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Remains of victim in N.C. slaying exhumed from Pa. cemetery

July 20, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH
  • The remains of Janet Christiansen Abaroa are exhumed Monday from a grave in Antrim Township, Pa.
Photo by Jennifer Fitch,

KAUFFMAN, Pa. -- The remains of a woman stabbed to death in her Durham, N.C., home five years ago were exhumed Monday from a grave in Antrim Township, Pa.

A backhoe dug into Janet Christiansen Abaroa's plot at Brown's Mill Cemetery at 4:45 p.m. Minutes earlier, a few of her family members, who had traveled from out of state, gathered quietly at the headstone as investigators and coroners paused their preparation.

Prosecutors from Durham, N.C., requested the exhumation so that additional tests could be conducted on the body. Franklin County (Pa.) Court Judge Douglas Herman signed the court order July 9.

The woman's husband, Raven Abaroa, was charged with murder in North Carolina earlier this year, according to court documents and published reports.

Earlier, family spokesman Tim Dowd said the victim's parents and other family members chose to bury her in their family plot at Brown's Mill Cemetery.

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Franklin County Coroner Jeffrey R. Conner said he intends to supervise the body's return to the small cemetery Wednesday morning.

"We don't want the body out of the ground any longer than needed," he said.

Forensic Pathology Associates will conduct the tests in Allentown, Pa., today, Conner said. They've been asked to take fingerprints, create casts of her hands and examine weapon markings on her skeleton as well as determine whether she died while wearing contact lenses.

Raven Abaroa, who is being held in the Durham County (N.C.) Detention Facility without bail, told police his wife had gone to sleep as he left the home for a soccer match on April 26, 2005. Court documents state family members told police that the victim always removed her contact lenses before going to sleep.

Conner said the exhumation needed to be done meticulously, with special consideration paid to not disturbing another casket placed six inches away. The burial crew from Brown's Mill Cemetery was instructed to remove the vault from the ground, then pull the casket holding Abaroa's body from there.

The body should be in near perfect condition if the seals of the casket and vault weren't broken, according to Conner, who said he remembers only one other exhumation in his time with the county coroner's office.

"We really expect to find her as if she passed yesterday," he said.

Hand tools were going to be used loosen the vault, Conner said.

Authorities in Durham will be paying costs associated with the exhumation, he said.

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