02.10.13 9:45 AM ET
Jodi Arias: The Mormon Casey Anthony
The sensational murder trial of Jodi Arias hit a dramatic climax this week as Arias herself took the stand to testify in her own defense, describing in graphic detail her sexual liaisons with the man she is accused of killing.
Arias’s ex-boyfriend, a 30-year-old Mormon businessman and motivational speaker, was found dead in his apartment in 2008. He had been shot in the face and stabbed some 27 times, his throat slit from ear to ear.
The case has drawn intense media coverage and eerie parallels to the trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida woman acquitted of her young daughter’s murder in 2011. Both women are young, attractive brunettes who allegedly lied repeatedly to police during interviews and are often said to have sociopathic personalities.
The two women also share some supporters. The blog jodiariasisinnocent.com has even popped up, run by the same person who started caseyanthonyisinnocent.com. The Arias fan site provides daily trial updates, a video tribute to the onetime blonde bombshell, and a link to eBay, where Arias’s jailhouse colored-pencil drawings are for sale. A drawing of a white dove goes for sale for $870 on the site. Part of the proceeds from the sales of the artwork is allegedly slated to go to Arias’s family to help pay for travel expenses.
Unlike Anthony, however, Arias has chosen to tell her sordid tale from the witness box.
It’s a bold move—if found guilty, the 32-year-old aspiring photographer could be sentenced to death. Some court watchers believe Arias had no choice but to roll the dice with the jury and attempt to explain away her lies. Others aren’t convinced that the high-school dropout will hold up under cross-examination by the prosecution, which will likely begin on Monday.
Arias has changed her story three times during the course of the police investigation. But on the stand this week, she stuck to a concise version of events.
"Did you kill Travis Alexander?" defense attorney Kirk Nurmi asked.
"Yes," she replied. "The simple answer is that he attacked me and I defended myself."
Arias was a suspect in Alexander’s death almost immediately after his decomposing body was found by friends in the shower of his Mesa, Arizona, apartment. The pair had dated for several months and continued a sexual relationship after they broke up.
Initially, Arias denied having any knowledge about his murder, claiming in a now-notorious episode of Inside Edition, "No jury is going to convict me ... because I'm innocent. And you can mark my words on that one.”
But Arias changed her tune when investigators told her that they found her hair and a bloody palm print at the murder scene. She admitted she had been there, but only as a witness to his slaying by masked intruders.
Then police discovered time-stamped photographs from the day of the killing: Arias in the buff, Alexander taking a shower, and more. They also found Arias’s camera inside Alexander’s washing machine as well as evidence that Arias had attempted to mop up the scene and wash Alexander’s bedsheets.
Although investigators didn’t find a weapon, the same caliber of gun used to kill Alexander was reported stolen a few days before the slaying from the northern California home of Arias's grandparents’, where she had been staying.
When she was arrested in July 2008, Arias changed her story yet again, declaring this time that Alexander had invited her to his home for a sex romp, but it became violent, and she killed him in self-defense.
On the stand, Arias attempted to free herself from this tangled web of lies, specifically addressing her Inside Edition remarks.
“At the time, I had plans to commit suicide,” she quietly told the jury. “So I was extremely confident that no jury would convict me because I didn't expect any of you to be here. I planned to be dead.”
In riveting testimony, Arias also described the stormy affair that had led her to the courtroom. She met Alexander at a convention in Las Vegas in September 2006—he spotted her from across the room, she said, and bounded over to introduce himself. She testified that after a weekend of attending meetings together, she realized that he had a crush on her. So she told him that she had a live-in boyfriend.
He wasn’t deterred. Once she returned to her home in Palm Desert, California, they called each other almost daily. By the end of the week, she said, she broke up with her boyfriend so she could attend a party with Alexander.
"I'm kinda like a one-guy-at-a-time kind of person," Arias testified. "I was beginning to sort of develop the seeds of interest with Travis. And I didn't want to be in a relationship when I went there."
Arias claimed that their sexual trysts began the night of the party. She said Alexander kept their relationship a secret, but behind closed doors, the couple had an erotic sex life. Many of their steamy encounters occurred at motels, she said. During one encounter at a hotel in Ehrenberg, Arizona, she claimed she “kind of felt like a prostitute. I was more upset with myself.”
Alexander, she said, told her that the Mormon Church frowned upon vaginal intercourse but didn’t have an issue with anal or oral sex.
“It seemed like Travis kind of had a Bill Clinton version of sex, where oral and anal are also sex to me, but not for him,” Arias testified.
Arias alleged that just hours after Alexander baptized her into the Mormon faith on November 26, 2006, he pushed her into having anal sex without her permission. Although she said she didn’t initially refuse, she said it became “too painful” and afterwards she felt like “a used piece of toilet paper.”
Regardless, Arias testified she was happy when they officially became a couple in February 2007. On Valentine’s Day, she said Alexander sent a box to her home filled with chocolates as well as a T-shirt and underwear with “Travis Alexander’s” written across them.
But her happiness was short-lived, because shortly after they became serious she “accidentally” found out that he had been flirting with a married Mormon woman on MySpace. “It made me question what his values were regarding marriage,” she said. “I liked him so I wasn’t going to break up with him. I might have been in love with him.”
During her three days on the stand, Arias also claimed that Alexander sometimes belittled her in front of his friends. “He made jokes towards me that were not very nice,” she said. “His friends advised me to stop dating him immediately. He called me a skank in front of his roommate.”
The courtroom circus will get even more heated on Monday, when cross-examination may begin. Will Arias manage to escape a conviction, as Anthony did? That will likely hinge on her performance in front of the prosecutors.