By Tim Gaynor
PHOENIX (Reuters) - Prosecutors seeking to convict Jodi Arias of murdering her ex-boyfriend told an Arizona jury in closing arguments on Thursday that she meticulously planned the slaying and then lied to cover her tracks.
The 32-year-old California woman could face the death penalty if convicted of killing Travis Alexander, whose body was found in the shower at his Phoenix valley home in June 2008. He was shot in the face, stabbed 27 times and had his throat slit.
Arias has admitted killing Alexander, whom she dated for several months and with whom she continued having intimate relations after their breakup. She said she killed him in self-defense after he attacked her in a rage because she dropped his camera.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez said Arias started planning the killing in late May 2008, at the same time a .25 caliber handgun - the same caliber weapon used in the slaying - was stolen along with other items in a robbery at her grandparents' California home.
Arias said she shot and killed Alexander, 30, with his own pistol, and that she only became aware of the theft after it occurred. The weapon used in the killing has never been recovered.
Martinez told the jury that Arias rented a car in California and bought 5-gallon (20-liter) containers and filled them with gasoline to fuel her journey to the Phoenix suburb where she killed Alexander. She also removed the car's license plate and switched her cell phone off in an effort to mask her trip to Arizona, he said.
"The only reason to keep this whole thing a secret ... is because she is going to kill him, and she's making preparations, and she's very good at making these preparations," Martinez told the jury at the Maricopa County Superior Court.
"It is like a field of lies has sprouted around her as she sat on that witness stand ... every time she spat something out, another lie, another weed would grow," he added.
Earlier on Thursday, Judge Sherry Stephens told jurors they could consider the charges of first- and second-degree murder or the lesser charge of manslaughter. First-degree murder requires proof of premeditation.
Since the trial began in January, Martinez has portrayed Arias as a jealous lover who set out to kill Alexander because she had been spurned.
'VERY DIRECTED ATTACK'
Arias previously testified that she shot Alexander unintentionally during a struggle when he threatened her after she dropped his camera, but she said she did not recall stabbing her former boyfriend.
Martinez said Arias killed Alexander "three times over" -stabbing him in the heart, slashing his throat after he had fallen to the ground and then shooting him. He argued the "very directed attack" indicated premeditation.
"If she really didn't know what's going on, why is she really so directed?" he asked as Arias covered her face with her hands and appeared to sob.
Martinez described steps he said Arias had taken to "stage the scene" after the killing, among them removing her bloodied clothing from Alexander's home along with the gun, which she previously said she tossed into the desert.
Earlier, the prosecutor told the jury that Alexander had sent an instant message weeks before his death saying he was "extremely afraid" of Arias because of her "stalking behavior."
Martinez said Alexander also called Arias "the worst thing that ever happened" to him, and sent her a text message in which he called her a "sociopath."
"Do we need to look at the picture of his gashed throat ... do we need to look at his face where she put that bullet ... to know that what he says then is true, that you are the worst thing that could have happened to him?" Martinez said in an address to Arias.
The closing statements are set to resume on Friday.
(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Steve Orlofsky and Peter Cooney)