IN May this year, American waitress and aspiring photographer Jodi Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of her lover Travis Alexander. The real-life story of love, betrayal and murder was so alluring that it was made into a Lifetime movie after Arias shot Alexander in the forehead in June 2008, stabbed him nearly 30 times and slit his throat from ear to ear, leaving the motivational speaker and businessman nearly decapitated. Minutes after her conviction, Arias told a TV station that she would "prefer to die sooner than later". A jury will decide next month whether she gets the death penalty.
Arias claimed Alexander had attacked her and she fought for her life. Prosecutors said she killed out of jealous rage after Alexander wanted to end their affair and planned to take a trip to Mexico with another woman.
Arias said she recalled Alexander attacking her in a fury after a day of sex. She said Alexander came at her "like a linebacker," body-slamming her to the tile floor. She managed to wriggle free and ran into his closet to retrieve a gun he kept on a shelf. She said she fired in self-defence but had no memory of stabbing him.
She acknowledged trying to clean the scene of the killing, dumping the gun in the desert and working on an alibi to avoid suspicion. She said she was too scared and ashamed to tell the truth. However, none of Arias' allegations that Alexander had physically abused her in the months before his death, that he owned a gun and had sexual desires for young boys, were corroborated by witnesses or evidence during the trial. She acknowledged lying repeatedly before and after her arrest, but insisted she was telling the truth in court.
Arias spent 18 days on the witness stand describing an abusive childhood, cheating boyfriends, dead-end jobs, a shocking sexual relationship with Alexander, and her contention that he had grown physically violent.
A defence expert later testified that Arias suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative amnesia, which explained why she couldn't recall much from the day of the killing. Another defence witness concluded that Arias was a battered woman.
From all accounts during their relationship, Alexander probably had few clues that Arias had the propensity for violence. Yet there were little clues, as remembered by Alexander's friends and even Arias' parents, little signs that she was a ticking time bomb. And it's these signs that experts warn couples to beware of, when choosing partners.
Locally, there have been shocking discoveries by women who have caught their husbands in bed with their own daughters; husbands leading double lives with male prostitutes in New Kingston; or even mates who snap and kill or maim at the slightest provocation.
"They don't present themselves as we would think," clinical psychologist Dr Pearnel Bell said. "These could be the husbands who are really very loving and caring to their wives, caring to their family, caring to their children, but it's just a secret that they are carrying," she said. "These could be good, nice, beautiful husbands who cover up what they are doing and who they really are until they are actually found out."
And she said when their secrets are revealed, people are usually shocked, because on the outside they seem like normal, nice individuals.
"A number of men have been identified as paedophiles, and these were men who were into charity work. They loved children, were good husbands, and when the children come out and talk, everybody is shocked," Dr Bell said.
The same goes for those who snap and hurt or kill their partners — many times it's the nice, quiet spouses who didn't raise any eyebrows.
So how do you know your partner may be someone to watch? Here are a few signs.
* He/she watches or looks at child porn or praises bestiality. If your partner has an interest in these, even if they find ways to justify it, this should raise red flags. There's nothing normal about looking at children or animals as sex objects.
* He/she asks you to indulge in weird experiments. Choking, cutting, burning you with hot wax, tying you to the car and driving away — these are in no way erotic, they're sadistic.
* He/she can lie without flinching. If your mate can twist a story around, giving details and making persons believe a fabrication; if he/she will do anything to protect the lie, watch out. If they morph into a totally different person depending on who they are talking to, watch out.
* He/she is a narcissist with ego issues. It's all about them, they're the best at everything — best friend, best lover, best employee at their job. They will tell you that they chose you because you're special, or try to mould you into their perfect little puppet.
* He/she wants to spend all their time with you. At first this may flatter you, but if he/she wants to go everywhere with you, and encourages you to make them the centre of your world at the expense of friends and family, beware. If you are the sole focus of their world, they won't be able to live without you.
* He/she explodes when you say they're wrong. Psychopaths will fly into a rage if you dare suggest that they are wrong, or that someone is better than they are at their game.
* He/she has no empathy. Is he the type to tie up an annoying cat in a plastic bag and dump it in a tank of water? Does she solve her problem with the neighbourhood stray dogs with poison? Does he tease children until they cry? If your partner can't be kind to animals, if they're unable to feel compassion, then they won't have a problem transferring this behaviour to humans.
* Nothing makes them feel guilty. They lie, cheat, abuse you, and blame you or society for it. They never express guilt about the role they play in any wrong, preferring to find some reason for their actions.
Background information from the Associated Press.