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PHOENIX (Reuters) - A woman on trial in Arizona for capital murder testified on Wednesday that she shot her former lover unintentionally during a struggle when he threatened her after she dropped his camera, but she said she did not recall stabbing him.
Jodi Arias could face the death penalty if convicted of murdering Travis Alexander, whose body was found in the shower of his Phoenix area home. He had been shot in the face, stabbed 27 times and his throat had been slit.
Arias, 32, testified that on the day he died in June 2008 Alexander became irate and body slammed her in the bathroom after she dropped a camera while taking photographs of him in the shower to document his newly sculpted body.
She said she fled from the bathroom to where Alexander kept a gun and pointed it at him with both hands when he pursued her.
"I thought that would stop him ... He got like a linebacker, he got low and grabbed my waist ... the gun went off," she testified. "After the gun went off, I thought, 'Crap, he's really going to be pissed now,'" she said.
Arias, who testified that there were "lots of gaps" in her memory from that day, has said their relationship became increasingly abusive and that she killed her 30-year-old lover in self defense. Prosecutors maintain she killed him in a jealous rage.
Asked by the defense if she feared her lover would kill her that day, Arias said, "For sure, he'd almost killed me before, now he was going to." She later described how Alexander became like a "volcano" and was "raging" after the shooting.
"I have no memory of stabbing him," she said, although she said she did recall hearing the knife hit the floor. "It clanged to the tile and I just remember screaming."
Her next memories were of driving west with the sun in her eyes. While Arias said she did not recall bringing the gun with her, she did remember "throwing it in the desert."
As she drove through northern Arizona, she realized she was in "really deep trouble" and began thinking what she could do to "delay the inevitable," she told the court.
"I couldn't imagine calling 911 and telling them what I had just done ... I was scared of what would happen to me," she said during frequently tearful testimony.
In the weeks that followed, Arias said, she tried to do a "whole bunch of things" to cover up that she was ever at the crime scene, including recording and re-recording a message on Alexander's phone.
"I thought eventually his voicemail was going to be listened to and that would throw the scent off," she said.
When Alexander's body was discovered several days later, Arias continued to try to cover her tracks by calling a detective investigating the case.
"I thought that if I didn't call him, it would look more suspicious than if I did call him," she told the court.
She also invented a story, which she told police, that two intruders, a man and a woman, had broken into Alexander's home and killed him.
Asked if she had contemplated telling the truth about his death, she replied, "I contemplated it, but I was nowhere near able to tell someone ... I was capable ... of something like that."
Arias attended a memorial service for Alexander in a further bid to divert suspicion.
She was arrested in July at her grandparents' home in California. She said she was suicidal in jail and that she had taken a razor apart with the "intention of slitting" her wrists.
"That way I wouldn't have to admit it," she said, explaining her reasons behind the failed suicide bid. "I didn't want my mom to know, or my brothers or my sisters."
Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andrew Hay