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Picture Perfect: The Jodi Arias Story: A Beautiful Photographer, Her Mormon Lover, and a Brutal Murder

Picture Perfect: The Jodi Arias Story: A Beautiful Photographer, Her Mormon Lover, and a Brutal Murder

4.1 36
by Shanna Hogan

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Travis Alexander was a handsome, hard-working, practicing Mormon who lived in Mesa, Arizona. His good looks and easygoing manner made him popular with everyone, especially the ladies. So when he was found with a bullet wound in the face and his throat slashed, the brutal murder sent shock waves throughout his community. Who could



Travis Alexander was a handsome, hard-working, practicing Mormon who lived in Mesa, Arizona. His good looks and easygoing manner made him popular with everyone, especially the ladies. So when he was found with a bullet wound in the face and his throat slashed, the brutal murder sent shock waves throughout his community. Who could have done something so sinister?


But soon a suspect was singled out—Jodi Arias. A beautiful, aspiring photographer, Jodi had been in a long-distance relationship with Travis the year before. But Travis wasn't interested in a serious commitment; he was seeing several women during that time. When he broke up with her, that didn't stop Jodi from leaving California, moving to just a few miles away from Travis's home, and inserting herself into his daily life. Investigators found one piece of startling evidence in Travis's home that implicated Jodi. But in a bizarre turn of events, Jodi would claim self-defense. Was she a victim—or a devious femme fatale?

With 8 pages of chilling photos

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Picture Perfect is almost perfect. . . . It isn't often that a true crime book reads like a Patricia Highsmith novel, with shades of Ruth Rendell passing across the pages as the story of lives converge toward what the reader knows is a horrifying conclusion. . . . Hogan has established herself as a skilled writer of suspense, whose future books are likely to just keep getting better.” —Janice Harper, Huffington Post

“A riveting read that paints a vivid picture of this unfortunate couple who illustrate so clearly what happens when an obsessive relationship goes horribly awry.” —Bookreporter.com

“With its detailed research, front row narrative, and no-fluff presentation, Shanna Hogan turned a book into an addiction. . . . Picture Perfect is one of the best true crime books of 2013. Don't be the only one who hasn't read it!” —True Crime Zone

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St. Martin's Press
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Read an Excerpt

Picture Perfect

The Jodi Arias Story

By Shanna Hogan

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2013 Shanna Hogan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-04945-2


June 9, 2008

Slivers of light pierced the white wood blinds, illuminating a single window on the second floor. It was the only trace of light in the house — the rest lay shrouded by the night sky.

From where he was parked on the street, Dallin Forrest studied the property. It was an expansive, beige stucco house with a brown tile roof. A stream of river rocks snaked across the gravel, dividing a lawn of sparse trees and desert plants.

Dallin glanced at the clock on his car radio. The numbers glowed 10:05 P.M. In the passenger seat, his girlfriend, Michelle Lowery, stared at her lap and toyed with her cell phone. Her long, dark hair hung loose around her face, masking a fearful expression.

At the end of the street a set of headlights came into view. A car pulled alongside Dallin's and parked on the opposite side of the road. A petite brunette emerged from the vehicle — Michelle's friend Mimi Hall. Dried tear tracks stained her cheeks, and her normally olive complexion had gone starkly white.

Dallin and Michelle stepped out of their car into the warm summer night. Mimi met them at the driveway, smiling weakly.

Without uttering a word, Dallin walked to the porch and rang the doorbell. Inside he heard the muted sounds of a dog barking. He hunched his lanky frame and peered through the decorative glass cutouts in the front door. In the dark, he saw the silhouette of the dog yapping in the foyer, pawing excitedly at the door.

A moment passed, but no one answered.

Michelle broke the silence. "The light's on. Someone must be in the house."

Clutching her cell phone, she made a call. "We're here," she said to the voice on the other end. "No one is answering."

Dallin rang the doorbell again, five times in quick succession. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.

Approaching the garage, Michelle repeated four numbers — 0187 — into her phone as she typed the digits into the keyless entry pad. With a rumble, the door began to rise.

Parked inside the garage was a 2004 black Toyota Prius. There was no license plate, but a temporary registration card was affixed to the back window. Dallin immediately recognized the vehicle as belonging to the homeowner — Travis Alexander.

Dallin had only met Travis a few times and knew little about the thirty-year-old motivational speaker and entrepreneur. His girlfriend was close friends with Travis, whom she had met through the local Mormon church.

