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Who is the real Jodi Arias?

  • HLN is covering the Jodi Arias trial live gavel-to-gavel
  • Arias is accused of killing Travis Alexander, but she says she did it in self-defense
  • Watch 'HLN After Dark: The Jodi Arias Trial' at 10 p.m. on HLN
Who is the real Jodi Arias?

Arias describes sex with Travis on baptism day

Arias describes sex with Travis on baptism day

'After Dark' defense: Prosecutor may create sympathy for Arias

'After Dark' defense: Prosecutor may create sympathy for Arias

When court is done for the day, the conversation is only just beginning. Watch "HLN After Dark: The Jodi Arias Trial" nightly at 10 p.m. on HLN.

The Jodi Arias trial has captured the attention of millions, but the woman at the center of the case remains something of a mystery.

Much of what the world knows about Arias has come from her TV interviews and her testimony during her trial.

But who, really, is Arias, the 32-year-old woman accused of shooting her ex-boyfriend in the head, stabbing him multiple times and slitting his throat from ear to ear?

The California native has painted a picture of an abused child who subsequently fell into the arms of men who also brutalized her. But Arias testified it was with a religious man -- Travis Alexander -- that she suffered the most abuse, and many of her past acquaintances have said that they noticed that something was “off” about her.

Watch: Remembering Travis Alexander

New details about Arias’ life are still coming to light. Forensic psychologist Richard Samuels shocked the court this week with the revelation that Arias was accosted at knife point at age 13, according to Arias’ brother. This is the first time this assault has been mentioned during the trial. Arias did not mention it, despite spending 18 days on the witness stand testifying about numerous events from her childhood, past relationships, and her romance with Travis Alexander.

She says Alexander’s physical and sexual abuse culminated in a fight in which she was forced to kill Alexander in self-defense after he attacked her. 

Read more: Does Arias have PTSD?

Here is what HLN knows about Arias’ life before she killed Alexander on June 4, 2008.


Arias was born on July 9, 1980, in the small northern California town of Yreka. Her parents’ names are Sandy and William Arias. She also has two siblings named Angela and Carl Arias.

Arias has described her childhood as “ideal,” but she testified during her trial that her parents physically abused her on numerous occasions.

“[My dad] didn’t leave welts as often as my mom, she also used a belt. My dad was very intimidating so I don’t think he needed to hit as quite as hard to get the point across,” said Arias in court.

Arias said her father could bench more than 500 pounds when she was a child. She said sometimes her parents would both beat her at the same time, and her mom would dig her nails into her.

She dropped out of Yreka Union High School after the 11th grade, and got her GED in jail after being arrested on July 15, 2008, for Alexander’s death. She has been in jail since her arrest, and has taught herself Spanish and sign language behind bars.

Her romantic past

During the trial, Arias spent 18 days on the witness stand testifying about everything from childhood abuse to her past abusive relationships.

Arias detailed how her high school boyfriend tried to choke her.

"Our argument escalated and he approached me and spun me around. And he was very much into martial arts and he had some kind of hold, I guess it was called a stranglehold. So he started strangling me. Just for a few seconds. And then he let go. I almost passed out. I fell on my knees,” said Arias.

Alexander and Arias met a convention in September of 2006, and couple of months later Alexander baptized Arias into the Mormon faith on November 26, 2006.

Arias testified Alexander forced her to have anal sex the same day she was baptized.

In February 2007, Arias said, she and Alexander began dating officially.

Despite their newly shared faith, which encourages abstinence before marriage, evidence shows they had a sexual relationship. There were steamy, provocative texts back and forth between Alexander and Arias. Arias told the jurors she and Alexander videotaped their sexual relations. Prosecutors have shown the jury racy photos of Alexander and Arias and sensual text messages between them.

Something was off

Arias told a TV program she didn't think Alexander's friends were aware of the intensity of their relationship. "Nobody really knows what was going on behind closed bedroom doors except him and I," she said.

Many of Alexander's friends have said they thought she came on too strong, too fast or that there was something "off" about her.

Dave Hall is one of those friends. He met Alexander through work in 2002, and they became fast friends. Four years later, he met Arias at a company dinner, when she accompanied Alexander as his date. Hall says there was something strange about her, because Arias seemed to have no friends and never talked about her past.

"I thought, ‘Ah, there's an attractive girl.’ But as the evening went on, I just thought … she might be eye candy on the outside, but she was just very mysterious and I didn't want to judge her at the beginning, but I just thought, her personality is not very … not very talkative. Very quiet, she just had a vibe about her that just was really mysterious and it wasn't until after we started hanging out numerous times and doing events together, that me, along with everyone that knew Travis, just said, 'Dude, you can do a lot better. She might be good-looking, but this is not someone you want to be in a relationship with.'"

Hall says he witnessed Arias become possessive of Alexander as their tumultuous on-again, off-again two-year relationship developed. "If he talked about another girl or if he looked at another girl … she just had this evil smirk on her face that you could just tell she was the type of person that could smile while she slit your throat, you know. Pardon the pun there, in light of what's going on."

A jealous lover

At some point in 2007, Arias got suspicious that Alexander was seeing other people. She testified that she saw text messages Alexander sent to another woman. She broke up with him, but then moved from her home in California to Mesa, Arizona, where Alexander was still living. Alexander's sister Tanisha Sorenson says Alexander’s tires were slashed while he was at another woman's house. He replaced the tires, and they were slashed again at a different location, which she says she feels means somebody was following him around.

Soon after that, a woman Alexander was dating got an email from "John Doe" warning her that her behavior was sinful. It read, in part, "If you let him stay in your bed one more time or even sleep under the same roof as him, you will be giving the appearance of evil," the email read. "You are a daughter of God, and you have been a shameful example. Be thou clean, sin no more."

Arias moved back to California in early 2008, but said she and Alexander maintained a relationship. In a TV interview, Arias said Alexander was going to visit her in May, but he postponed the trip. So she went on her own road trip in early June, stopping in Los Angeles to photograph her friend's baby. She had planned to head to Utah after that to visit another love interest, Ryan Burns, who worked with Alexander, and who was also a Mormon.

Burns says, "We talked a lot on the phone, but we certainly weren't together or anything like that."

Burns testified at Arias trial that she visited him the day after killing Alexander and that they kissed, and his hand got close to her lower body, but they did not have sex.

Another of Alexander’s friends, Taylor Searle, tells HLN that around the first week of June 2008, Alexander caught Arias hacking into his Facebook account and told her he wanted her out of his life. Searle says Alexander called him the next day and read the contents of an online chat between Alexander and Arias.

Searle says he asked Alexander, "Aren't you afraid she's going to hurt you?"

Alexander was killed on June 4, 2008 at his house in Mesa, Arizona.

Her future

Arias is facing the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder. However, if the jury believes that prosecutor Juan Martinez has not proven his case, Arias could be found not guilty, and will be a free woman. She could then pursue her dreams of becoming a professional photographer and starting a family.

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More grisly details expected in Jodi Arias trial
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