Fact based reporting
By Rob Roman and Amanda Chen
Since October is Domestic Violence Month, it’s a good time to shine a spotlight on domestic violence. Let’s explore what part D.V. played in the relationship between Travis Alexander and Jodi Arias, and Alexander’s tragic death in Mesa, Arizona on june 4, 2008.
Domestic homicides are only a tragic crescendo and a small part of domestic violence in Arizona or anywhere. Here are some of the many women who were not Survivors in Arizona in 2008:
Avondale: A man, 33, shot his wife, 26, and turned the gun on himself while their four children were in the home, though none of the children were physically injured.
St. Michael’s: The remains of a 38 year old woman were found when police put out a fire in a dumpster. Her boyfriend was charged with the murder.
Tuscon: A 23 year old man shot his girlfriend, 22, in the head, claiming he thought he had the safety on when they were “playing.”
Mesa: A man who had a protective order against him for threats and harassment shot the woman and her neighbor before police shot him.
Queen Creek: June 27 A 24 year old man stabbed his 23 year old girlfriend to death after an argument.
Prescott: A woman, 35, was killed while on the phone with her mother. Her ex-husband has been charged.
Phoenix: A 49 year old man set fire to his house and then slit his wrists, killing himself and his wife. He had sent an email regarding an impending foreclosure and his intent to kill.
OroValley: A 25 year old woman was beaten and then strangled to death by her boyfriend, whom she was attempting to leave.
Tuscon: A woman was retrieving her belongings from a storage unit in preparation for a move to Phoenix when her ex-boyfriend arrived and killed her before killing himself.
The butchered body
The first time outsiders became involved in the lives of Travis Alexander and Jodi Arias was June 9, 2008. Five days after the two exes got together, Alexander’s body was discovered by his friends and roommates. Travis was found in his master bathroom in the shower. He had been shot in the forehead, there were 16 stab wounds to his body and his throat was slit.
Many prosecution supporters like to point to this fact in seeking justice for Travis. They never seem to answer the first question that Jennifer Willmott asked in her opening statements at the trial: “What would have drove her do it”? People like to pretend that a passive and friendly person with no real history of violence could just stop over to see her ex-boyfriend and do that kind of violence to him, and quietly proceed on her merry way.
What Type Commits Violent Premeditated Murders?
This never raises a question in their mind? The facts is that four years before meeting Alexander and more than four years after she was arrested, Jodi Arias has shown no signs of violence or violent tendencies. People like to chalk it up to “Psycho”, The “Devil”, and “Evil”.
Few women actually are the abusers and attackers in their relationships. Far more often, women, friends and family members are starting to fight back against their abusers. In Arizona in 2008, 6 other women besides Jodi Arias killed their male current or former intimate partner. In three of these other cases, the weapon was a knife. In two other cases, the weapon was a motor vehicle. All five of these cases could be charged as capital cases with 1st degree murder and the cruelty aggravator could be easily found. We haven’t heard of any of these cases.
The fact is, there is almost always a reason and a logical progression of circumstances leading to the tragic result.
This must be true of the 23 women who were killed by their male intimate partners in Arizona in 2008. There were almost 40 cases of people who were killed due to an intimate partner relationships in Arizona in 2008. What would make Jodi do such a thing? What would make any of these people do what they did to their present or former loved ones? What would drive YOU to do such a thing? When you look at it that way, this death may take on a different meaning.
The Real Victim of Domestic Violence
People are outraged because they believe that Travis Alexander is the real victim of domestic violence. When Travis and Jodi first met, they seemed to actually be in love for a brief time. They were both contemplating a future together even to include marriage. At some point, there was a falling out. Things were never the same after that. Prosecution supporters contend that Jodi just couldn’t let go. She had made life changes and had given up a lot for her new life in the Mormon Church and with Travis.
At this point, prosecution supporters believe that Jodi, much more experienced in relationships and sex, used Travis’ duplicity in the Mormon Church and his sexual inexperience to control and manipulate him. When he finally broke away from that control and ended the relationship for good, Jodi planned a murder, snuck into Arizona, and killed him in a fit of rage. Travis was the true victim of domestic violence and abuse. Prosecution supporters point to the fact that Jodi drove over one thousand miles to meet Travis. They ask why would she drive this far to visit her “abuser”?
Asking the Right Questions
A better question would be “Why did Jodi Arias move 1,000 miles away from Travis in the first place? Jodi Arias contends that at different times, she was grabbed forcefully, smacked in the face, thrown to the floor and choked, and kicked in the ribs by Travis Alexander. If this isn’t the real reason she moved away form the man she was supposedly obsessed with, what was the real reason? She was broke, had car problems and needed to get her financial affairs in order? She was driven out of town by the Mormon hordes? A real good answer to this question had never been put forward.