Just a half hour earlier, Michelle had been at the house that twenty-year-old Dallin shared with his parents. They had gone to a nearby Walmart to run errands and had barely pulled back into his driveway when her cell phone rang. It was Mimi.

"Hey, have you heard from Travis recently?" she asked, her voice hollow.

"No, I guess I haven't heard from him for at least a week," Michelle said. "Why?"

"We are going to Cancún tomorrow and I haven't heard from him." Mimi swallowed involuntarily. "We're supposed to leave in the morning."

Michelle knew about the trip. Travis and Mimi had been dating and a few weeks prior, he'd invited her to join him on a business trip to Cancún. As the date grew closer, however, Mimi had had second thoughts. She'd called him and confessed she no longer wanted to pursue a romantic relationship.

"I would totally understand if you wanted to take someone else to Mexico," she'd added.

But it was too late to change the vacation plans. Because the tickets had already been purchased and arrangements had been made, they had agreed to go as friends. Their flight was scheduled for 9:25 the following morning, yet Mimi hadn't heard from Travis for more than a week.

"I just went by his place, but no one answered the door," Mimi told Michelle. "I've tried calling him and his voice mail is full. I've called his house and cell phone. I'm really worried. Have you heard anything at all?"

"No," Michelle said. "I don't have any idea. Let me call Taylor and I'll call you back in a bit."

Taylor Searle was Travis's close friend and business partner. If anyone had heard from Travis, it would be Taylor, Michelle reasoned.

"Other people have been asking me if I've heard from Travis too," Taylor told Michelle on the phone. "I thought he was out of town."

Michelle explained that she had just spoken to Mimi and that their flight was departing in the morning.

"I'm concerned," Michelle said. "Do you think we should go over there?"

Michelle covered the receiver with her palm and whispered to Dallin. "Do you mind if we drive over there and see what's going on?"

Moments later, they were headed toward Travis's house on the outskirts of Mesa's suburbs. Michelle phoned Mimi, and she agreed to meet them outside the residence. On the drive, Michelle told her boyfriend how Travis had seemed upset over his recent breakup.

"But he seemed like he was getting better," she said. "He was getting over it." Travis was organized and responsible. There's no way he wouldn't respond to numerous e-mails, text messages, and phone calls. "This isn't like Travis." She shook her head.

Turning onto East Queensborough Avenue, Dallin eased down on the brake, canvassing the block in the dim light of the street lamps. He parked along the curb painted with the house number, 11428.

Travis's two-story, five-bedroom house blended into the neighborhood. Ubiquitous stucco homes lined the blocks for miles in all directions. During the recent housing boom, new homes had cropped up rapidly across the desert, expanding the population to nearly 500,000. Despite being the third-largest city in Arizona, behind Phoenix and Tucson, Mesa was still a quiet community. Quaint boutiques, family-owned restaurants, and elaborate Mormon churches peppered the city.

Mesa was a hub for the Latter-day Saints residing in the Phoenix metro area. Travis himself had moved to the city in part to build a life in a strong Mormon community.

Through the church, Travis had cultivated a large network of loyal friends. Now, three of those friends were at his house trying to determine his whereabouts.

With growing apprehension, Dallin, Michelle, and Mimi entered the garage. Taylor Searle had given Michelle the code to the garage door.

"All right ... well, his car's here," Michelle informed Taylor over the phone. "Could someone have taken him to the airport? Maybe something happened, and he had to go out of town all of a sudden?"

Dallin approached a door leading into the house, tried the handle, and found it unlocked. Groping the inside wall, he flicked on the light. The door opened into a narrow space with a washer and dryer. He stepped into the laundry room, which led to the main area of the house. To the left were the formal living and family rooms. On the right, a wide hallway opened up into the kitchen, TV room, and the stairway.

The walls were painted taupe, the floors a mottled brown tile. Dallin didn't know the layout but quickly became familiar.

As he stepped into the house, Dallin noticed a foul odor hanging in the air.

"What is that smell?" he muttered to himself.

Once inside, a black pug scurried toward them, wagging its tail. Michelle bent down and ran her fingers through its pelt. In the kitchen she noticed the dog's bowl, full of food.

"Well, someone's taking care of his dog," she said.

In the living room, on top of the couch, two tall bar stools rested on their sides. Dallin noticed a tile-cleaner machine sitting upright in the middle of the floor, as if someone was preparing to clean.

