Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Camera Captures A Forbidden Romance, But Will It Also Expose A Killer?

According to CBS news, There are almost 1,000 women housed at the Estrella Jail in Phoenix, Ariz., but only a few have been charged with as serious a crime as 29-year-old Jodi Arias: first-degree murder for the killing of Travis Alexander.

“I’ve been sitting a lot in my cell thinking what a waste," says Jodi Arias. "You know, I did have my whole future ahead of me, a career a marriage and a family. I had everything to lose and nothing to gain if I killed Travis."

When asked if she's afraid, Jodi tells 48 Hours correspondent Maureen Maher, "I go from one end of the spectrum to being very afraid and feeling very hopeless to another end to where a deep sense of peace comes over me and realize that no matter what happens, everything is gonna work out. And it's gonna be OK.”

It’s a remarkably optimistic outlook for someone who may be sentenced to death. “I’ve cried deeply, thousands of tears since his passing," she says. "I loved him and I still love him."

By all appearances, Travis and Jodi were a perfect match.

Chris and Sky Hughes thought their good friend had struck gold when he found Jodi, even thinking, that they'd get married one day.

"One of the questions we asked him, just totally kidding around, you know [was], 'Is she really this nice?'" says Sky. "He's like, 'No, she's really this nice. I've never met anyone nicer.'"

Jodi was just as lucky to find Travis, describing him as “a really big guy… broad-shouldered, green eyes."

Only 29 when he met Jodi, Travis was a larger-than-life character with the world at his feet.

“He’s the T Dog. He refers to himself as the ‘T Dog,’ says Chris. "I mean, he was so unique and so funny and such a very rare character.”

Living just outside of Phoenix in Mesa, Ariz., Travis was single, successful and as a devout Mormon, spiritual as well.

“He's very passionate about his beliefs, very passionate about his business," Chris explains.

It was a good life for a young man; a long way from the life he had as a young boy.

Growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in Riverside, Calif., Travis was one of seven kids being raised by parents addicted to crystal meth.

“Both our parents are pretty poverty stricken and our parents divorced when we were pretty young," Travis' sister, Samantha Alexander, explains.

“At times, I've lived in a tent at a campground with my mom,” adds their brother, Steve Alexander.

The children were rescued by their grandmother Norma, who took them in and introduced them to the Mormon community. It's where Travis found the faith to become the man he always wanted to be.

"He raised himself from a terrible place and became, like, this bright star," says Chris.

Chris Hughes, a fellow Mormon, was so impressed with Travis that he offered him a job. “I liked him, brought him on board. I started to teach him, train him, mentor him."

Chris added Travis to his sales team at Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc., a company that sells legal services insurance to people who can’t afford lawyers. He says Travis was a productive member of the team. "He would do in a month what maybe 10 or 20 or 30 other people would do combined.”

“He loved Pre-Paid Legal because it was gonna allow him to fulfill his dreams, and that was to help people,” says Sky.

Using the story of his own childhood struggles as a motivational tool, Travis quickly climbed the ranks at Pre-Paid Legal, inspiring others to do the same.

“He was such a powerful motivational speaker that, you know, he could move us to tears,” Jodi says.

Travis first noticed Jodi at a PPL sales conference in Las Vegas and wasted no time introducing himself.

"She's an attractive girl, very articulate, very intelligent," says Sky of the two meeting. "And he was excited."

On the surface, it seemed they had little in common. Jodi was raised in the quiet community of Yreka in northern California. She describes her childhood as "almost ideal. I have a big family. We're all very close.”

But they found a strong connection in their drive to succeed. Jodi was just starting to build her own career as a photographer.

“We both had a desire to really do amazing things in our lives,” she explains.

In no time, Jodi began to make Travis' world her own. “He gave me a copy of the 'Book of Mormon' and challenged me to read it," she says.

She was moved by the words she read and decided to join Travis, converting to the Mormon faith. "This is the path I need to choose. This is the way I need to go and live my life,” she recalls.

Jodi says she and Travis began to date officially on Feb. 2, 2007.

"He had grown to mean very much to me…You know we grew closer and closer and it was a natural progression. It was a serious relationship.”

But this couple had a big obstacle to overcome: 400 miles of open road.

Travis lived in Mesa, Ariz., while Jodi was a five-hour drive away in Palm Desert, Calif. Luckily, they found a convenient weekend getaway in between at the home of Chris and Sky Hughes.

“Whenever he came in town, he would stay at our house," says Sky. "They would hang out. And we'd all go out to dinner and stuff.”

At first, everything was great. But as Sky began to spend more time with Jodi and Travis together, she realized that Jodi might be coming on too strong and too quick.

Sky says, "She was glued to him. If he moved [or] shifted, she shifted." Chris describes Jodi's expressions of affection in front of them as "a bit inappropriate."
“Like, sucking on his ear, kissing his neck…" adds Sky. “Travis was not as into her as she was into him, and so she would come to me with her concerns."

But the more questions Jodi had about Travis, the more questions Sky Hughes began to have about Jodi.

"Sky said, 'I'm really uncomfortable with Jodi," says Chris. "Something's not right."

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