PHOENIX — Jodi Arias was convicted of first-degree murder Wednesday in the gruesome killing of her one-time boyfriend in Arizona after a four-month trial that captured headlines with lurid tales of sex, lies, religion and a salacious relationship that ended in a blood bath.

Arias was charged with first-degree murder in the June 2008 death of Travis Alexander in his suburban Phoenix home. Authorities said she planned the attack in a jealous rage after being rejected by the victim while he pursued other women.

Arias, 32, initially denied involvement, then later blamed the killing on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said it was self-defense.

Arias talked to Fox affiliate KSAZ in the courthouse minutes after she was convicted of first-degree murder. With tears in her eyes, she said she feels overwhelmed and that she was surprised because she didn’t believe she committed first-degree murder.

She said she would “prefer to die sooner than later” and that “death is the ultimate freedom.”

30 knife wounds

Testimony began in early January, with Arias eventually spending 18 days on the witness stand. The trial quickly snowballed into a made-for-the-tabloids drama, garnering daily coverage from cable news networks and spawning a virtual cottage industry for talk shows and legal experts.

Jurors got the case Friday afternoon. They deliberated for two full days this week before reaching a decision late Wednesday morning.

The trial will move into a phase during which prosecutors will argue that the killing was committed in an especially cruel, heinous and depraved manner, called the “aggravation” phase. Both sides may call witnesses and show evidence during a mini trial of sorts. The jurors are the same.

A throng of spectators gathered outside the courthouse to hear the verdict, while TV crews, media trucks and reporters lined nearby streets. Family and friends of Alexander wore blue ribbons and wristbands with the words “Justice For Travis.”

Alexander suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, was shot in the forehead and his throat was slit before Arias dragged his body into his shower. He was found by friends about five days later.

Authorities said Alexander fought for his life as Arias attacked him in a blitz, but he soon grew too weak to defend himself.

Scared, ashamed

Arias said she recalled Alexander attacking her in a fury after a day of sex. She said Alexander came at her “like a linebacker,” body-slamming her to the tile floor. She managed to wriggle free and ran into his closet to retrieve a gun he kept on a shelf. She said she fired in self-defense but had no memory of stabbing him.

She acknowledged trying to clean the scene of the killing, dumping the gun in the desert and working on an alibi to avoid suspicion. She said she was too scared and ashamed to tell the truth.

None of Arias’ allegations that Alexander had physically abused her in the months before his death, that he owned a gun and had sexual desires for young boys, were corroborated by witnesses or evidence during the trial. She acknowledged lying repeatedly before and after her arrest, but insisted she was telling the truth in court.

Arias spent 18 days on the witness stand describing an abusive childhood, cheating boyfriends, dead-end jobs, a shocking sexual relationship with Alexander, and her contention that he had grown physically abusive.

No dispute of killing

Psychologist Richard Samuels testified for the defense that Arias suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative amnesia, which explained why she couldn’t recall much from the day of the killing.

Another defense witness, psychotherapist Alyce LaViolette, concluded that Arias was a battered woman.

Their testimony would be crucial to convince jurors that Arias wasn’t lying about her memory gaps from the day of the killing, and that she did suffer physical abuse by Alexander.

Defense attorneys had to get jurors to believe that despite no evidence of Alexander ever having been violent in the past, he had attacked Arias on several occasions, and did so again on the day of his death.

After all, there was no dispute that Arias killed Alexander. It was the first thing Arias’ defense acknowledged.

“Jodi Arias killed Travis Alexander,” Arias attorney Jennifer Willmott told jurors in opening statements. “There is no question about it. The million-dollar question is, what would have forced her to do it?”

Prosecutor Juan Martinez worked feverishly to attack the credibility of the defense experts, accusing them of having sympathy for Arias and offering biased opinions.

He later called his own expert, clinical psychologist Janeen DeMarte, who told jurors Arias didn’t suffer from PTSD or amnesia, and that she found no evidence that the defendant was a battered woman.