Skip to main content

The 'circus-like' trial of Jodi Arias

Jodi Arias
Image: Jodi Arias: Cell Mate Secrets

Jodi Arias: Cell Mate Secrets speaks to the former cellmates and closest confidants of Jodi Arias. They give their first-hand accounts of their time behind bars with the infamous murderer. Available to watch now on Crime + Investigation Play.

It was a case everyone had an opinion on. The prosecuting attorney later wrote a tell-all book about it - getting himself disbarred in the process. The defendant received marriage proposals while those covering the case received death threats. The atmosphere at the trial was described as ‘circus-like’. Two juries were unable to come to a unanimous decision about the sentencing. And in the middle of all of this was Jodi Arias: the woman who was charged with the murder of her former boyfriend, Travis Alexander.

Why would Arias viciously murder a man she loved - a man who once described her as the woman he wanted to marry? Her own story kept changing: it was a break-in when she was out of town; intruders had come in and had attacked them both, but she had got away; it was self-defence - he had abused her and she was scared for her life.

Meanwhile, Travis’ friends had warned him off her months before his death, claiming she was dangerous.

What doesn’t change in this is his death. In 2008, aged 30, Travis was found dead in his shower. He had been brutally murdered: stabbed 27 times, his throat slit and a gunshot wound to his head. Arias was convicted for his murder in 2013.

Travis Alexander was a successful salesman, a motivational speaker and a Mormon. Jodi Arias was an aspiring photographer, working two waitressing jobs and struggling to make ends meet. A friend suggested she look into a company called Prepaid Legal.

The pair met in 2006 at a Prepaid Legal work convention. They had an instant connection. The first night they met, they went out to dinner together. Despite the fact they lived in different states - she in California and he in Arizona - they started dating, maintaining a long-distance relationship. After a few months, Travis convinced Arias to convert to Mormonism, baptising her himself.

But the relationship wasn’t perfect. Even though pre-marital sex is forbidden in the Church of Latter-Day Saints, the pair began a physical relationship, something Travis’ friends said caused him guilt.

Shanna Hogan, an author who later wrote Picture Perfect: The Jodi Arias Story told ABC News that this precluded the relationship from becoming more serious. As a Mormon, Travis was looking for a ‘virginal, pure Mormon girl', something Arias couldn’t be because of their sexual relationship.

His friends started noticing other behaviour from Arias that bothered them. They claimed she was possessive of him, that she eavesdropped on his conversations and went through his emails and social media accounts. When they spoke to him about this, they found her listening outside the door to their conversation.

After five months together, Travis broke up with Arias. However, instead of moving on, Arias moved to Arizona to be closer to him. Friends reported she continued to let herself into his house, unannounced. Although they were no longer together, they continued their physical relationship.

Meanwhile, Travis started dating different women. Later, some of these women reported strange things that happened while they were with him, including a security alarm going off and his tyres being slashed. Those close to him were convinced Arias was behind all of it. When they discovered he had been killed, they told police she had been ‘stalking’ him. Phone records showed endless calls, not to mention the texts, emails and handwritten letters found from Arias.

In 2008, Arias moved back to California. In May that year, a .25-calibre gun was stolen from her grandparents’ home. A few days later, Arias rented a car, ostensibly to take a road trip to meet another man she was seeing but took a detour and met Travis. On 4th June, Travis was murdered. When friends discovered his body, they told the police to look into Arias.

At first, Arias denied having anything to do with the murder. She wasn’t even there, she claimed, even though there was extensive evidence to the contrary. She had taken photos of the two of them together on the day Travis had died. Her bloody palm print was found at the scene. He had been shot with a .25-calibre gun.

Her behaviour when questioned was bizarre. She sang, she told herself off for not doing her makeup and she stood on her head.

In July, a month after Travis had been killed, Arias was charged with murder. At first, she continued to maintain her innocence, denying being in Arizona, then blaming the crime on masked intruders. Finally, she confessed, but alleged that Travis had been physically and emotionally abusive towards her. She said she killed him in self-defence.

The defence claimed Arias was suffering from PTSD and amnesia. The prosecution argued she was a manipulative liar and the entire murder had been planned.

The trial became a media circus, attracting endless attention and speculation. At one point, the prosecution accused a psychologist, a witness for the defence, of having feelings for Aria. The prosecutor, Juan Martinez, could be seen outside court, posing for photographs and signing autographs. Three jurors had to be dismissed during the proceedings. Meanwhile, Arias’ jailhouse artwork - pictures of Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball - was selling on eBay for hundreds of dollars.

In May 2013, after 15 hours of deliberation, Arias was found guilty. She was sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole, for the first-degree murder of Travis Alexander. Subsequent appeals have since been lost and she has been in prison ever since.