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The Strange Case of Jodi Arias

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When Jodi Arias was convicted of the murder of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in 2013, it was the culmination of an investigation that, in places, defied conventional beliefs about women who commit murder.Although convicted, Jodi Arias’s motives for killing Alexander are anything but clear. While the jury in the trial were convinced of her guilt, they were unable to decide whether or not Arias’s actions were spontaneous, in the heat of the moment, or meticulously planned and executed – a verdict that carries the death penalty.The deadlocked jury was dismissed, leaving Arias to face another sentence hearing, with a fresh jury, in 2014. Perhaps the reason those 12 men and women had such trouble is that, while female killers are not uncommon, the types of murders women generally commit fall into specific categories, using specific methods. The death of Travis Alexander falls into none of them.

For instance, women don’t like to use guns or explosives for the most part, preferring a quieter, less obvious form of dispatch, like nurse Beverley Allitt, who murdered four children in an almost undetectable way, with overdoses of insulin. Similarly, another of Britain’s most notorious female serial killers, Mary Ann Cotton, murdered her entire family – including several children, her mother and three husbands – with arsenic, which in the 19th century was an almost undetectable poison. Travis Alexander was killed in a frenzied attack that was both noisy and obvious and included the use of a .25 calibre handgun.Then there are those women who actively participate in murder with a – generally – male partner. Myra Hindley and Rose West are two chilling examples of women who were drawn to men who –whether they were conscious of it or not – used violence and murder as the basis of their twisted relationships. Certainly, where the Wests are concerned, Rose was a willing participant, an equal partner in the atrocities committed in their home. Travis Alexander had no criminal record, was active in the Mormon Church, and there had never been any reports of his being violent.Many women who commit murder do so because they are in fear for their lives, either during an attack or defending themselves from an abusive partner. While Arias claimed during the trial that Travis had beaten and abused her while they were together, she showed no sign of physical injury, and there were no police reports that either she or Travis had been involved in domestic violence to back up her claims.

What about previous behaviour? If Arias were a serial killer or psychopath, there would be obvious patterns of criminality. However, she has no criminal record, has nothing in her background to suggest that she would be capable of such violence, and was declared mentally fit to stand trial. And unlike Black Widow Belle Gunness who killed upwards of 40 people, often her husbands, and often for their life insurance, Arias doesn’t seem to be motivated by money, or anger.So, what reason could Jodi Arias have had to kill her ex-boyfriend in such a violent way? Was she in fact the victim of domestic abuse? Or was Travis’s death a premeditated revenge attack committed by a jilted lover? This is the exact question the new jury will have to try and answer, having been sworn in, in October 2014, to decide her fate. Whatever the verdict, one thing is for certain – Jodi Arias is not the usual woman who kills...