For the past five years, way over in the overheated wastelands of Arizona, an epic, trashy tragedy has been unfolding, slowly but without many dull moments, like the pages of a supermarket thriller. The murder trial of Jodi Arias is wrapping up after more than four months — the jury started deliberating on Friday afternoon and could have a decision as soon as today — and with its verdict (almost certainly “guilty,” in one form or another) so ends one of the more bizarre and media-ready crime spectacles in recent memory. Part Casey Anthony and part Amanda Knox, Arias, who is accused of killing her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008, is a character from Nancy Grace’s dreams — the kind of figure who single-handedly boosts cable ratings by being as photogenic and bizarre as her alleged crimes are unhinged.
As the proceedings come to a close (and Headline News crosses its fingers for one final twist), we thought a look back at the madness — including, but not limited to, Mormonism, phone sex, a ham of a prosecutor, and eighteen days of testimony from Arias herself — was in order. If, somehow, you weren’t paying attention, now is the time to catch up.
Arias and Alexander, a motivational speaker, meet in Las Vegas, of all places. According to court records, they traded 82,000 e-mails over the course of their turbulent relationship. Arias, to prove her devotion to Alexander, converts to Mormonism.
Arias and Alexander break up, but continue sleeping together.
Despite Alexander’s new relationship, sext messages shown in court from Arias to her ex include, “Ahhh!! I fell asleep! But to answer your question, yes I want to grind you. And I want to be LOUD. And I want to give you a nice, warm ‘mouth hug’ too. :)”
The last post on Alexander’s blog, which still exists, is titled “Why I want to marry a Gold Digger.” He writes, “People fall in love for too many reasons to count. Usually it is a combination of reasons. But I want someone to fall in love with me because I am a man of ability and achievement. Not because I have a lot of friends (not saying I do) but for the reason people want to befriend me, not because I have tons of money (not saying I do) but because I have the ability to earn a ton of money. Not because of my accomplishments but because I am a man of accomplishment. In fact I wouldn’t want to marry anyone if they loved me and these were not at least some of the reasons why.”
Arias’s own final blog entry ends, “This yearning I have is perhaps the yearning for it to explode into expression. To be fully expressed would be would mean ultimate gratification.”
Arias visits Alexander at his house in Mesa, where the pair take naked photos of one another and have sex. (The graphic photos are, of course, all NSFW and available online.) From a Huffington Post timeline of events:
It was ultimately determined that Alexander had been shot in the right brow with a .25-caliber gun – the bullet was found lodged in his left cheek – and that he had been stabbed 27 times. Someone had also cut his throat from ear to ear.
Investigators found several vital clues inside Alexander’s bedroom and bathroom. A spent .25-caliber shell casing was located on the floor near the sink, and a hair and a small latent print in blood were found near the entrance to the bathroom hall. Also, a digital camera was found in the washing machine in the downstairs laundry room. The camera appeared to have been run through the wash cycle.
On June 13, Arias posts a photo album called “In Loving Memory of Travis Alexander” to her MySpace page, including 25 photos of the couple in happier times:
Days later, Arias tells police she had not seen Alexander since April, but the explicit photos of the couple discovered on the digital camera say otherwise, according to investigators: "This also proves that Jodi was the last person I can prove had contact with Travis prior to his death."
Arias is indicted on charges of first-degree murder on her 29th birthday. Here’s her mugshot:
Arias pleads not guilty and tells a local newspaper, “God knows I’m innocent. I know I’m innocent.” That same month, she tells Inside Edition that two intruders killed Alexander. “No jury is going to convict me,” she says, “because I am innocent and you can mark my words on that. No jury is going to convict me.”
She similarly tells 48 Hours, “I saw two other individuals” — a man and a woman — “in the bathroom. And they were both coming toward us.” She adds, “I was terrified. And I was scared for my life. And I think there was a naive belief that I could pretend like it didn’t really happen.”
