Jodi Arias Trial: Arizona woman testifies to killing lover, wanting to commit suicide after

"I've always had my camera. It goes with me everywhere," Jodi Arias, a photographer and artist from Yreka, Calif., told "48 Hours" in 2008. "48 Hours" Picture Perfect: The trial of Jodi Arias
Brian Bierwiler/Four Alarm Pictures
Jodi Arias
Brian Bierwiler/Four Alarm Pictures

(CBS/AP) PHOENIX - Jodi Arias took the witness stand in a surprise move Monday, admitting to the jury that she killed her ex-boyfriend - claiming it was self defense - and saying that she had plans to kill herself after.

"Did you kill Travis Alexander on June 4, 2008?" asked her defense attorney Kirk Nurmi.

"Yes I did," Arias replied. "He attacked me and I defended myself."

Arias went on to recount a series of events from her upbringing that brought her to Alexander's home on the day she killed him. She is charged with killing the 30-year-old Alexander, a successful businessman and motivational speaker, in what prosecutors described as a jealous rage after she found out he planned to take a trip to Mexico with another woman.

Authorities said Arias stabbed and slashed the victim 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.

The trial began in early January with details about Arias and Alexander's torrid romance after they met at a conference in Las Vegas 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 eventually admitted her involvement, but claimed self-defense.

Arias said she lied early in the investigation about not being at the scene of the killing because she planned to commit suicide and never have 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."

She described how an idyllic childhood in California turned abusive when she was about 7 years old. She said her parents beat her with belts and wooden spoons, and the abuse later escalated into shoving her into furniture and slapping her in the face for misdeeds such as sneaking out of the house.

Arias recounted other stories from her youth, describing how she met her high school boyfriend at a carnival when she was 15 and he was 18. Arias said she broke it off because "he had all kinds of wild ideas," adding that he believed in vampires and wanted the pair to move to San Francisco to hunt them.

She said months after she broke up with him, she learned he was so distraught over the relationship that he had slit his wrists and tried to kill himself.

Arias said she reconnected with him about "19 months" later after a man she met in her father's restaurant told her that the "second coming" of Jesus Christ would occur in late 1997.

"I was really naive and I kind of believed him," Arias testified. She wanted to warn her former boyfriend, she said.

But she said it wasn't long until the relationship turned stormy. She came across romantic emails he exchanged with another woman. He later tried to strangle her, she said, and told her "how he would kill each member of my family."

Her defense attorney asked repeatedly why she stayed with a man like that, apparently attempting to establish a history of such relationships and submissiveness in a move to compare how Alexander treated her, according to The Associated Press.

"It just felt natural," Arias replied. She was in love.

Defense attorneys depicted Alexander as a liar and a cheater who told Arias and other girlfriends he was a devout Mormon saving sex for marriage, while in reality he was having sex with other women. Prosecutors portrayed Arias as a jealous ex-girlfriend who stalked him for months after their breakup until finally snapping and killing him.

Authorities said 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.

Arias could get the death penalty if convicted in the murder trial. She is to return to the stand Tuesday.

Complete coverage of Jodi Arias on Crimesider