Travis Alexander: Abuser or the Abused?
Prosecution supporters like to think that Travis Alexander was a “healthy young man” who was not interested in any future with Jodi Arias, but he was not going to turn away a woman looking for sex. Then it was just a sexual relationship only. Travis carefully hid away his “good-time girl” while continuing with his personal and business aspirations including dates with “good Mormon girls”. If Jodi wanted to continue her involvement, then that was all on her.
Evidence of Abuse
This makes sense, except for the testimony of Dan and Desiree Freeman. This brother and sister were true good Mormons who considered Jodi to be “like family”. They testified to some heated and violent arguments that Jodi and Travis were unable to hide even on what were supposed to be relaxing holidays. Nobody knew what was going on sexually between Alexander and Arias. Only a few people knew about the heated exchanges and angry arguments that were raging from time to time.
Some people have remarked that Travis was a “nice guy”. They believe he was a “roly poly”, but good natured guy, a comic and romantic, and a “doofus”. Jodi got her claws in him and refused to let go. In reality, Travis was athletic, he was a leader both in the church and business, and he was popular with females both within and outside his ward.
He reportedly demanded attention and compliments. His blogs on Myspace written shortly before his death reveal an individual who is extremely self-centered, although he was looking to be a success and an inspiration to others. Alexander was also a very troubled person, as revealed by his interpersonal problems and his failure to find “The One” in a society that places a high value on finding and “Cherishing the Right” partner and marriage at a very young age. He always wore his “CTR” ring and he was ordained and a church elder in the LDSChurch. Travis was thirty years old and still resisting the social pressure to settle down and get married.
On top of this, Alexander was in serious violation of the tenets of his church. He was leading bible studies and baptizing babies while breaking the most highly cherished vows of the LDSChurch. For Mormons, lying is the third worse sin you can commit, just behind denying the Holy Spirit and murder itself. The laws of chastity, certainly are skirted now more than ever before, but running multiple girlfriends was more than just mere “technical violations”.
These two sides of Travis must have been a source of great tension, prevarication, and vacillation between who he was, who he was supposed to be, and who he wanted to be. These behaviors and tensions led to the short temper, sudden angry outbursts, his ambivalence towards Jodi and his tendency to blame her for all of these problems.
Coupling that to a horrific childhood of extreme abuse and neglect, where he was the 4th eldest of 8 children, there is ample reason to believe that Jodi was more than a sex-buddy to Travis. There’s reason to believe that she somehow filled a gap between the darkness of Travis’ past and his bright hopes for the future. There must have been more of a reason why these two did not separate for the greater benefit of both.
Three Soft Kisses, “My Inspiration”,
Candlelit Baths and Rose Petals
There is evidence that Jodi did not see their relationship as strictly a “friends with benefits” type of deal. Jodi’s personal journal was full of references to her love for and devotion to Travis. She admits in her journal that she ‘love, love, loves him|’. She states that she realizes they will never be a permanent couple and she states her belief that something is wrong with him. Jodi waxes romantic about the one time that Travis treated her to a candlelit bath and he even spread a path of rose petals in the very bathroom where the killing occurred. She lovingly refers to Travis as “my inspiration” in one journal entry. Conspicuously absent are references to their really bad times, although we know they assuredly occurred form time to time.
This relationship was romantic for just a few months. Compare this to Arias’ other relationships, all lasting years and one lasting four years. All these relationships but one ended against Arias’ will, and though we see attempts to reestablish the romance, we do not see any of this violent behavior on Jodi’s part.
Alyce LaViolette and the
Thousands of Communications
This is the foundation upon which Alyce LaViolette, the expert in interpersonal abuse with 30 years of experience, approached the relationship of Travis and Jodi. She interviewed Jodi and researched forensic materials including thousands upon thousands of communications between Jodi and Travis, and Travis and others. LaViolette repeated over and over that you need to look at the full context of each communication in the totality of all of them in order to see the objective patterns of abuse that she determined. She educated the jury and the live audience about the signs and cycles of abuse and the mind-set of “Survivors”. Alyce LaViolette was attacked personally both on the stand, in cyberspace, and in real life for her belief that Jodi was abused and controlled in this relationship.
Women’s Violence Towards Male Partners Is Different
A government researched paper, done originally for the US Military, speaks about the difference between male and female perpetrators of domestic violence:
(a) women’s violence usually occurs in the context of violence against them by their male partners;
(b) in general, women and men perpetrate equivalent levels of physical and psychological aggression, but evidence suggests that women also are much more frequently injured during domestic violence incidents;
(c) women and men are equally likely to initiate physical violence in relationships involving less serious “situational couple violence,” and in relationships in which serious and very violent “intimate terrorism” occurs, men are much more likely to be perpetrators and women the victims;
(d) women’s physical violence is more likely than men’s violence to be motivated by self-defense and fear, whereas men’s physical violence is more likely than women’s to be driven by control motives;
1) Self defense, 2) fear, 3) protection of children,
4) control, 5) retribution.
