Jodi Arias: A Look Back at Her Gruesome Crime and Bizarre Trial

The beautiful aspiring photographer murdered her ex-lover — and then tried to cover her tracks.

jodi arias now
Shutterstock

When Travis Alexander broke up with his girlfriend, Jodi Arias, he reportedly told friends, "Don't be surprised if one of these Sundays, I don't show up and you find me dead someplace."

Eerily, the 30-year-old predicted his own gruesome fate. Police found the motivational speaker brutally murdered in his Mesa, Arizona home on June 9, 2008. His body, five days decomposed, had been stabbed 27 times, with an ear-to-ear slash across his throat and a bullet to the head. The murderer? His allegedly "sex-crazed" ex-lover Jodi Arias, who initially feigned ignorance and pleaded not guilty. But when police discovered images of a racy-turned-violent encounter between the former couple only hours before Alexander's death, she switched up her story.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

After lying to police about her alibi and fabricating a false home-invasion tale to the media, Arias finally settled on an account: she admitted that she was the murderer, but she'd killed in order to protect herself. For years, her trial became a national spectacle, rife with discrepancies, ethical complaints, and testimony laced with graphic images of sex and violence. In April 2015, the 37-year-old was finally sentenced to life in prison — without possibility of parole.

The grisly murder and shocking trial is re-examined in a new three-part TV series premiering Sunday, January 14 on . The show, Jodi Arias: An American Murder Mystery, promises exclusive interviews with key players in the twisted ordeal and is touted by ID as "sadomasochistic sex, obsession, and jealousy gone wrong."

Here's everything you need to know about the bone-chilling case before tuning in.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

A rocky relationship

Alexander met Arias, a photographer, at a 2006 conference in Las Vegas. The two hit it off right away and Alexander, a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, convinced Arias to check out "The Book of Mormon," according to a . She converted to Mormonism in November 2006. The deeply enamored couple had a passionate, yet quick-lived romance during which they exchanged 82,000 emails, according to . After five months together, the two called it quits in June 2007, however they continued to exchange sexually explicit text messages for the next two years.

"[Arias] was totally obsessed with him," Alexander's close friend Sky Hughes told . "She wouldn't let him go. Whenever he would try to sever all ties, she would threaten to kill herself ... He would tell her he didn't want anything to do with her, and she would show up at his house. We knew it was her. We didn't want it to be her, but [we] just knew it was."

When Alexander began dating other women, Arias slashed his tires, hacked into his Facebook, and stalked him on outings. According to , Alexander told a friend, "Don't be surprised if you find me dead one day."

On June 4, 2008, Arias visited Alexander at his Arizona home. Prosecutors would later claim she arrived unannounced. But, Arias insisted Alexander invited her. The two took graphic sexual photos of one another and made a sex tape, which Arias said were Alexander's ideas, according to . "He tied me up, (on) the bed. It's not my favorite but it's not unbearable," Arias said in court.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

One day later, Arias arrived in West Jordan, Utah to meet another lover, Ryan Burns, at his home. "She had two small bandages on a couple of her fingers," Burns testified.

Alexander's dead, decayed body wouldn't be discovered for another four days.

image
Travis Alexander on a four-wheeling trip.
Courtesy Discovery ID

Bloody murder

On June 9, 2008, friends found Alexander's mangled remains in his shower. He'd suffered 27 knife wounds. His throat was slit almost to the point of decapitation. And he'd been shot in the head with a .25-caliber gun. Arias' bloody palm print would be discovered in the bathroom hallway. Alexander's friends immediately told police they should investigate her. They called his relationship with her a "fatal attraction."

According to Dr. Kevin Horn, of the Maricopa County Medical Examiner office, Alexander's stab wounds were inflicted with major force and his cause of death was excessive blood loss. He had multiple self-defense wounds to his palms and fingers. Police also found a digital camera in the washing machine with time-stamped images of Alexander and Arias in sexually suggestive poses and one of her reflection in his eyes in the moments before she killed him. Another image apparently depicts Arias dragging his dead body across the floor, according to .

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

On June 13, Arias posted a photo gallery on her MySpace page titled "In Loving Memory of Travis."

Ten days after Alexander's body was discovered, police questioned Arias about the murder. And on Arias' 29th birthday, July 9, she was indicted on first-degree murder chargers, according to . She was arrested in her North California home on July 15 and extradited to Arizona on September 5.

Six days later, she pled not guilty.

image
AP
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Inconsistent stories

Arias originally told police she wasn't in Mesa when the murder occurred, claiming she last saw Alexander in March of 2007. She changed her story in September, and told various media outlets that two masked intruders attacked her and killed Alexander. "No jury is going to convict me," she told . "I am innocent, and you can mark my words on that."

Two years after her initial arrest, Arias took back her account of the "home invasion." She admitted to police that she had killed Alexander in self-defense, claiming she'd been a victim of domestic violence.

"She lied," her sister, Angela Arias, wrote on Facebook. "But, it was because she was so in love with that man she did not want people to know what a monster he really was. She wanted everyone to believe that he was as amazing as they thought he was ... My sister is innocent of the crime they are accusing her of ... She did kill Travis but it was not in cold blood, it was not for revenge, it was because she was afraid for her life."

image
Jodi Arias mug shot.
Courtesy Discovery ID
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The tricky trial

In August 2011, Arias was granted a request by a judge to represent herself, as long as her public defenders stayed on as advisory counsel. But the judge reinstated her defense counsel after it turned out letters from Alexander, which Arias requested be admitted, were forgeries. Another surprising move in the trial, in February 2013, Arias took the witness stand in her own defense, sticking to her third story of self-defense.

In March, the prosecutor accused Richard Samuels, a defense expert who diagnosed Arias with PTSD, of having feelings for his patient. And in April, juror Meliha Omanovic was dismissed after the defense claimed she'd made prejudicial comments, according to . Two other jurors were later dismissed.

In May 2013, Arias was found guilty of first-degree murder, but the jury could not reach a unanimous decision on whether to sentence her to death. On October 21, 2014, a retrial began, with jurors hearing the same evidence. A judge declared a mistrial on March 5, 2015, saying jurors could, again, not reach a consensus.

Arias is currently at Arizona State Prison Complex and will spend the rest of her life in prison.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Prison life

In a 2016 phone call with rapper "Lefty" Williams (who made a music video about her, above), Arias detailed how much "love" she receives behind bars.

"If this is what it is like to be hated, then keep hating!" Arias said in the audio obtained by . "I've had so much love coming in my direction I can't even respond to it now."

"Haters are gonna hate."

In October 2017, Arias alleged in a civil suit that the head of her legal team, L. Kirk Nurmi, broke attorney-client privilege and disclosed "confidential and privileged information" for the "expressed purpose of financial gain and his own public 'redemption" in a tell-all book about her case. Nurmi said he "intends to fight this battle with vigor" in an interview with the .

For more on Jodi Arias, watch part one of Jodi Arias: An American Murder Mystery, airing on Investigation Discovery on Sunday, January 14, at 10/9c.

image
Courtesy Discovery ID
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Life