On June 4, 2008, a 30-year-old legal-insurance salesman named Travis Alexander was brutally slain in the bathroom of his Mesa, Arizona home. His body wasn’t discovered for five days. In a clear case of homicidal overkill, he had been stabbed between 27 and 29 times, shot in the head—and had his throat slit nearly ear to ear. It was an exceptionally bloody, disturbing crime scene. His 28-year-old ex-girlfriend, Jodi Arias, was arrested for the murder the following month.
At trial, Arias claimed she’d killed Alexander in self-defense, but she proved to be anything but a reliable witness. A jury found her guilty and Arias was sentenced to life in prison in 2013. A&E True Crime looks at the details of the crime and what Jodi Arias’ life is like in prison.
Who Is Jodi Arias?
Arias was born in 1980 in Salinas, California to parents Bill and Sandy Arias. She has one older half-sister, plus one younger sister and two younger brothers. Arias dropped out of high school, later obtaining her GED, and moved around often as a young adult. She dated various men and dabbled in various religions.
In interviews, her mom, Sandy Arias, has claimed that her daughter’s childhood was normal, but when speaking to investigators, her parents said she had mental problems and might be bipolar. Her father told investigators that Jodi hadn’t been honest or open with her parents since they caught her growing marijuana out of the family’s Tupperware containers when she was 14 years old. On the stand, Jodi claimed her parents had physically and mentally abused her.
“I do not feel responsible for Jodi’s actions, but that doesn’t mean she does not have my complete love and support,” Sandy Arias once told an interviewer.
Jodi Meets Travis
In September 2006, Arias met Alexander, a 29-year-old legal insurance salesman, for the first time. He was speaking at a professional conference for the company he worked at, Pre-Paid Legal Services, in Las Vegas.
Arias was an aspiring photographer living in California, while Arizona was home base for Alexander, but the two quickly hit it off. Within days of meeting Alexander, Arias reportedly broke up with her long-time live-in boyfriend and, as ABC News has reported, the two began a long-distance relationship. (Court records show they exchanged 82,000 emails through the course of their acquaintance.) On the stand, Arias claimed she had a sexual encounter with Alexander within a week of their first meeting, although premarital sex was forbidden in Alexander’s Mormon religion.
In November of that year, Arias converted to Mormonism; Alexander even baptized her, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Their relationship was highly sexual and tempestuous, and friends of Alexander’s portrayed Arias as intensely obsessive. The couple broke up after five months, but they continued to be physically intimate and stayed in regular contact. Arias lashed out in a jealous rage when Alexander began dating other women, slashing his tires, hacking into his social-media accounts and more. According to PEOPLE, Alexander once told a friend, “Don’t be surprised if you find me dead one day.”
By early June 2008, Alexander had tired of Arias’ antics, allegedly telling Arias to get out of his life forever, according to HuffPost.
The Murder of Travis Alexander
Days before Alexander’s murder, on May 28, 2008, a gun was stolen from the home of Arias’ grandparents in a burglary. (Arias was living there at the time.) Alexander was later shot with the same type of gun.
Alexander had been planning to bring Arias along on a work trip to Mexico, but he changed his plans and arranged to bring another woman. On June 2, Arias rented a car from Budget Rent-a-Car in Redding, California, then drove to Mesa to see Alexander. On June 4, the ex-couple had sex in his shower, illustrated by racy photos recovered from Arias’ camera after the murder.
Alexander was found dead in the shower days later by his roommates; by then, the savagely murdered body was beginning to decompose. Alexander had been shot in the head, repeatedly stabbed and had his throat cut. A camera, believed to belong to Arias, was recovered from the washing machine of Alexander’s house after having gone through the wash cycle. Images recovered from the device appeared to show Alexander immediately before his murder, as well as a picture that appeared to show “a subject on the floor of the bathroom bleeding profusely,” the police stated.
Arias was arrested on July 15, 2008, on suspicion of first-degree murder.
Jodi Arias’ Trial
Arias’ trial was a bizarre mix of Mormon theology and steamy photos of Arias and Alexander. In court, Arias’ lawyer insisted that the young woman had killed Alexander in self-defense, saying, “Jodi’s life was in danger. [Alexander] knocked her to the ground in the bathroom where there was a struggle. If she did not have to defend herself, she would not be here.”
Arias’ lawyers—and Arias herself, in her testimony—tried to prove that Alexander had used her for sex and demeaned her throughout the former couple’s relationship. Lawyers also called Alexander’s ex-girlfriend, Lisa Andrews Daidone, to the stand, who testified that she had felt used by Alexander herself and that he had objectified her during their relationship. (Daidone dated him off and on in 2007.)
For its part, the prosecution pushed the narrative that Arias killed Alexander in a vengeful rage after learning he had moved on with another woman; in fact, he was about to go away on vacation with his new girlfriend when he was killed.
But the court didn’t buy Arias’ story. In May 2013, a jury convicted her of first-degree murder. But the jury could not reach a unanimous decision on whether to sentence her to death, meaning Arias needed a sentencing retrial, which began in 2014. In March 2015, the second jury was also hung about Arias’ sentencing, which effectively removed the death penalty from the table. Arias was sentenced to life in prison without parole. At her sentencing hearing, she expressed regret over Alexander’s killing, saying, “I wish there was something I could do to take it back.”
What Is Jodi Arias Like Behind Bars?
According to Tracy Brown Bering, Arias’s former cellmate at the Estrella Jail in Phoenix, Arias has many captivating qualities.
In the August 8, 2020 Lifetime special, Jodi Arias: Cell Mate Secrets, Tracy and her wife Donavan Bering—who was also an inmate at Estrella at the time—discuss their one-time close friendship with Arias: The killer even officiated their wedding in jail.
The couple says that they were “immediately drawn” to Arias when she was placed at the facility. Donavan describes her as “friendly,” “quiet, soft-spoken and well-spoken.” She was also very artistic, and enjoyed singing and drawing. She eventually moved on to doing jailhouse tattoos, including eight tattoos on Tracy and Donavan.
But Tracy and Donavan also say Arias was calculating. “I saw Jodi use her sexuality a few times to manipulate someone while we were in jail. She manipulated the officers,” says Tracy.
Donavan also saw this behavior escalate after she was released from jail and was managing Arias’s social media accounts for her—which Donavan describes as “almost a full-time job.” Donavan claims that what was originally a means to help advocate for her as she was behind bars, eventually turned into her being asked by Arias to attack her detractors online—including Arias’s own family members. After Arias’s murder trial revealed the brutality of Alexander’s murder and what Arias was willing to do to save herself from prison (including alleging that her father abused her), Donavan had a conversation with Arias letting her know she was no longer supporting her. At that point both Donavan and Tracy cut ties.
Where Is Jodi Arias Now?
Arias is currently serving her sentence at the Arizona State Prison Complex. In 2016, a phone call between her and rapper Lefty was leaked to the media. In the clip, she claimed she’s getting lots of “love” behind bars. “If this is what it is like to be hated, then keep hating!” Arias said in the recording, originally obtained by Radar. “I’ve had so much love coming in my direction I can’t even respond to it now.”
Jodi Arias’ Appeal
In April 2019, Arias filed an appeal arguing she hadn’t had a fair trial for various reasons, including that the trial judge in her case failed to protect her “from the massive, pervasive and prejudicial publicity during her trial.” On March 24, 2020, the Arizona Appeals Court upheld her murder conviction.