Here’s my second repost for today, another book review I wrote for award winning true crime author, Shanna Hogan. Ms. Hogan is currently in critical condition, having suffered a devastating pool accident in her home. She’s married and has a young son, and I’m sure her family would appreciate any good vibes or prayers you can spare.
This review was originally posted on Epinions. com on January 9, 2014. I reposted it on the original Overeducated Housewife blog on July 28, 2015, and I’m reposting it again as/is in 2020.
Like the rest of America, I probably got my fill of seeing convicted murderer Jodi Arias on television in 2013. However, I didn’t follow her exhausting court case like some people did. Since I am both interested in Mormonism and true crime, I read Shanna Hogan’s 2013 book, Picture Perfect: The True Story of a Beautiful Photographer, Her Mormon Lover, and a Deadly Obsession. I came across this book after having watched a Lifetime TV movie about Jodi Arias and her murder of Travis Alexander, a former Mormon missionary and up and coming businessman in Mesa, Arizona.
The tragic story…
Travis Alexander was the last person anyone would have guessed would one day be a murder victim. He had grown up poor in California, one of eight kids his unreliable parents had brought into the world. Raised by his Mormon grandmother, Travis Alexander had embraced the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ teachings from a young age. He served a Mormon mission in Denver, Colorado, didn’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, and went to church every Sunday. He had many friends, was popular with women, and, at the time he met Jodi Ann Arias, was an up and coming performer at the multi-level marketing company, Prepaid Legal Services. He was also a popular motivational speaker. Most people who knew Travis seemed to like him. He appeared to have a bright future ahead of him. Though Travis Alexander had started his career in California, he eventually decided to move to Mesa, Arizona, to take advantage of the untapped and heavily Mormon populated market where he figured he could sell more Prepaid Legal Services.
Jodi Ann Arias had also grown up in California. Three years younger than Travis Alexander, she was very beautiful, but seemed to have trouble making friends and launching herself into a suitable career. She drifted from job to job, until one day she decided to try her hand at multi-level marketing. In September 2006, Arias attended a conference in Las Vegas, Nevada offered by Prepaid Legal Services. That’s when she first saw Travis Alexander, a man who would soon be the object of her obsessions.
Although Travis Alexander was supposedly a devout Mormon, a religion that strongly discourages premarital sex and casual dating, he apparently had a weakness for women. He met and was charmed by Jodi Arias and the two had a one night stand. Jodi was smitten with Travis Alexander, but Travis apparently didn’t feel the same way about her. However, he didn’t mind seeing her, since she wasn’t LDS and was willing to have sex with him. Meanwhile, Travis Alexander realized he wasn’t getting any younger and needed to find a good Mormon wife. A good Mormon wife would be wholesome, pretty, young, and most importantly, a virgin.
Jodi Arias realized that Travis Alexander wanted to get married and start a family. She also realized that as a proper Mormon man, he would want a proper Mormon wife. So she decided to take missionary discussions and convert to Mormonism. Converting to Mormonism is not a simple thing; it requires adhering to strict lifestyle standards, attending church regularly, and paying tithing, among other things. But Jodi was determined to win over Travis, even though he had already moved on to dating women who would be more suitable Mormon wives.
Jodi Arias became obsessed with Travis Alexander. She would show up uninvited at his home in Mesa, Arizona and, once she determined she wanted to be his wife, eventually moved there herself. She called and texted him incessantly and violated Travis’s privacy by hacking into his social media accounts and reading his text messages, many of which came from other women. Jodi’s lack of respect seemed to get on Travis’s nerves, but apparently not enough that he stopped allowing her to visit for trysts. The two traveled together and were even planning to go on a Prepaid Legal Services business trip to Cancun, Mexico, before their relationship hit the skids.
On June 4, 2008, days before Travis was going to go to Mexico with another woman he had been dating, Jodi stopped by his house. They had fun with Travis’s digital camera. There were photos of Jodi naked, her hair in braids, apparently just after the two had sex together. Later, Travis took a shower and Jodi had a look at his cell phone again. She realized he would never accept her as anything more than a sex partner. Travis’s last act before Jodi murdered him was to pose for photos as he showered, several of which were taken just minutes before Jodi savagely attacked him with a knife and shot him in the head. He was found naked in his shower days later by his very concerned friends.
Though Jodi Arias was at Travis Alexander’s memorial service and acted like just another grieving friend, she was soon arrested on suspicions that she had murdered him. Many of Travis Alexander’s friends suspected she’d had something to do with the murder, but Jodi Arias actually sealed her own fate because she took photos of her crime. She had claimed to be nowhere near Arizona when Travis Alexander died, but the photos she had taken put her at the scene of the crime on the day the murder occurred. And there were plenty of Travis’s friends who would testify that she was obsessed with him.
In May of 2013, Jodi Arias was convicted of Travis Alexander’s murder, but jurors could not come to a unanimous agreement as to whether she should be put to death or spend the rest of her life in prison. Her fate remains unknown as she prepares for a do-over of the penalty phase of her trial.
My thoughts on Shanna Hogan’s book
Shanna Hogan is an award winning journalist who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a graduate of Arizona State University’s journalism school. With a pedigree like Hogan’s, I would have expected a really good book about Travis Alexander and Jodi Arias. For the most part, I think Picture Perfect delivers on that promise. Shanna Hogan writes well and I didn’t have too much trouble staying focused on the sordid tale of the returned Mormon missionary and his friend with benefits.
I did notice a few editing glitches as I read Hogan’s writing. At one point, she refers to the “tenants” of Mormonism. I think she meant “tenets”. There were some typos and a few confusing parts that seemed like they needed a round with an editor. At one point, she describes Alexander as “religious” as if it was a virtue. But in my experience, simply being religious doesn’t make a person good or bad. In fact, a lot of crimes have been committed in the name of religion.
I also noticed that Hogan seemed to buy into Travis Alexander’s legend, just as his friends did. On the surface, Alexander seemed like a really good guy. He was handsome, hard working, successful, and earnest. However, looking deeper, it’s not too hard for me to see that Travis Alexander was also a jerk. He put on a good show of being a good Mormon man, but in reality, he was a liar who basically used Jodi Arias for sex. Of course Alexander didn’t deserve to be brutally murdered for being a womanizing jerk, but I felt like Shanna Hogan was too generous when she described his character. She makes him out to be this really fine person, but his actions suggested otherwise. Hogan did not seem to be very objective in her description of Travis Alexander.
Moreover, Shanna Hogan presents a lot of what Arias said as “truth”, when it’s pretty clear that Arias isn’t a very reliable witness. I would hesitate to guess which personality disorders Arias has, though based on her actions, I’m pretty sure she’s got at least a couple on the Cluster B spectrum. And people who suffer from personality disorders are notoriously good at stretching or even obliterating the truth to further their own agendas. On the subject of Travis Alexander and his relationship with her, Jodi Arias is not very objective, either.
Hogan does a pretty good job of covering Arias’ murder trial, though she doesn’t spend as much time on that aspect of the story as she does Jodi’s and Travis’s trysts. I’m actually okay with that, though; I generally find reading about what goes on in court less interesting than reading about what actions lead to the courtroom. Hogan includes some photos, though many of them were ones I had seen before on the Internet.
If you’re interested in reading more about Jodi Arias and Travis Alexander and their tragic relationship, I think Picture Perfect is worth reading. Hogan is a competent author and if you didn’t watch the trial (and I mostly didn’t), you will learn what happened. However, I don’t think this book is very objective, so it should be read with a grain of salt.
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