PHOENIX -- Jodi Arias was found guilty Wednesday of first-degree murder in the 2008 death of her one-time boyfriend after four months of sensational and seamy testimony in a case that has riveted the nation.

Arias, 32, a waitress and aspiring photographer, did not deny killing Travis Alexander at his home in Mesa in June 2008, but she claimed she did it in self-defense.

However, Alexander was stabbed nearly 30 times, had his throat slashed ear to ear and was shot in the head, making her claim of self-defense hard for the jury to believe.

When the guilty verdict was read, Arias opened her mouth as if in surprise and looked at her attorney, who touched her on the back. Arias appeared to fight back tears.

Twenty minutes after her conviction, Arias said in an interview with Fox affiliate KSAZ that she now hoped she would be sentenced to death rather than face the rest of her natural life in prison.

"The worst outcome for me would be natural life," she said. "I would much rather die sooner than later. Longevity runs in my family, and I don't want to spend the rest of my natural life in one place. I'm pretty healthy, I don't smoke, and I would probably live a long time, so that's not something I'm looking forward to.

"I said years ago that I'd rather get death than life, and that still is true today. I believe death is the ultimate freedom, so I'd rather just have my freedom as soon as I can get it."

As police investigated the grisly killing, Arias changed her story twice, initially denying involvement and later blaming the killing on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest she admitted killing Alexander, claiming that he attacked her in a rage after she dropped his camera.

The same camera contained nude pictures of both Arias and Alexander on the day of the killing after they had sex, with Alexander shown alive and posing for her in the shower at first, and then stuffed into it after his bloody death.

Jurors reached their verdict Wednesday after deliberating for 15 hours over four days in a trial that has lasted more than four months.

With a conviction of first-degree murder, Arias faces the death penalty. The trial now enters a phase in which the jury decides whether there were aggravating factors that would help determine her sentence.

Prosecutors will argue that the killing was committed in an especially cruel, heinous and depraved manner. Both sides may call witnesses and present evidence during a mini-trial of sorts known as the "aggravation" phase. The jurors are the same.

If the jury doesn't find that there were aggravating factors, the judge could sentence Arias to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

If the jurors find there were aggravating factors, the case moves into a penalty phase. The same jury decides whether Arias should be executed or get life in prison. This portion of the case could go on for several weeks, and additional witnesses could be called by both sides.

If jurors don't reach a unanimous agreement on the death penalty, the judge would sentence Arias to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.