PHOENIX (AP) — A judge sentenced convicted murderer Jodi Arias to life in prison without the possibility of release on Monday, ending a nearly seven-year-old case that attracted worldwide attention with its salacious details.
Four family members of victim Travis Alexander spoke to Judge Sherry Stephens before she handed down the sentence, criticizing Arias as they broke down in tears.
Arias spoke as well, giving a rambling statement in which she stood by her testimony and accused police and prosecutors of changing their story during the investigation.
“The most important thing I want to say is that I’m very sorry for the enormous pain I caused to the people who loved Travis,” she said. “I’m truly disgusted and I’m repulsed with myself.”
Between tears, family members recalled the positive influence Alexander had on their lives and spoke angrily of Arias’ efforts to portray him as a pervert over the past two years.
“Stop murdering my brother again and again by smearing his name,” said sister Tanisha Sorenson. At one point, Sorenson described Arias as “this evil that sits behind me.”
The sentencing was largely a formality after a jury deadlocked last month on whether to give Arias the death penalty or life in prison. The mistrial removed the death penalty as an option.
The only decision left was whether the judge would allow Arias, 34, to be eligible for release after 25 years. She declined to do that, meaning Arias will spend the rest of her life in prison.
Arias killed her on-again-off-again boyfriend in 2008 in what prosecutors said was retaliation for his desire to break off the relationship. Arias shot Alexander and stabbed him nearly 30 times in his suburban Phoenix home. She was arrested weeks later and initially denied involvement.
Samantha Alexander on Monday recalled attending a memorial service for her brother and being stunned that Arias showed up to grieve his death. Friends and family immediately suspected Arias after Alexander’s body was found, but she was not arrested for another month.
“One person at the memorial stood out like a sore thumb,” she said. “It was Jodi. She had that evil smirk on her face. I remember getting the chills.”
Samantha Alexander started crying as she recounted a visit to her brother’s home in which she saw the spot where he was shot, stabbed and left to die.
“He was there for five days,” she said. “Five days he is there decomposing in the shower. I’m sure his soul was screaming for someone to find him.”
International attention quickly followed the case after Arias gave two television interviews in which she told a bizarre story of masked intruders breaking into the home and killing Alexander while she cowered in fear. She subsequently changed her story and said it was self-defense after Alexander attacked her on the day he died.
Her 2013 trial became a media circus as details of their tawdry relationship and the violent crime scene emerged while the courtroom saga was broadcast live. Spectators traveled to Phoenix and lined up in the middle of the night to get a seat in the courtroom to catch a glimpse of what had become to many a real-life soap opera.
The original jury deadlocked on whether to sentence her to death, setting up another penalty phase trial that began last year. After months of testimony and efforts by Arias’ lawyers to portray Alexander as a sexual deviant who physically and emotionally abused her, the second jury also failed to reach a unanimous decision — this time 11-1 in favor of death. The 11 jurors who wanted the death penalty said the holdout had an agenda and was sympathetic to Arias.
Arias will begin serving her sentence in a maximum-security unit at a prison 30 miles west of downtown Phoenix. If prison officials deem her behavior good over time, she could be moved to lower-security units.
Arias and Alexander began a long-distance relationship soon after meeting at a conference in Las Vegas. She moved to Mesa to be closer to him, even joining the Mormon church because Alexander followed the faith.
He later complained to friends that Arias was stalking him as he courted other women — something prosecutors say eventually led to her killing him in a jealous rage.
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