PHOENIX - A woman charged in the savage stabbing and shooting death of her lover told jurors Monday that she endured an abusive childhood at the hands of her parents and planned to commit suicide after she killed her on-again, off-again boyfriend.
Jodi Arias' testimony was a surprise move by defense attorneys in a sensational murder trial in Phoenix that has become a daily fixture on cable news with its lurid stories of sex, lies, religion, betrayal and violence. Arias, 32, could become just the fourth woman on Arizona's death row if convicted.
Arias' testimony aimed to portray her as a childhood abuse victim and naive teenager who stayed with boyfriends even after they cheated on her and became violent at times.
Defense attorneys claim it was a similar scenario throughout her relationship with Travis Alexander, a successful businessman and motivational speaker whom Arias killed in June 2008 in self-defense, she says.
She is charged with killing the 30-year-old man in what prosecutors describe as a fit of jealous rage after she found out he'd planned to take a trip to Mexico with another woman. Authorities say she stabbed and slashed him 27 times, slit his throat from ear to ear and shot him in the forehead, leaving his bloody body in the bathroom of his suburban Phoenix home to be found five days later by friends.
Arias claims it was self-defense as Alexander attacked her after inviting her to his home for sex on the day of the killing.
Her trial began in early January with a series of salacious details about a torrid romance between Arias and Alexander after they met at a Las Vegas conference in late 2006. She claims they dated for about five months, then broke up but continued to see each other for sex up until the day of his death. She initially told police she knew nothing of the killing, then later blamed it on masked intruders. She finally admitted her involvement but claimed self-defense - kill or be killed by the enraged man.
She testified Monday that she lied early in the investigation about not being at the scene of the crime because she planned to commit suicide so there would never be a trial.
"At the time, 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," Arias told jurors. "I planned to be dead."