Published last week, Exposed chronicles the life, crimes and conviction of infamous murderess Jodi Arias and marks Velez-Mitchell’s fourth non-fiction book. In addition to hosting a nightly HLN television program that carries her name, she is an award-winning journalist, bestselling author, and expert media commentator. Ms. Velez-Mitchell’s accolades include three Genesis Awards as well as a Los Angeles Emmy Award and a New York Emmy Award.
The book, which bears a dedication to Travis Alexander (and his siblings) as well as an introduction written by fellow HLN talk show host/former attorney Nancy Grace, comes less than four short months after a jury convicted Arias in the death of Alexander. While skeptics might view the quick turnaround time as a calculated attempt to capitalize on the hype surrounding the case (its death penalty phase remains unresolved), Velez-Mitchell’s account, though occasionally lacking in polish, benefits from her intimate knowledge of the crime and its players, given that she reported live on location throughout the trial and that the HLN network covered the court proceedings from gavel-to-gavel.
While Exposed rehashes the familiar elements of the story—the stunning brutality of the crime (Travis Alexander was stabbed 29 times, had his throat slit, and was shot in the head and then left in the bathroom of his Mesa, Arizona home in June of 2008), the “toxic” and over-sexed nature of Arias’ intimate relationship with Alexander, and the defendant’s seemingly endless diatribe of lies and manipulations – it also aspires to move beyond superficial reporting by exploring the lesser known aspects of the subject’s history. And, largely, it succeeds; Velez-Mitchell does a commendable job of assessing Arias’ troubled relationship with her parents, her prior romantic entanglements, the stressors that plagued her (financial instability, lack of marriage/family prospects, etc.), and the personality quirks that would only intensify during her on-again, off-again relationship with Alexander.
Velez-Mitchell also does an outstanding job of humanizing Travis Alexander, who became the target of Arias’ vitriol (she accused him of domestic violence and branded him as having a prurient interest in underage boys) when he could not defend himself. Despite an unhealthy upbringing at the hands of abusive parents, Alexander, who was just thirty at the time of his death, devoted himself to the Mormon faith and found fulfillment in motivating others to live up to their potential. And while there is no doubt that his sexual trysts with Mormon-convert Arias, who the author categorizes as Alexander’s drug, led him astray, Velez-Mitchell ushers readers through the muck and firmly puts the emphasis back on his prior accomplishments as well as the great potential that was snuffed out in a frenzy of violence.
Ultimately, Velez-Mitchell offers two particularly thought-provoking, if previously proffered, theories: that Jodi Arias had an untreated borderline personality disorder (a posit that Dr. Drew Pinsky supports in the book’s Epilogue) that manifested itself in socially inappropriate behavior and that Arias may have used the now infamous phone sex tape between her and Alexander as blackmail, inciting a bitter-yet-mysterious exchange between the two just days prior to his murder. Taken in totality, it’s certainly a reasonable, if not even likely, hypothesis, and it helps put into perspective an otherwise senseless tragedy.
In the closing pages of her book, Velez-Mitchell offers this reflection on the sensationalistic nature of the Jodi Arias/Travis Alexander case: “It may be awful, but—still-we like to watch.” That’s as honest an assessment of both the media at large and society as we’re likely to get, and yet she still endeavors throughout Exposed to reveal the humanity behind the horror. For that reason alone, it’s a book worth reading…