1) sexual coercion, 2) coercive control,
3) displaced anger, 4) retribution, 5) self-defense
Arizona domestic homicides
Now, let’s look at domestic violence homicides in Arizona in 2011, the most recent statistics. Then we look at 2008, the year Alexander was killed.
“In 2011, at least 54 males died in domestic violence related incidents in Arizona. Of these, 19 of them took their own lives. Seven were victims of intimate partner violence. Four were killed by law enforcement responding to a domestic violence call. The remaining males, except one, died at the hands of a family member or a domestic violence perpetrator.”
“In 2011, at least 47 females died in domestic violence related incidents. In contrast to male victims, female victims were most likely to be murdered by a current or former intimate partner. There were also several cases of young girls killed by their mother’s boyfriends.
Estrangement in domestic violence
“In nine of the cases where females died, media reports cited estrangement. In the context of intimate partner violence, estrangement is based on the perspective of the abusive partner. It may include separation and divorce, but can also be identified when the victim appears to be moving away from the relationship emotionally. For some abusive partners, a victim seeking educational or job opportunities may be perceived as a threat to the relationship.”
Known Lethality Indicators
Many of the intimate partner deaths included known lethality indicators. Five of the cases with female victims contained prior domestic violence reported to the media. The single greatest predictor of homicide perpetrated by a romantic partner is prior domestic violence against the woman; this is true both for female and male victims in heterosexual relationships
Twenty five women and eight men were the victims of intimate partner homicide. These deaths comprised 33% of the total deaths.
Behavior that increased the likelihood of Homicide are called “known lethality indicators”. Here are the ones purported to apply to the Alexander / Arias relationship.
Known lethality indicators are given with their corresponding weighting for each indicator.
Physical violence increased in frequency 4.3 (Defense asserts, Prosecution Denies)
Jodi Arias contends that physical violence began and increased in 2008, after Arias discovered Alexander’s secret sexual interest in young children. The incidents led her to abruptly move away from Mesa Arizona back to her family in Yreka, California
Partner threatened to kill woman 14.9 (Defense asserts, Prosecution Denies)
Arias contends that Alexander pushed her down in rage and continued to attack her even after he was shot. She contends that Alexander threatened to kill her after the gunshot.
Partner tried to choke (strangle) woman 9.9 (Defense asserts, Prosecution Denies)
Arias contends that Alexander choked her to unconsciousness in his bedroom in January 2008.
Partner violently and constantly jealous 9.2 (Defense asserts, Prosecution Denies)
Arias contends that though he was seeing other women, Alexander threatened violence against other men such as Abe Abdelhadi who were interested in Arias.
Woman forced to have sex when not wanted 7.6 (Defense asserts, Prosecution Denies)
Arias contends that she submitted to unwanted sex at times to help calm Alexander’s temper. Arias contends she was forced into sex on June 4th, 2008.
Woman believed he was capable of killing her 3.3 (Defense asserts, Prosecution Denies)
Arias contends that she first became aware of the danger upon being choked. On June 4th, 2008, Arias feared for her life after being thrown to the tile floor of Alexander’s bathroom.
Gun in the house 6.1 (Defense asserts, Prosecution Denies)
The prosecution contends Arias brought the gun. The defense contends that Alexander had a gun hidden in his closet.
Physical violence increased in severity 5.2 (Defense asserts, Prosecution Denies)
Arias contends that emotional and sexual abuse turned into physical abuse in early 2008 and rapidly increased in severity when she discovered Alexander’s secret and after she had planned to leave him and start a new relationship.
Partner threatened or tried to commit suicide 1.3 (Defense asserts, Prosecution Denies)
Arias contends that Alexander threatened suicide due to their relationship on several occasions. The prosecution contends Alexander was joking or being ironic.
Arizona in 2008
In 2008 in Arizona there were 461 homicides. There were 324 gun deaths, 47 sharp force deaths, 11 deaths by hanging, strangulation or suffocation, 4 deaths by blunt objects, 1 death by bodily force, 1 by fire, and 68 by other means
In 2008 in Arizona, there were 16 incidents of suicide / homicide and 20 victims. Most often, males were the perpetrators of the homicides prior to committing suicide.
6 other women killed their male intimate partners
3 other women used a knife to kill their partners
23 men killed their female intimate partners
Phoenix: A 22 year old woman stabbed her husband to death during an argument about their relationship
Mesa: After a fight with his wife, a man jumped onto the car as she attempted to leave with her cousin. He died either from being thrown from the car or run over.
