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How Contact Lenses Plucked From A Corpse Helped Close This Murder Case

By Dan Vergano

Janet Abaroa’s contact lens (left) had the same ID number — “123” — as other soft lenses made by Acuvue 2 (right).

Charles Zwerling

On April 26, 2005, someone murdered 26-year-old Janet Abaroa, stabbing the young mother to death in her own home while her 6-month-old child slept nearby.

Her husband, Raven Abaroa, who had called 911, distraught, to report her death late that evening, quickly emerged as a suspect. His knife collection was suspiciously missing from the house, for one thing. A few months earlier, he had been caught embezzling from his employer. And he stood to benefit from his wife’s $500,000 life insurance policy.

Abaroa had an alibi, however, and maintained his innocence. He was playing at an evening soccer game around the time of the murder, not long after his wife had been seen alive. And so the Durham, North Carolina, case went cold until five years later, when a Durham detective named Charles Sole went over the evidence one more time.

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Sole couldn’t get over one detail: When combing through the Abaroa house, investigators had never found Janet’s contact lenses. That was odd, because Raven Abaroa had claimed his wife was in bed watching TV when he left for the soccer game. And, as Janet’s friends and family told Sole and other investigators, taking out her contact lenses before watching TV was part of her nightly routine.

“So what happened was, a detective called me and asked: Would it be possible to identify contact lenses from a body that had been exhumed after five years?” ophthalmologist Charles Zwerling of Goldsboro, North Carolina, told BuzzFeed News. “I told him contact lenses disintegrate, but never say never, I would be willing to try.”

Nine months later, Zwerling …read more

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