"I just remember dropping the knife and being very freaked out," she tells a jury

By Howard Breuer
February 20, 2013 05:00 PM
Charlie Leight/The Arizona Republic/AP

Nearly two months into her murder trial in a Phoenix courtroom, Jodi Arias told jurors Wednesday morning that she killed Travis Alexander in self-defense – but doesn’t remember stabbing him nearly 30 times.

“I just remember dropping the knife and being very freaked out and screaming,” Arias, 32, said after two weeks of explicit direct testimony about her sex life with Alexander, including their kinky sex shortly before his death. She says the knife was the same one Alexander had used that afternoon when he tied her up for sex.

Facing the death penalty if convicted, Arias says her memory of June 4, 2008, clears up when she put the knife in the dishwasher. Driving off barefoot, she brought with her the rope she said Alexander had used to tie her up and a gun that she pulled from the top of his walk-in closet before shooting him.

“I was very scared and very upset. … I just wanted to die,” Arias testified. “I thought, ‘My life is probably done now.'”

She says she decided to bury those feelings and try to act normal as she drove north into Utah to visit another man with whom she already had plans to see.

She says she tossed the gun in the desert, dropped the rope in a Dumpster near St. George, Utah, washed the blood from her hands with a case of bottled Costco water she kept in her trunk and put on a spare pair of work shoes.

The man she met, Ryan Burns, earlier testified that Arias was frisky and affectionate when she visited on June 5. Arias testified that she kissed Burns and cuddled with him the day after killing Alexander because, “I felt safe right there and, I figured, I just wanted to seem normal, like I didn’t just do what I just did.”

Arias’s testimony was the long-anticipated centerpiece of her defense. Once that’s done, prosecutors are expected to spend several days trying to pick apart her story.

Arias also talked about how she and Alexander, a charismatic Mormon motivational speaker, had an off-and-on relationship in which he sometimes become violent or sadistic.

She says she had arrived at his Mesa, Ariz. home at 5 a.m. and although they took photos and video of themselves having sex, Alexander repeatedly became enraged with her – first for giving him badly scratched CDs of photographs of their trips together, then for dropping his camera.

She says that as Alexander chased her through a walk-in closet “like a linebacker,” she grabbed a gun that she knew he kept on a top shelf. She says that she held up the gun, expecting that Alexander would stop charging at her, but he didn’t.

“The gun went off, I didn’t even mean to shoot, I didn’t know my hand was on the trigger,” Arias testified. She says that, as they wrestled on the ground, she assumed that she’d shot a hole in the wall, not that she’d hit Alexander. After that, she says, “there’s a lot of that day that I don’t remember, there’s a lot of gaps.

“I have no memory of stabbing him,” Arias told jurors, who have heard graphic testimony that Alexander was shot in the head and repeatedly stabbed, and that his throat was slashed ear to ear.

Arias testified she remembers standing in his bathroom, dropping the knife on the hard floor, and thinking, “that I just couldn’t believe what had just happened and I couldn’t rewind the clock and take it back.” She did not recall dragging him to the bathroom or placing him in the shower, she said.

Arias also testified that she still loves Alexander – “It’s a different love but yes, I do.”

Since the slaying, Arias has changed her story, first saying she had no connection to the crime, then saying two masked intruders killed Alexander and almost killed her. “I basically told everyone what I could remember of the day, and that the intruder story was all B.S.,” Arias said Wednesday afternoon at the close of her testimony.

Prosecutors suggest Arias killed Alexander out of jealousy after he pushed her out of his life and started dating someone else, and that the gun was actually a pistol that she stole from her grandparents’ home in Yreka, Calif., weeks earlier.