Dallin, followed closely by Michelle and Mimi, checked each downstairs room, flicking on lights. Left of the TV room was a short hallway leading to a bathroom with a shower and tub. Across from the bathroom, on the opposite side of the hallway, was a den.

Mimi stepped in the bathroom and pulled back the shower curtain. It was empty. Turning back toward the hallway, she noticed the door to the home office was closed.

"Let's check his office," Mimi said. "That's where he spends most of his time."

A large mahogany desk took up most of the width of Travis's office. Atop the desk sat a silver Dell laptop, leather wallet, set of keys, and cell phone. Dallin picked up the phone and saw it was turned off. Inside the wallet, he discovered cash, credit cards, and the picture ID of an attractive man with cropped brown hair and vivid green eyes — Travis Alexander.

Dallin shuddered.

Where would he go, leaving his car, cell phone, and wallet? Dallin wondered. Where is he?

Dallin left the den and headed back toward the stairwell; Michelle and Mimi trailed behind. Digging his nails into the wooden banister, he began to climb the steps, leading the way.

At the top of the stairs to his left were tall, white double doors, firmly shut. To his right was a spacious open loft, furnished with a leather sofa and three oversize beanbag chairs. A movie projector sat in the corner of the room next to a small table displaying a chess set.

As Dallin stepped onto the second-floor landing, he heard the faint sounds of music coming from the direction of the loft. The sounds became louder as he approached the hallway, blocked off by a dog gate. Dallin stepped over the gate, while the girls stayed behind in the hallway. Dallin pounded on the bedroom door where the sounds were coming from.

"Hold on," someone inside the room hollered. "Just a sec."

Half a minute passed and a tall young man with tousled dark-blond hair appeared at the entrance. Dallin didn't recognize him but would later learn it was Zachary Billings, one of Travis's roommates.

Immediately, Dallin spoke.

"Have you seen Travis?" he asked urgently.

"He's in Mexico," Zachary said.

Mimi piped up behind them in the hallway. "He's not in Cancún. I was going with him. We're supposed to leave in the morning."

"Have you checked his room?" Zachary asked.

"No. I heard the music so ..." Dallin let the thought trail off.

Zachary stepped over the gate and headed across the loft to the double doors on the other side of the staircase.

"Travis?" Zachary shouted as he pounded on the door. No response. He shook the handle, but it was locked.

"Wait here a second," Zachary said. He left the three friends standing by the double doors.

As they waited, Michelle updated Taylor over the phone.

"His roommate is here," she said. "He's getting a key."

A moment later Zachary reappeared with a key he'd retrieved from a rack downstairs. He inserted it into the door, which unlocked with a rickety click.

As the doors swung open, Dallin grimaced. Inside the bedroom, the putrid stench permeating the air was more pungent.

From the doorway Dallin could see Travis's king-size bed — the sheets had been removed and a duvet was piled in a ball in the middle of the bed. Next to the bed were two pillows, minus pillow cases, tossed on the floor.

Zachary slipped inside the room. Dallin followed.

A long, tiled hallway led into the master bathroom. A light gleamed from the direction of the bathroom — the same light Dallin had noticed from the street. Paralleling the hallway was a walk-in closet, which had a second entrance to the bathroom on the opposite end.

As Dallin moved deeper into the room, a rust-brown mass on the floor caught his eye. A chunky, dark-red pool had congealed on the carpet.

"Oh my God," Zachary muttered.

Dallin's heart began to race; his breath hastened. The two men exchanged a terrified look.

What is that? Is that blood? Dallin thought. This is bad. Nobody does that to the carpet and leaves.

Dallin stepped outside the double doors. "Don't come in," he told the girls. "Stay out here."

By the time he turned back, Zachary had disappeared into the closet and toward the other entrance to the bathroom.

Dallin paused, unsure whether he wanted to continue. If there is blood here, what more is there?

He followed the crimson stains on the carpet toward the edge of the long bathroom hallway, where the muddy red puddles trailed over the tile like a path of footprints.

"Oh my God," Zachary gasped. He rushed out of the room, past Dallin.

Dallin turned the corner and entered the bathroom. It took a moment to grasp the nightmarish sight.

"No," he whispered.

The glass shower door was open, exposing a corpse in a crumpled heap on the shower floor. Bloody punctures branded Travis's body, a deep gash severed his throat. He was naked, his skin a ghastly mosaic of blue and purple. Travis's once handsome face was unrecognizable.

"I saw him curled up in the shower on the ground and I turned, I turned right back around," Dallin later recalled.

