I got up Monday morning like any other day and like no other day. I felt the same apprehension I felt the day I headed to downtown Phoenix that first day I attended the Jodi Arias trial in early January 2013. Nervous, not knowing what I was going to face, but confident I needed to go.
I gathered my things together including a stack of letters I’d prepared to give all of Travis Alexander’s siblings, his Aunt and some friends. Just as every day I attended of the first trial, I was not going to walk in there empty handed. I thought long and hard about how I wanted to bring this to closure. The first day I sat with the family, after being invited by their victim advocate, I carried a letter offering my support specifically around victim impact statements. It was one tangible thing I knew I could help them with having written and delivered my own and having some basic skills in the writing department.
Mine was published here.
One of Travis’ siblings had reached out to me with questions about writing their statement so I knew, more than anything, that I needed to be there to support them being delivered. I had read an article online for the second time that I found very clear and descriptive about grief and I know some things about this moment they are facing so I decided to share it with each and every one. You can read it yourself here:
5 Lies You Were Told about Grief
I also wrote a letter sharing what was in my heart and off I went with my blue sweater, my angel pin Tanisha had given me, the blue ribbon still on display in my cabinet and my elephant ring. I also carried the natural trepidation of walking in to a situation where you don’t know what kind of mine fields you might run in to.
I had decided last year to not attend the second retrial although I’d been there almost every day for the first go round. It was for entirely personal reasons that I don’t feel the need to get in to. I still supported the family in my own way from afar and feel good about my decision and role.
Things were also catapulting in my own life which, on reflection, came as a direct result from all of the events and miracles that happened because I decided to step in that first day.
I posted ardently on the Websleuths forum each day I came home from trial. Some days that was at midnight as a typical day looked like — go to work in the morning–rush to the courthouse after eating lunch in my car–attend afternoon session–go to the hotel nearby for a wind down after court–go visit my brother in the hospital (he was hospitalized twice during those months)–run by his house to check his cat–finally get home late at night and do my “reporting”.
I know many of you out there reading me right now know me from that time. We were all on that roller coaster together. I couldn’t have done it if not for the support from the web out there holding me up. I don’t regret any of it.
After the trial was over, I got a mysterious message on Websleuths from an editor that simply said “you should pursue writing”. I asked her what I should do and she pointed me toward WordPress and some other suggestions and support so here I am. Through this endeavor, I decided to also pursue writing my memoir. I took a sabbatical and wrote 30 chapters last Fall and am still working on it. I hope to have it completed this year.
I’m working on it here on my other blog Middle Child.
I had been thinking of this for years but I finally realized I had a story to tell so that set me on course–one of healing through tragedy but you still have to tell the tragedy story. That’s also the one I’d been avoiding. I can deal with it now. I also had to live the healing.
Through the writing journey I was invited to join a private online writing group. And that’s where I met the love of my life. We are getting married in less than 3 weeks. I credit all of this newness and evolving to having the courage to walk in to that courtroom the first day and go on the journey it took me. We never know where our pivots lie.
I drove down Monday to the same parking lot I’d used for months. As I walked out, nervous, I passed Jodi Arias’ mother pulling in. Talk about timing. I doubt she recognized me but I recognized her.
As I walked in the building, Jennifer Wilmott held the door open for me. She is Jodi Arias’ attorney. It was all quite surreal.
I had not attended the several months of the last go round nor had I really arranged attending Monday–I basically just showed up. I went up the same elevator I’d ridden in with Juan Martinez one day and introduced myself. Once I landed on the 5th floor I saw many familiar faces–Travis’ friends Chris and Sky Hughes, reporter Beth Karas, 3 jurors who had served on the first trial. It was great, and poignant seeing these faces.
Shortly we were taken in to the victim ante room adjacent the courtroom. I ended up viewing the proceedings from that room along side the 3 jurors and one of Travis’ friends Pam who I’d met many times in court the first go round.
