Jodi Arias and the Murder of Travis Alexander

Cold-Blooded Killer or Victim of Abuse?

Jodi Arias
Mug Shot

Jodi Arias was arrested on July 15, 2008, charged with shooting and stabbing to death her 30-year-old ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in his home in Mesa, Arizona. Arias pleaded not guilty, first claiming that she wasn't there, then that intruders had murdered him and she escaped, and finally that she had killed Alexander in self-defense following abuse. She was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Background

Jodi Ann Arias was born in Salinas, California, on July 9, 1980, to William Angelo and Sandy D. Arias. She has an older half-sister, two younger brothers, and a sister.

Beginning at age 10, Arias showed an interest in photography, which continued throughout her adult life. Her childhood years were unremarkable, although she has said that her parents abused her, hitting her with wooden spoons and a belt. The abuse allegedly began when she was 7.

Arias dropped out of Yreka High School in Yreka, California, in the 11th grade. She continued to pursue her interest in professional photography while working at part-time jobs.

Darryl Brewer

In fall 2001, Arias began working as a server at a restaurant at the Ventana Inn and Spa in Carmel, California. Darryl Brewer, the food and beverage manager, was in charge of hiring and training the restaurant's employees.

Arias and Brewer lived in staff housing and in January 2003, they began dating; Arias was 21 and Brewer was 40. They had sex before they began to officially date. Brewer said that initially, Arias was a responsible, caring, loving person.

In May 2005, Arias and Brewer purchased a home together in Palm Desert, California. They agreed each would pay half the monthly mortgage payment of $2008.

In February 2006, Jodi began working for Prepaid Legal Services while keeping her server's job at Ventana. She also got involved with the Mormon Church. She started having Mormon visitors for Bible studies and group prayer sessions.

In May, Jodi told Brewer that she no longer wanted a physical relationship. She wanted to practice what she was learning at church and save herself for her future husband. Around the same time she decided to have breast implants.

According to Brewer, during the summer of 2006 Jodi began to change as her involvement with Prepaid Legal increased. She became financially irresponsible and defaulted on her financial responsibilities, including living expenses.

As the relationship deteriorated, Brewer planned to move to Monterrey to be closer to his son. Jodi did not plan to move with him. They agreed that she would remain in the house until it was sold.

Their relationship ended in December 2006, though they remained friends and occasionally called each other. The following year the house went into foreclosure.

Travis Alexander

Arias and Travis Alexander met in September 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada, at a Prepaid Legal conference. Alexander, 30, was a motivational speaker and sales representative for Prepaid Legal.

Arias was 28 and living in Yreka, working in sales for Prepaid Legal and trying to develop her photography business. There was an immediate attraction between Arias and Alexander. According to Arias, the relationship became sexual a week after they met.

At the time, Alexander was living in Arizona. They began traveling together to other states and when apart they exchanged emails (eventually over 82,000) and talking daily on the phone.

On November 26, 2006, Arias was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in her words to get closer to Alexander, a devout Mormon. Three months later Alexander and Arias began dating exclusively and she moved to Mesa, Arizona, to be closer to him.

The relationship lasted four months, ending in June 2007, although they continued to have sex periodically. According to Arias, the relationship ended because she did not trust Alexander. She later alleged that he was a sexual deviant who physically and sexually abused her and wanted her to be his personal slave.

After the relationship ended, Alexander began dating other women and allegedly complained to friends that Arias was jealous. He suspected that she had slashed his tires twice and sent threatening anonymous emails to him and to the woman he was dating. He also told friends that Arias had sneaked into his home through a dog door while he was sleeping.

Secret Relationship

Despite the claims of being stalked, Alexander and Arias continued to travel together in March 2008 and maintained their sexual relationship.

According to Arias, she grew tired of being Alexander's secret girlfriend. When she had to find another place to live after her roommate married, she returned to California. Evidence shows that after Arias left Arizona, they continued to exchange sexually explicit Internet messages and pictures.

According to Alexander's friends, in June 2008 he had had enough of Arias after suspecting her of hacking into his Facebook and bank accounts. He allegedly told her he wanted her out of his life.

Alexander Murdered

According to police records, on June 2, 2008, Arias rented a car in Redding, California, and drove to Alexander's home in Mesa, where they took pictures of themselves in various nude poses and having sex. On June 4, Arias drove back to California and returned the car.

