Click HERE to watch this week’s webisode of The CrimeLine, where Jon Leiberman and I discuss the latest in the Jodi Arias trial and interview the daughter of Phyllis O’Brien Carson, a woman murdered 42 years ago whose case remains unsolved.
This week in the Arias trial, her defense began to present their case Tuesday. In her opening state, defense attorney Jennifer Willmott told jurors that Arias killed Travis Alexander in self-defense because he became enraged after she dropped his camera on the bathroom floor. The camera in question has been key to this case. Arias had placed it in a washing machine, but investigators were able to retrieve photos off the camera, including one that shows her foot by his body, where he laid in a pool of blood. Defense attorneys are hoping jurors will believe the third version of Arias’ story of what happened to Alexander the day he died. First she claimed she was not even with him, then she claimed two intruders killed him before finally claiming she killed him out of self-defense. But will jurors really buy that he threatened her life over a dropped camera? Seems like a weak claim.
The defense then called their first witness to the stand, Gus Searcy, an executive who worked at the same company as both Arias and Alexander, then called Prepaid Legal. Searcy claims that at one point, while Arias was dating Alexander, she called him upset and came to stay with him in Las Vegas. Searcy testified that during that visit, Arias talked to Alexander on the phone and afterwards she was visibly upset and shaking. The defense discussed the episode with the witness in an attempt to bolster their claim that Alexander was a sexual deviant with a violent temper.
Their second witness was Darryl Brewer, who dated Arias for four years, right up until the time she started dating Alexander. He testified that she was responsible and was never violent. As my co-host and I predicted, the defense will call witnesses who can testify that Arias was a quiet and sweet woman not prone to violence to bolster their claim that she killed Alexander solely because he threatened her life.
However, Brewer’s testimony may end up being more helpful for the prosecution than for the defense. He also testified that he loaned her gas cans to get gas to travel to Arizona just the day before Alexander was killed. That confession is yet another arrow pointing in the direction of premeditated murder. Why would she ask to borrow gas cans? Maybe because she wanted to fill up on enough gas to get her to Arizona and back without stopping so that she could cover her trail and claim, as she first did, that she was not even in Arizona the day of his death. That’s surely what the prosecution wants the jury to draw from such an admission. The prosecution also got him to testify on cross-examination that they had an aggressive sex life, playing the sexual deviant card in their own favor.
The big question is whether Arias will take the stand. I’m sure she will because she is the only one who can fill in the gaps in her self-defense story. She is going to need to testify that she truly, genuinely felt in fear for her life that day and I’m sure she will put on a show of tears to try to garner sympathy; a key in keeping her from being sentenced to the death penalty if found guilty. Yet, when Arias does take the stand, expect the prosecution to grill her on her constant lies, her changing stories and on the gun used to shoot Alexander; a gun that was the exact same type as one allegedly stolen from Arias’ grandparents home the week before.
I’ll also be interested to see if the defense can come up with any former girlfriends of Alexander’s who would be able to testify that he was indeed the violent sexual deviant they are trying to portray. That would be a game-changer, but I doubt the defense will be able to garner such an arsenal.
Meanwhile, Jon Leiberman and I were joined by Melissa Carson, the daughter of Phyllis O’Brien Carson, whose badly decomposed body was found off the side of a road in French Camp, California in 1970. At the time, Melissa was just 8-years-old and was spared the details of her mother’s death until she was 18.
32-year-old Phyllis was last seen on October 24, 1970 at approximately 11 o’clock leaving a bar called Francis’ Truck Stop with an unknown male. She had visited the bar with her brother and sister. She called home that night to check on her children and told relatives she was getting a ride home from a friend, whom she did not name. That was the last time she was heard from. Her body was found three weeks later off of Yettner Road just five miles from her family’s home. Her remains were so badly decomposed that the cause of death could not be determined. Her body was discovered in a position that suggests she was thrown from a car. Since her wallet and jewelry were found with her body, police ruled out robbery as a motive.
Melissa has suspected that the killer was someone her mother knew since she would probably not have left the bar with a stranger and the killer tellingly left her body in a rural area with heavy brush and just one home near the crime scene, suggesting he or she knew the area very well. At the time of her death, Phyllis had four children. Melissa’s father was long ago ruled out as a suspect.
Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office Investigations Division at 209-468-4425.