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Woman charged in Arizona killing of lover set to resume testimony in death penalty trial

PHOENIX – A woman charged with killing her lover in his Arizona home after a lust-filled day of sex and raunchy photographs is set to resume her testimony Monday as defence attorneys work to portray the victim as a liar and philanderer in hopes of gaining sympathy from jurors.

Jodi Arias, 32, testified for three days last week, recounting her troubled childhood marred by abuse at the hands of her parents, a string of bad relationships and struggles to pay bills as she moved from job to job.

In a provocative day of testimony Wednesday before the trial ended for the week, Arias described in graphic detail how Travis Alexander made repeated sexual advances all while converting her into the Mormon faith during their heated initial courtship.

She faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder in a case that has captured tabloid headlines with tales of sex, violence and betrayal. Trial was set to resume Monday morning.

In questioning by defence attorneys, Arias has portrayed Alexander as a domineering womanizer. She says the killing was self-defence, and that Alexander belittled her, called her derogatory names and used her for sex throughout their stormy five-month relationship, and even after as the pair continued to see each other for trysts.

Prosecutors say Arias was a jealous ex-girlfriend who snapped and killed the motivational speaker and successful businessman.

Arias’ testimony has been an unusual mix of Mormon theology and X-rated descriptions of their relationship, including naked pictures of Alexander displayed for the jury.

Alexander, a Mormon, persuaded Arias to become a member of the church and performed her baptism in late 2006, she said. He simultaneously pressured her for sex, something Arias felt contradicted the church’s teachings that forbid such acts before marriage.

On the same day that he baptized her, Arias said the two went into a bedroom, and engaged in sexual intercourse she called painful. Alexander told her the sex was OK under Mormon teachings because their encounter did not involve vaginal intercourse.

She said he once called her a “skank,” and that she felt like a prostitute at times because of Alexander’s emotional detachment, but she stayed with him because she liked him even after some of his own friends urged her to break it off.

She said she first met Alexander at a Las Vegas convention in late 2006 after years of bad relationships. The two almost immediately began a steamy relationship which they carried on long distance between her home in California and his in Mesa, Ariz.

She claims they dated for about five months, then broke up but continued to see each other for sex, and that she came to Alexander’s home on June 4, 2008, the day of the killing, at his urging. Alexander’s friends said she stalked him after the breakup and became possessive and jealous.

Arias first denied any involvement in his death, then later blamed it on masked intruders before eventually settling on self-defence, claiming he attacked her in a fit of rage, forcing her to fight for her life.

Alexander was stabbed and slashed 27 times, had his throat slit and was shot in the forehead. His body was found by friends about five days later.

Authorities said they found Arias’ hair and bloody palm print at the scene, along with time-stamped photographs on a memory card in a camera discovered inside Alexander’s washing machine that place Arias there on the day he died. The photos included one of Arias nude on his bed, one of Alexander lying on the bed, and one of his body crumpled on floor of his shower.

The trial began in early January. Defence attorneys have yet to explain why Arias apparently attempted to clean the scene, washing Alexander’s bedding and the camera, and what happened to the weapons.

Authorities say Alexander was shot in the head with a .25 calibre gun, the same calibre Arias’ grandparents reported stolen from their Northern California home about a week before the killing.