How many of these seven other violent homicides were charged as 1st degree murders? How many qualified for the death penalty (Hint: In Arizona, they all qualify). How many of these violent homicides were premeditated? How many of these eight violent homicides were death penalty cases?
Was every woman who killed a man a Survivor, or a perpetrator of domestic violence? According to the data, in most cases, the woman was a Surivor.
Other Female SURVIVORS of Deadly Domestic Violence in Arizona in 2008:
Goodyear: A 31 year old man was shot to death while trying to protect his sister from her ex-boyfriend.
Mesa: Police shot a 37 year old man who was holding a knife to his girlfriend’s throat after he refused to drop the weapon.
Phoenix: Police shot and killed a man who was threatening his family and then pointed a gun toward police.
Phoenix: A man shot his ex-wife’s current boyfriend and then killed himself, weeks before a scheduled hearing would have addressed violations of the order of protection his ex-wife had against him.
Mesa: Police shot a man who assaulted his girlfriend and then pointed a gun at them and refused to drop it.
Mesa: A man tracked down his ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend and shot him. He fled the scene and shot himself before police caught up with him.
Golden Valley: A woman, 64, was shot by her daughter’s ex-boyfriend, 51, because he blamed her for the end of the relationship. He then turned the gun on himself.
Surprise: A man, 55, died of a gunshot wound occurring during an argument with his wife; it is unclear whether it was self-inflicted.
Pima: During an argument about their recent breakup, a man shot his ex-girlfriend in the arm, then pulled the trigger while pointing the gun at her head. It didn’t go off and she escaped. He was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound a few hours later.
Tuscon: A 58 year old woman called police and told them her boyfriend had shot her; as police approached the house, they heard another shot and found the man dead. The woman survived.
Phoenix: Utility workers discovered a couple laying outside their car at an intersection west of the TucsonMountains. A man had shot his wife and then himself, but she was taken to a hospital and survived.
Queen Creek: When police responded to a domestic violence call, the 55 year old perpetrator fired a shot at the police; they returned fire and killed him.
How many of all these killings were premeditated? How many of these violent homicides could be charged as first degree murders? How many could be death penalty cases in Arizona (Hint: many if not most)?
Premeditated or Sudden Heat of Passion?
A woman stabbing and killing her current or past male intimate partner is not an unheard of phenomenon. It happens every year in other states and in Arizona. The killing of an intimate partner is a big chunk of the homicide tally each and every year. There are around 1,100 of these each year in the U.S. and over 100 every year in Arizona. The death penalty has done nothing to deter these domestic homicides, the rate of domestic violence homicides is much higher than in many other states.
A woman stabbing her ex to death is not an unusual occurrence in domestic homicides, but a woman coldly planning out and boldly executing a horrific killing with little motive or violent background is extremely rare. A woman killing a man in a domestic violence incident is much more often due to self-defense than to retaliation by the female. Given the behaviors and the history of Travis Alexander and Jodi Arias, and knowing some of the things that occurred now and then in their relationship, it is not unreasonable to believe it’s possible that Travis’ death was the result of yet another domestic violence heat of passion homicide.
Digging for Gold in the Desert Doesn’t Work
Shortly after Jodi left Mesa, and shortly before Travis was killed, he wrote a series of blogs on his Myspace page. None of them mentioned Jodi Arias in any way except for possibly his reference to a “Gold digger”. There is no evidence whatever that Jodi Arias was at that time or had ever been a “Gold digger”. Because of both of their backgrounds and both of their proclivities, this was an incendiary relationship that was leading to just one possible tragic result. Sadly, neither was able to properly put an end to this “bell jar” type of secret relationship. One person needed it to be secret and just sexual and one person wanted it to be open and romantic. This relationship was unsustainable in either form.
There are two things Travis could have done to prevent this tragic occurrence from ever happening.
1) Be honest with your intimate partner. Tell them what your true feelings are about the relationship and let them know where the relationship is heading. If you want to end the relationship, be respectful and open about this with your intimate partner. If you are seeing other women, you need to let her know about this.
2) Like Detective Flores said, if all the sinners stopped going to church, there would be nobody left. Even so, you should try to follow the tenens of a religion when you are in a leadership position. If you’re a Mormon, you should confess to your bishop when you commit a serious and prolonged violation of your sacred vows.
Had he followed either of these admonitions, Travis Alexander would be alive today, writing blogs and books and reaching for the stars. Let’s all celebrate October as Domestic Violence Month. Let’s all look for the warning signs and try to prevent domestic violence any way we can. Let’s try and steer clear of unhealthy relationships.