FBI, comes four months after "Primetime Crime" aired an investigation into the unsolved death of Janet Abaroa.

Janet's family members, whose suspicions have long pointed toward Abaroa, credit "Primetime's" critical examination of the murder with helping to spur a new investigation. In a statement, they expressed gratitude and said that they believe the "extensive evidence will speak for itself."

Although an arrest has been made, Durham Police say the investigation is ongoing.

Janet Christiansen, the seventh of 10 siblings, came from a solid Mormon family. At Southern Virginia University, in Buena Vista, she met Raven Abaroa in 1998. He instantly swept her off her feet.

"She was beautiful, attractive. ... I just felt so much comfort when I was with her," Abaroa said in an interview with the TV show "NC Wanted" in 2007. "And we started this journey of getting to know each other and it was an amazing journey."

Janet Abaroa's sister, Erika Bakey, said her sister was enamored of Raven. Both were 19 and enthusiastic soccer players. "She always talked about if they had any kids, they were going to be fantastic soccer players because both of them were," Bakey said.

In August 2000, after two years together, Janet and Raven married at the Mormon temple in Washington, D.C. They settled in southeastern Virginia. Janet's friends and family said they thought life for the newlywed couple was perfect.

CLICK HERE to see photos of the couple through the years.

Soon a job opportunity moved the couple to Durham, where they both took positions at a major sports apparel company. Janet's sisters say the couple was beginning to have some marital problems.

Marital Problems Plague Newlyweds

"He came to her one day because he wanted to be out of the marriage," said Sonja Flood, Janet's sister, "and explained to her that he had been cheating on her with several different people. And very soon after that, she found out that she was pregnant."

Pregnancy should have been the happiest time of Janet and Raven's lives, but instead Janet confided in her family that she felt helpless. Her older sister, Dena Kendall, said that Janet "didn't want to raise the baby as a single mother."

But after Abaroa received some advice from close friends to "grow up," the young couple was able to work things out, and welcomed son Kaiden into the world on Oct. 17, 2004.

"He promised, swore up and down, that he would no longer cheat on her, that she was the only one for him. He would make it work," Flood said.

Then they suffered another blow: in December Abaroa was caught stealing from the sports apparel company where they both worked. Mortified, Janet resigned from her job, but did not give up on her husband. He would eventually plead guilty to five charges of embezzlement, but would avoid serving any jail time.

On April 26, 2005, Janet was doing the laundry and Abaroa was working in the house before he left to play soccer with friends, according to his account of that night. He said he returned home at around 10:45 p.m. to a horrifying discovery --his wife had been killed, stabbed in the chest and neck.

In a 911 call, Abaroa told the operator, "My wife is dead ... She's been shot or something -- there's blood everywhere," he said. "She's not breathing."

Investigators examined the body and realized the weapon they were looking for was a knife.

Shortly after his wife's death, Abaroa moved to Salt Lake City with their son. There he eventually met Vanessa Pond, a beautiful single mother whose daughter was in the same day care program as Kaiden.

Vanessa Pond told ABC News about her first impressions of Raven Abaroa. "He seemed very up front ... very honest and genuine. And I found that he was a single father. And I really, really admired that."

Pond also said that as they were starting to date, Abaroa mentioned to her that his wife had died and she felt "so sorry for him ... and Kaiden," and she decided to take them into her home.

Sisters Reach Out to New Wife: 'We Were Fearful for Her'

But Pond began researching Janet's murder on the Internet. She told ABC News that she wasn't convinced that Abaroa was innocent. "So I went over and I spoke with him, asked him the questions that I had. And he removed any and every doubt from my mind," she said.

In the summer of 2008, they had a beautiful wedding in the backyard of Pond's parents' home.

When Janet's sisters learned that Abaroa had remarried, they say they felt the duty to reach out to his new wife. Janet's sister, Dena Kendall, told ABC News, "We just wanted her to make sure she was aware of the things that had been in the news about him. That she would know what she was getting into. And that we were fearful for her."

Pond says she became frightened as she began to see her husband behave in ways she couldn't understand. "Within moments ... he could switch. He could say the most horrible things," Pond said.

Pond and Abaroa separated because of what she termed his "abusive behavior," and she went public last summer with her fears that he might somehow have been involved in the death of his first wife, a suspicion shared by some of Janet's relatives and friends.

Abaroa, now 30, has strongly denied any responsibility for Janet Abaroa's death.

Before the Sept. 2, "Primetime" investigation, we tried speaking to Abaroa, who initially agreed to an interview but then changed his mind. So ABC News went to Salt Lake City to ask him again, but he was not available. Instead, his mother and stepfather answered the door and told us they've advised him against making any statements on the case and claiming that Janet's sisters are out to get him. Abaroa also denies Vanessa's charges of abuse.

If you have information about what happened to Janet Abaroa, please contact the Durham Police Department at (919) 560-4601, and visit Janet's family's website.

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