Woman 'lucky' to get away from husband accused of murdering 1st wife

Raven Abaroa's second wife to be featured on ABC's 20/20 tonight.
March 21, 2014 3:26:33 PM PDT
Just days after Raven Abaroa -- who was accused of killing his wife, Janet Abaroa, in 2005 -- agreed to plead guilty to a voluntary manslaughter charge, his second wife said she was lucky to get away from him.

"I was lucky enough to get out," Vanessa Pond told ABC News' John Quinones in an interview this week. "Janet was not. I don't want to see that again."

Raven Abaroa entered an Alford plea on March 12, acknowledging that there was evidence to convict him but not admitting guilt. A judge sentenced him to between 95 and 123 months in jail. But, with time served, he could be out in less than four years.

"I was shocked. But ... more than that, I was shocked at what the plea deal turned out to be," Pond said. "That's not justice at all. It's not justice."

While Pond does not see justice in the plea deal, she is beginning to look at the future.

"I'm a powerful woman. Now I'm strong," Pond said. "I can do this, and I can do it on my own."

Tune in for the full story on ABC News' "20/20" on Friday, March 21 at 10 p.m. ET.

Raven Abaroa did not testify at his trial but finally gave his side after being sentenced.

"I would just like to state that I didn't receive a fair trial the first time. I don't think I'll receive a fair trial a second time," he said in court. "I don't think it's worth risking the possibility of spending the rest of my life in prison for something I didn't do. I take this plea to ensure that doesn't happen, and that's the only reason. I didn't kill my wife."

Pond met Raven Abaroa in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he moved with his son just days after his wife's gruesome death in North Carolina.

"As we were just starting to date, he just mentioned that, 'My wife actually died,'" Pond said. "He said that there was an intruder and that she was killed and that he'd found her. And he left it at that."

On April 26, 2005, 25-year-old Janet Abaroa was stabbed to death in her home in Durham, N.C. Raven Abaroa said he discovered his dead wife's body in their home office after returning home from playing soccer that evening. Their 6-month-old son, Kaiden, was left unharmed in another room. Janet Abaroa's murder remained unsolved, but her family suspected her husband was involved in her death.

Pond went online to find out more about the death of Raven Abaroa's first wife. Pond said she wasn't convinced Raven Abaroa was innocent, but after asking him the questions she had, Pond said he removed any doubt from her mind.

"He had his stories about how people were trying to frame him, about how horrible the cops were and how he continued to try to contact the police to find out what's going on," said Pond.

The two eventually married. But when Janet Abaroa's sisters heard that Raven Abaroa had gotten married, they said they were terrified for a woman they didn't even know and reached out to Pond.

"We just wanted her to make sure she was aware of 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," Dena Kendall told ABC News.

"I was heartbroken," Pond said. "I [did] not want to believe at all ... that he had done this."

Not long after, Pond said Raven Abaroa began acting in ways she didn't understand.

"Within moments, he could switch. He could say the most horrible things," Pond said. "And then moments later, he would apologize."

The abuse, Pond said, became physical.

"He grabbed me from the door and threw me up against the wall, and then I fell," Pond said. "Later, he tried to convince me that I had tripped."

Raven Abaroa denied he was ever physically abusive to Pond.

Just four months into their marriage, Pond said she became frightened for her safety and began making plans to leave. The couple separated and Pond went public the spring of 2009 with her fears that he killed his first wife.

After the Durham, N.C., Police Department assigned a new detective to Janet Abaroa's murder, the detective began accumulating evidence against Raven Abaroa.

"Raven never kept the lies straight," Durham Police detective Charles Sole told ABC News' "20/20." "His statements to law enforcement, initially, they were contradictory."

Raven Abaroa was charged in his wife's murder and extradited back to North Carolina. Pond was a witness for the prosecution in Raven Abaroa's trial for his wife's murder, which began in April of last year. She detailed how she saw Raven Abaroa become violent on the soccer field and how his aggression turned on her.

"When he sees weakness, he just comes at you harder and harder," Pond said in court. "He told me how much he hated me and how much it didn't matter if I died."

The judge declared a mistrial in late May, when jurors were unable to reach a verdict. Before the new trial was supposed to start this week, Raven Abaroa accepted his plea deal and could be out of jail before his 40th birthday.

Pond had advice for other women who might meet Raven Abaroa when he is released from jail.

"Please listen to what's out there, what's available on the Internet," Pond said. "Please don't be drawn in, and please get away ... as fast as you can."

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