She later says during testimony, “At the time [of the interview], I had plans to commit suicide. 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.” (According to her sister, “She was not under oath when she spoke on TV and yes, she lied. 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.”)
Arias wins a Christmas caroling contest in prison, landing a full stocking and a turkey dinner for her cellmates:
After failed attempts to represent herself and remove the death penalty from consideration, the Arias trial begins. Of the 375 potential jurors interviewed, eleven men and seven women (including four alternates) buckle up for the ride. Arias’s defense ultimately admits that Arias killed Alexander — heaps of forensic evidence tie her to the crime scene — but attempts to portray him as an abusive sexual deviant.
In addition to experts, another of Arias’s love interests testifies. He says Arias dyed her hair in June, just after the killing, and has cuts on her hands, which she said were from working at Margaritaville, the next time he saw her. However, a detective later testifies “that there is no restaurant called Margaritaville in Yreka — a fact that suggested Arias had lied about her place of employment, which undermined her explanation of how she had injured her fingers around the time Alexander was murdered.”
Arias shocks everyone by taking the stand and laying out her own self-defense story for an "unprecedented" eighteen days. The marathon session includes her recounting the intense intimate relationship she had with Alexander and airing seemingly unending samples of their dirty talk, which she claims was overly aggressive. Arias contends that Alexander mentally and physically abused her, and that he was a pedophile.
The defense, meanwhile, paints Arias as a lover scorned: "Arias told her former love interest via instant message that she discovered text messages from other women on Alexander’s phone. During the 911 call, Alexander’s friends told the dispatcher that he was having problems with his ex-girlfriend who had stalked him and slashed his tires."
At one point, a 40-minute phone call between Arias and Alexander is played for the court, in which she tells him, “I get the impression there aren’t a lot of Mormon guys like (you). There are probably plenty of freaky Mormon girls, but are they the marrying type? Are the girls the type you’d want to marry, or the guys the type I’d like to marry, someone like you who can be freaky? I worry about that. There are plenty of guys out there, but I worry about not blossoming to my full potential in the sexual realm. I have plenty of blossoming left to do.” It gets weirder:
In addition to the sexual content of the call, Arias and Alexander also talked, laughed, and sang songs together during the phone call in a comfortable, relaxed tone. They discussed banal topics including people they both knew, places they wanted to travel, and comic books and movies.
The prosecution has alleged that Alexander was trying to get Arias to leave him alone and no longer wanted to be in any kind of relationship with her.
The long, meandering conversations ends with the pair singing a variety of songs, including the National Anthem, together until Alexander falls asleep.
In addition to the wall-to-wall coverage from major networks, profiteering conspiracy theorists latch on to the case: JodieAriasIsInnocent.com includes the plug, “You’re also welcome to check out our sister site @ CaseyAnthonyIsInnocent.com.”
Prosecutor Juan Martinez is accused by the defense team of misconduct for his interaction with “fans” of the case, who’d begun to gather outside of the court room. Martinez is seen posing for photos and signing autographs, and YouTube tributes pop up online:
The trial finally ends, and Martinez "wins raves." According to Nancy Grace, "Prosecutor Martinez tore the courthouse down today. People were passing around Kleenex, boxes of Kleenex out there listening to him."
Arias’s defense attorney Kirk Nurmi concludes, "What this evidence shows it is that either what happened is that Jodi Arias defended herself and didn’t know when to stop, or she gave in to a sudden heat of passion … Ultimately, if Miss Arias is guilty of any crime at all, it is the crime of manslaughter and nothing more."
The grand finale:
Jurors can convict Arias of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, or manslaughter, with the potential death-penalty phase to follow, unless a miraculous acquittal comes through. Legal analysts do not give her much of a chance.
Regardless of the verdict, a Lifetime movie titled Dirty Little Secret: The Jodi Arias Story is in the works. It’s just waiting for an ending.