Backpedaling out of the master bedroom, he closed the doors, instinctively barricading himself from the horror.

"He's not alive," he said, his voice trembling. "Call 911."

* * *

Red and blue rotating lights reflected off the dazed faces of the witnesses standing by the curb. The house on East Queensborough Avenue was surrounded by ambulances and police cruisers. Yellow police tape cordoned off the perimeter of the property. A uniformed officer stood guard by the front door.

At 11 P.M. Mesa Homicide Detective Esteban Flores arrived on the scene. By then, Travis's friends and roommates were already being questioned by officers.

Flores, a seasoned investigator with more than fourteen years on the force, was assigned as lead detective on the case. In his forties, with a husky build, thick black hair, and a dark complexion, Flores came across as stoic, with a staunch demeanor.

He approached one of the first responding officers on the scene and was briefed on the situation: the homeowner had been found in the master bathroom, deceased. He had been there at least a day or two and had wounds on his neck and chest.

"Who found him?" Flores asked.

Consulting his notes, the officer identified two of the people standing by the curb — Dallin Forrest and Zachary Billings.

"No one had heard from the guy for about a week," the officer told Flores. He reiterated what the witnesses had told him about Travis's planned trip to Mexico and how they had gained entry into the house.

Later, Flores would take official witness statements, as well as request DNA and fingerprint samples. First, however, he needed a closer and more careful look at the victim.

From what the witnesses had reported, the deceased had suffered a laceration wound to the neck. Flores had heard of cases where individuals had committed suicide in such a manner, although it was uncommon. Before launching an investigation he needed to assess the situation and determine if a crime had been committed.

Donning protective footwear and gloves, Flores entered the house through the front door, along with two fellow detectives and a commander. As Flores stepped inside, he winced. The odor was repulsive — rank and sweet, the smell of decay.

The detectives inspected the downstairs, making note of the stand-up floor cleaner in the living room, and the chairs on the couch. Discovering nothing else out of the ordinary, the detectives approached the stairwell.

Slowly, they climbed the steps and entered the loft. As Flores glanced around, he jotted down notes about the layout of the upstairs. Near an oversize beanbag chair he noticed an open black camera bag. The camera was missing, he wrote in his notepad.

Flores focused his attention back toward the master bedroom. Flanking the king-size bed in the center of the room sat two nightstands. In the corner of the bedroom, adjacent to a chair with an ottoman, a treadmill was hidden behind a wooden room divider.

As Flores entered the room he immediately noticed the reddish brown stains on the carpet. Instantly he knew it was dried blood. Instead of traipsing over it, the detectives walked through the narrow walk-in closet, which was neatly organized with color-coordinated men's clothing, shoes, ties, and belts. Flores stepped into the bathroom through the door on the opposite end of the closet.

He paused for a moment to take note of the carnage. Dried blood covered the walls, mirror, and sink and had pooled in thick puddles on the floor. The body coiled in the shower was well into the stages of decomposition. The corpse was grotesquely bloated, the skin marbled with discoloration.

Approaching the body, Flores noted the deep laceration across Travis's neck — his throat had been slit open in a gruesome gaping grin. Dried blood caked his nose and mouth. A thick dark fluid oozed from a puncture wound in the center of his chest.

"This guy didn't go quietly," Flores said softly.

The crime scene told the story of a victim who fought back. Such a profuse amount of blood spatter was an obvious sign of a violent assault.

"The large amount of blood throughout the bathroom and bedroom areas indicated to me there was either a struggle or the victim was attempting to flee his attacker," Flores later recalled. "He had numerous injuries and trauma to his body, which indicated he had attempted to defend himself."

Travis Alexander had suffered an agonizing, cruel death. Right away Flores knew he was searching for a cold-blooded killer, someone who likely knew the victim and wanted him to suffer.


Excerpted from Picture Perfect by Shanna Hogan. Copyright © 2013 Shanna Hogan. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Shanna Hogan is an acclaimed Arizona journalist and crime writer. An Arizona State University journalism graduate, Shanna has written for numerous publications and is currently the features editor for the Times Publications group, a family of monthly magazines based in Scottsdale, AZ. Her work has garnered numerous writing awards for feature writing, crime reporting, and investigative journalism. In 2010, she was named Journalist of the Year by the Arizona Press Club. She lives in Phoenix with her husband, Matt LaRussa, and their two dogs.