The victim room has it’s own bathroom, table in the middle and large viewing flat screen on the wall with chairs lined all around the room. Travis’ family was milling through going to the bathroom and understandably nervously walking around. This was a big day for them. I got some hugs (including from Juan Martinez) and met some new people. One of whom, Tanisha’s friend, was there with her little baby, likely around 6 mths old. She had a seat in the courtroom so we offered to watch her baby while the hearing took place.
He was such a good little baby, only crying once as the family delivered their statements and we all watched, standing, in the victim room. We were lucky in that our view was from a camera behind the Judge’s head facing to the back. This meant we had a rare view of the faces of all those speaking. I found out later this was not the view that was publicly televised. I’m glad that Pam and I just intuitively snapped some photos of the screen because they ended up being valuable later to those who didn’t see that view. It all felt very surreal, knowing this was the day this entire thing ends, for the most part. It ends primarily because Arias did NOT receive the death penalty.
On a break, the baby’s mom came in and put him in a little kangaroo type pouch on her body. He fell quickly asleep. She decided to go ahead in to the courtroom for the last leg of the hearing with him just like that–asleep in the pouch. Once Jodi Arias got up to speak her unimaginably cruel words, that little innocent baby started to cry. Imagine that. A baby getting disturbed from slumber by that evil spew. As the Mama rushed up to run back to our victim room (which we could see on our monitor and quickly dashed to open the locked door), everyone saw Jodi Arias flash her head back in annoyance that direction.
The baby quickly settled down so we encouraged his Mom to go back in and we’d take it from there with him. By that time the 3 jurors had been led to seats in the jury box (which was great) so it was just Pam and I back there then. The baby naturally crawled to me so I was playing with him a lot using my flouncy skirt as a little tent for him. Later someone pointed out the sticky sweet rice cracker dangling from one of the ruffles of my skirt.
I picked up the baby at one point and as the Judge delivered that Life WITHOUT parole sentence to this monster, I stood there inches from that screen holding that precious innocent spark of life in my arms. I had written on Facebook that morning as I left “doors opening, doors closing”. I could almost hear that steel door slam shut behind Arias as I held close to my breast this beautiful symbol of “life goes on”.
I became consumed with this entire body feeling of the Circle of Life as I also contemplated in that moment that I’m on the verge of becoming a stepmommy to a 3 year old. My life is most definitely going on and emerging in to new birth in so many directions. I’d been kind of stuck in a standstill for many years, alone, when I showed up that first day at the trial.
Now, my life has become a trampoline of love and growth and healing. I credit this all to that one decision–to take the risk and show up that one day.
After it was over we all gathered in the victim room. There were hugs and tears as you can imagine. Of course I handed the baby back to his Mama and had to show her the stuck rice cracker dangling like a Christmas ornament on the tree limb of my skirt layer and we laughed. I thanked her for the beautiful opportunity to hold her baby in that moment.
The family chose to not deal with the media gathered in the front of the courthouse so were escorted out a back door. I walked out with the 3 jurors, right out the front. The media was swarmed around Jennifer Wilmott giving her ridiculous interview still claiming her lying sociopathic client was some kind of abuse victim. Blah blah blah.
I turned to walk to my car and saw a familiar person standing all alone. I walked to her and put my arms around her and she was shaking all over. It was Detective Flores wife Corinna who I’ve had lots of contact with over all of this. In fact we were setting up a lunch date just days before. She’d lost her son very recently in a terrible accident so I was surprised she even had the strength to show up for this. She is very tiny and was consumed with emotion so I suggested we go sit down on a bench and talk. I was glad to have run in to her in that moment and connect.
Her mother and sister showed up carrying bouquets of blue and purple balloons (purple for her son Tony, blue of course for Travis). Her mother handed me a blue balloon which was so sweet.
Corinna and I sat for quite a while and talked and just sat in silence. She moved over so close to me at one point it felt like she was going to sit in my lap, it was that kind of need for closeness. I felt like I wanted to pull her on to my lap and hold her. Once she was surrounded by more of her family, I walked with my balloon to say goodbye to some folks I saw in the distance–Chris and Sky, Beth Karas, etc. Kathy Brown, aka “Cane Lady” asked for a picture with me and the man Paul Sanders known as “The 13th Juror” who did a lot of great writing at the trial this time. It was great to meet him.
I finished up there and decided it was time to go. As I turned the corner of the courthouse on to an empty street, alone with my blue balloon, the words sprung in my head “you walked in here alone and you’re walking out alone”. I felt such an overwhelming feeling of completion and confidence in this journey. It’s hard to describe feelings but this was like walking on air and firmly on the ground at the same time. A smile washed over my healing face. I did well I thought. I’m proud of myself.
I reached my car and texted Katie Wick who I’d met that very first day I attended the trial. It was her first day too. We became fast friends. She’s now attending law school right near the courthouse so on a whim thought she could meet for lunch as I had the time. She didn’t answer so I texted her, sat awhile and called my fiance who so sweetly had left me a message early saying “call me if you need to talk when this is over”. One of the benefits of being with a Psychologist. He’s so supportive.
As we were chatting Katie texted back saying that she had a break between classes in 15 min. I turned the car around, parked and went to one of our usual lunch spots, ordered two salads, got a small can of Sofia champagne and rose lemonade to make a, I must say, delicious little mimosa. By the time she got there after her class I had the lunch all ready for us.
It was SO GREAT to see her. We had really bonded through some tough times and it just didn’t feel right leaving that last day without connecting with her. It just worked out perfectly.
Over our chopped salads we reflected on this journey–how we met, how she ended up nightly on the Dr. Drew Show (once with me), how we really immersed ourselves in the trial to the detriment of our lives, how we were affected by it all, how our friendship thrived and mostly how our lives have greatly changed for the better. She in Law School, me getting married. Both of us meeting huge dreams we had given up on before that trial.
It was a remarkable conversation and I’m so glad she could meet me.
I’d written a letter to all the Alexanders in my little packet I gave them with the grieving article. In it I included some of the causes I’d been championing behind the scenes–the main one being the issue of murder victims being able to be trashed and murdered again in the courtroom by their killer’s lies and stories made up for their defense. I feel very strongly about this issue and how us taxpayers ARE FUNDING THIS. This trashing of the victim was NOT allowed when we went to trial in 1990–I remember the defense dipping their toe in direction and objections sustained. The entire Arias defense was architectured around trashing Travis–all unfounded lies from the mind of a vicious butcher who killed him defenseless in his own shower, nude. This needs to end. This just simply needs to stop! It’s beyond the beyond.
Lo and behold Katie shares with me she wrote Tanisha the night before also sharing how this trial –and their brother–influenced her for the good and get this. She is doing her Law School thesis on that very topic–victim trashing in the courtroom with Travis’s case being her case study. Imagine that. She hopes to influence change through this and feels so strongly about it, she’s devoting her final paper to it.
Katie and I had not talked about championing this issue much less writing the family about it. I love that kind of serendipity and connection.
I devote my life to following these breadcrumbs so when I see their fruition like that, it just warms my heart and convinces me I’m on the right path. There is no better feeling than that, let me tell you.
I’m glad it’s over. I also know a new chapter of grief opens up for Travis’ loved ones. I was terrified when our trials finally ended. I had devoted my entire life to that fight for 2 years (much less than them) and all I had left was a gaping hole in front of me. It’s not an easy transition. When people say to them “aren’t you so relieved it’s over?” expecting pure happiness, it’s a challenge. Many will crash now. This awareness is very important for me to educate on. There will be days they will wish it was still going on to focus on. Staring at an abyss is not an easy halt.
I’ve let them know I’m here and understand. All of our lives are going on now.
I will always think of Travis Alexander as a major influence in my life–his life will mean more than his death. Yet this trial pulled me deep in myself to find my way back to clear air again. That kind of healing opportunity is one you don’t get every day and I will be forever grateful.
Rest in Peace dear Travis. Hopefully you know my sister somewhere out there and you guys are having a ball. I know I am going forward living the life you both would be proud of.
On a final afterthought, I woke up Monday morning to an email from the jewelry designer in the UK telling me our wedding rings were ready for sending off and when I got home that afternoon, my custom made wedding dress was waiting for me on my doorstep.
Doors closing/doors opening, indeed.