This interview is the first time Sandy Arias has spoken publicly about her daughter Jodi Arias.
Sandra Dee Allen was born in 1958 in a small Northern California town. I love to call her Sandy Dee. It fits, somehow. I met Sandy at Jodi Arias’s sentencing trial, in September 2014. She is the fourth of seven children and the identical twin of her sister Susan. Sandy and Susan are so identical, including hairstyles, I find it difficult to tell them apart. But looks are where it ends. Sandy is painfully shy, and her sister is unfiltered and outgoing.
Sandy married Bill Arias when she was 22, and they had four children together. Two sons and two daughters. Jodi Ann was her first child. There are many versions of Jodi’s childhood, including Jodi’s own, a version told at both her trials, as well as many versions written in books about Jodi. Sandy describes Jodi’s childhood as normal and happy. Her closest playmate was her brother Carl, who is two years younger.
Jodi left home at 17 in a typical teenage rebellion phase and moved in for a short time with a boyfriend. She began working at what was to be a series of jobs over the next twenty years. She was ambitious and highly motivated to be financially independent.
She continued to live in different Northern California cities for several years. Jodi relocated to Southern California in mid-2000 and in 2007 she moved to Arizona.
During these years, Sandy’s relationship with Jodi was strained as Jodi struggled to find her identity and her place in the world. Jodi’s communication with Sandy was sporadic, fairly typical for a twenty-something-year-old out exploring the world. Sandy had two younger children at home to take care of—eleven years younger than Jodi, who needed Sandy’s attention.
Sandy knew that Jodi had a boyfriend in Arizona, but knew very few details of their relationship. At one point, when Jodi and her boyfriend were not getting along, Sandy drove down to Mesa to help Jodi move back home. By the time she arrived, the pair had reconciled. Not long afterward, in 2008, Jodi moved in with her grandparents. To this day, she remains very close to her grandmother.
When Jodi left on that fateful trip back to Arizona, her family was not surprised as she often traveled for the company where she worked. About one week later, Jodi returned home.
Sandy first heard of Jodi’s arrest when she received a call at work from her son Joey telling her that their home was surrounded by police cars. She then called her mother (Jodi’s grandmother), where Jodi was living and was informed that Jodi had been arrested.
DO: How is your life going since dedicating a year and a half to attending two trials every day over 1,000 miles from your home?
SA: I’m very glad to be back with my family. I’ve been trying to get our lives back on track. I just take life day-by-day. I had to give up my job of 17 years and leave my family for long periods of time to support my daughter during her trials. Since I’ve been home, I recently started a new job in the same field. Everything still feels very unreal to me. I don’t believe our lives will ever be the same again. As I’ve said many times, “Don’t ever say this can’t happen to me.”
DO: Have you been able to visit Jodi at Perryville Prison? How is her attitude?
SA: Yes, I’ve visited her twice at Perryville Prison. On the first visit, I brought her 82-year-old grandmother to see her—someone Jodi is very close to. It was a bittersweet visit because my mother has terminal cancer and probably won’t see Jodi again.
Jodi is always happy to see us. She is the type of person who is constantly cheerful. She has many projects going on all at the same time. Currently, she is organizing a library for the unit she’s housed in and is busy asking all of her friends for books to help her stock up the library for fellow inmates in the Lumley Unit.
DO: Has your family suffered any shaming or difficulties as a result of the crime or trials?
SA: Our friends and family have supported us and have been there for us from the beginning. The only shaming we know of has occurred indirectly online from people who do not know us.
DO: How has Jodi’s notoriety affected your three other children?
SA: My daughter Angela has really been affected the most. She has been bullied online, but she’s headstrong and stands up to anyone to defend her sister. Angela was very close to Jodi. She was her go-to person when she had a problem or needed to talk. Now, she’s not there for her. This has been tough for her to lose her older sister and confidant. Jodi was not present for Angela’s important life events—her wedding and the birth of her daughter. It’s been difficult for the sisters to rebuild their closeness and maintain a relationship.
With her brothers, it’s different. Her younger brother Joey was 16, and Jodi had already left home when she was arrested. He was not very close to Jodi as he was so much younger. With Carl, who is two years younger than Jodi, at first, he felt Jodi created her own problem and was responsible for her own actions. He wasn’t emotionally involved compared to Angela.
DO: How did you deal with all of the public attention you received, especially with people saying negative things about your daughter in the media?
SA: I am naturally a very shy person and uncomfortable with attention. I never responded to any requests from the media for interviews. I felt it was inappropriate and also might be interpreted as disrespectful to everyone involved, including the victim’s family. In the end, there were many victims as a result of this tragedy, including the loss of my daughter. I dealt with the attention by the comfort and support of my family and friends.
DO: Do you believe there are justice and mercy in the judicial system process?
SA: Unless you have been through a trial, you don’t really know or understand the complexities involved. Many of the stages we knew nothing about, and because we were dependent on public defenders, often, parts of the trial were explained to us, including motions, jury selection, and alleged prosecutorial misconduct. Some days we learned more from Jodi’s mitigation specialist than her lead public defender. I do believe in mercy, but I do not believe it is always applied fairly in the judicial system.
DO: Do you have any advice to mothers who may have a child in jail or prison?
SA: I would encourage mothers, or any family members, to be supportive and let them know that you care about them. No matter what. I believe that love should be unconditional. For me, this experience has been the ultimate test of a mother’s love.
DO: In closing, is there anything you would like to say?
SA: I am a mom–just like any other mom. I did the best job I could raising my children. My mother once told me that parenting ends at a certain age, and beyond that, children act of their own accord. I do not feel responsible for Jodi’s actions, but that doesn’t mean she does not have my complete love and support. Always, unconditionally, for the rest of her life.