SHANNA HOGAN is a journalist and New York Times bestselling author of two previous true-crime books. She has written for numerous publications for nearly a decade and has received more than twenty awards for her feature writing and investigative reporting. Shanna was named Journalist of the Year by the Arizona Press Club in 2010 and again in 2011 by the Arizona Newspaper Association. She has appeared on The View, Dateline, 20/20, CNN, HLN, Fox News, Oprah Winfrey’s Oxygen, and Investigation Discovery. Shanna lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband, Matt LaRussa, and their three dogs.

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Picture Perfect: The Jodi Arias Story: A Beautiful Photographer, Her Mormon Lover, and a Brutal Murder 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a truly fascinating, chilling read. The story of Travis Alexander and Jodi Arias has intrigued me from the beginning but I didn't know all the details till reading this book. The jury without a doubt made the right call and although I wish she was sitting on death row right now, I find comfort knowing she is locked up for life and can never hurt anyone else with her rage, lies, and manipulation. Travis was not a perfect man, as none of us are, but he was a good person who deserved to live a complete life, as we all do. I pray his family and friends can find peace in knowing his killer is put away for good, and he is in Heaven smiling down on them... I've also read Shanna Hogan's other book, Dancing With Death, and I have to say, she is emerging as a talented true crime author. If you enjoyed this book, definitely check it out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book in store three days before the official release date (after reading JVM's book) and read it in two days. In my opinion, this book is much better written than JVM's book, and has more facts and less opinion. I followed the trial very closely and this book still contained information that was new to me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I followed this trial and there was a lot of background information that was new to me. Very easy to read. The author stuck to the facts but I did enoy the last chapter where the author finally allows for some of her opinions on the events leading up to the murder. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about this case.
LooShrloo More than 1 year ago
No fluff, no speculation, no sensationalization - just honest reporting of the facts.  Shanna's writing style is honest and easy to read.  Although I watched every minute of the trial by live feed, I still found myself eagerly turning pages.  For the reader who knows little about the trail, this will be a real page-turner.  I HIGHLY recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love love love this Book!  This was not written like Janes book,or others. This was written very objectively ,to the point. Very detailed information! Wonderful author!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This has everything you need to know about the case, even though it has obvious errors of language like the "corroded" artery (as opposed to the rust-free ones), and "stifling" instead of "stippling,"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great breakdown of the whole story I followed the case religiously but there were a few things included in the book that I was not aware of! Very good read!
DivaM More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. I watched the trial from start to finish and was surprised that I could learn so much more about the lives of Travis and Jodi and their troubled and tragic relationship. Great read! I definitely recommend this book.  After the retrial, I hope Shanna Hogan writes the sequel before Jane Velez-Mitchell can steal her thunder... again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting facts, awkward organization. I'm glad I read it but also glad I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is THE book on Jodi Arias to read! Believe me, I researched and researched and was pleased with it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While the book may be an interesting read for those who did not follow the trial, those who did will find it dull. There were no revelations or insights. The book was definitely written by a reporter in the same style as a newspaper column:( Who/What/Where/When ) and just as colorful . I didn't think anyone could make this tale so dull, but Ms. Hogan did just that. Would not recommend
CTinAZ More than 1 year ago
Shanna Hogan's writing really gets into the personalities of the main characters. You get to know Travis Alexander as a real person, not a saint, but not the perverted pedophile that his killer wants you to believe he was. Even though I watched the whole trial on TV and read other articles I felt like I got a more complete picture when I read this book. She also gives insights into Jodi Arias's motivation to slaughter Travis. I can't wait for her next book!
lionfish More than 1 year ago
Engrossing, well written account of the sleazy relationship between two unlikable people that ends with a vicious murder.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Thought this book was an exceptionally well written. I watched the trial and through reading this book found answers to what actually happened before during and after the case.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a very well written book. I couldn't put it down. Now with that being said. I don't see signs of an physically abusive relationship. I've been in bad relationships, and this is not what it looks like.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mary Scheck
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book is really good must read if you like true crime stories
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book. I loved it. It contained a lot of information that were based on facts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NancyHogan More than 1 year ago
Well written, but having watched the trial and read JVM's book (another rehash) I didn't find much new. There has to be more information or red flags that no one seems to provide, as to how this monster was created.
catfanES More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. I didn't see a lot of the trial on TV, so much of the information was new to me. It was nice to read all the background information about Travis. My one complaint was that there were too many misspellings and typos - the book should have been proofread better. But on the whole, it is a very good and thorough account of the murder and the trial, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the case.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago