Phoenix • A woman charged with killing her lover in the shower of his Arizona home described in graphic detail Wednesday how he made repeated sexual advances all while converting her into the Mormon faith during their heated initial courtship.
Jodi Arias, 32, took the witness stand on what was a provocative day of testimony about the volatile relationship that culminated with her stabbing Travis Alexander to death after a lust-filled day of sex and raunchy photographs.
Arias spent the first two days of testimony recounting her childhood and troubled romances in her teens and 20s, and got to key details of her relationship with Alexander on Wednesday.
She faces the death penalty if convicted of murder in a case that seemed made for the tabloids with its tales of sex, violence and betrayal. Trial was set to resume Monday.
Her defense team put her on the stand in an apparent attempt to gain sympathy with jurors in hopes that they see her as the victim of a domineering womanizer. She says the killing was self-defense, and says Alexander belittled her and used her for sex.
Prosecutors have portrayed Arias as a jealous ex-girlfriend who snapped and killed the motivational speaker and successful businessman.
The testimony was an unusual mix of Mormon theology and X-rated descriptions of their relationship. At one point, naked pictures of Alexander were shown in the courtroom.
Alexander, a Mormon, persuaded Arias to become a member of the church and performed her baptism in late 2006, she said.
But at the same time, she said she felt uncomfortable by Alexander’s behavior in the bedroom that seemed to contradict the church’s teachings that forbid sex before marriage.
On the same day that he baptized her, Arias said the two went into a bedroom, removed their church clothes and engaged in sexual intercourse that she called painful. Alexander told her the sex was OK under Mormon teachings because their encounter did not involve vaginal intercourse.
Arias said she believed Alexander was using her for sex, and had little interest in connecting with her on an emotional level or even holding her hand in public.
“I kind of felt like a prostitute,” she said at one point.
Arias has described physical and emotional abuse at the hands of family and lovers and cast Alexander as someone who took advantage of her. Arias told investigators that she went to Alexander’s home for sex on the day of the killing, but he turned violent, forcing her to fight for her life.
She said she first met Alexander at a Las Vegas convention in late 2006 after years of bad relationships. She was almost immediately enamored by him, and it appeared he was taken with her, too. She suddenly saw both personal and professional opportunities.
Arias said she soon ended her relationship with another man, and within a week, she saw Alexander again. That’s when things became sexual, she testified.
They carried on a long-distance relationship between her home in California and his in Mesa, Ariz., and their relationship began to take off. She said they made a trip to Missouri and Illinois to visit significant Mormon landmarks and to attend a work convention in Oklahoma where he became closed-off and flirted with another woman in front of her.
She claims they dated for about five months, then broke up but continued to see each other for sex. Alexander’s friends said she stalked him after the breakup and became possessive and jealous.
Authorities said they found her hair and bloody palm print at the scene of the killing, along with time-stamped photographs on a memory card in a camera discovered inside Alexander’s washing machine that place Arias there on the day he died. The photos included one of Arias nude on his bed, one of Alexander alive in the shower, and one of his body on the bathroom floor.
In the trial that began in early January, defense attorneys have yet to explain why Arias apparently attempted to clean the scene, washing Alexander’s bedding and the camera, and what happened to the weapons.
Authorities say Alexander was shot in the head with a .25 caliber gun, the same caliber Arias’ grandparents reported stolen from their Northern California home about a week before the killing.