Alexander's friends became concerned when he missed an important meeting and didn't show up for a planned trip to Cancun, Mexico. On June 9, two of his friends went to his home and woke up one of his roommates, who insisted Alexander was out of town. He then checked Alexander's locked room and found him dead on the shower stall floor.

An autopsy determined that Alexander had been shot in the head, stabbed 27 times, and his throat was slashed.

Evidence

Detectives investigating Alexander's murder collected a wealth of forensic evidence at the murder scene, including a camera that was found in the washing machine.

Friends knew that Alexander had grown annoyed with Arias' stalking. The first suggestion that Arias could be involved in his death came during the 911 call made after Alexander's body was found. Friends and family members interviewed by detectives suggested that the police interview Arias.

Arias began calling Esteban Flores, the detective in charge of the case. She asked for details of the murder and offered to help in the investigation. She claimed to know nothing of the crime and had last seen Alexander in April 2008.

On June 17, Arias agreed to be fingerprinted and swabbed for DNA, as did many of Alexander's friends.

Two days after being fingerprinted, she was questioned about photos on the camera left in the washing machine. The photos, which were time-stamped June 4, 2008, showed images of Alexander in the shower, likely minutes before he was killed. There were also images of him lying on the floor bleeding.

Other pictures, which had been deleted but were recovered, were of Jodi, nude and posed in provocative positions, time-stamped on the same day. Arias continued to insist that she had not seen Alexander since April.

A week later lab tests showed that DNA found in a bloody print at the murder scene matched Arias and Alexander. Hair found at the scene also held a DNA match to her.

Happy Birthday

Over the following weeks, Arias attended a memorial service for Alexander, wrote a lengthy sympathy letter to his grandmother, arranged for flowers to be sent to his family, and posted loving messages about Alexander on her MySpace page.

On July 9, 2008—Arias' birthday—a grand jury indicted her for first-degree murder. Six days later she was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and in September she was extradited to Arizona to face trial.

Story Changes

Days after being incarcerated in Arizona, Arias granted an interview to the Arizona Republic, during which she insisted that she had nothing to do with Alexander's murder. She gave no explanation for why her DNA was found at the scene.

On September 24, the television show "Inside Edition" interviewed Arias. This time she admitted that she was with Alexander when he was murdered but that two intruders did it.

In an interview with "48 Hours" on June 23, 2009, she said that she had been "miraculously spared" during a home invasion. According to her story, Alexander had been playing with his new camera and suddenly she found herself lying on the bathroom floor after hearing a loud pop.

When she looked up, she saw a man and a woman, both dressed in black, approaching. They were carrying a knife and a gun. The man pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger, she said, but nothing happened. She then ran from the house and did not look back. She didn't call police, she claimed, because she was afraid for her life and was pretending that none of it had happened. She drove back to California in fear.

Death Penalty

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office, describing Arias' crimes as especially cruel, heinous, and depraved, sought the death penalty. Months before the trial was to begin, Arias told the judge that she wanted to represent herself. The judge allowed it, as long as a public defender was present during the trial.

A few weeks later, Arias attempted to get letters into evidence that she alleged were written by Alexander. In the letters, Alexander admitted to being a pedophile. The letters were found to be forged. Within days of the forgery discovery, Arias told the judge that she was over her head, and legal counsel was reinstated.

Trial

Arias' trial began on January 2, 2013, in Maricopa County Superior Court with Sherry K. Stephens presiding. Arias' court-appointed lawyers, L. Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott, argued that Arias killed Alexander in self-defense after suffering domestic violence.

The trial was live-streamed and gained worldwide attention. Arias spent 18 days on the witness stand, talking about being abused by her parents, sharing intimate details about her sex life with Alexander, and describing how the relationship became verbally and physically abusive. 

After deliberating for 15 hours, the jury found Arias guilty of first-degree murder. On May 23, during the sentencing phase, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision. A second jury convened on October 20, 2014, but they too deadlocked 11-1 in favor of the death penalty. That left the sentencing decision up to Stephens, although the death penalty was now off the table. On April 13, 2015, Arias was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. 

As of October 2019, Arias was in the Arizona State Prison Complex in Perryville, Arizona, classified as a high-risk prisoner.

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