Death of an Heiress

Why was socialite Jeanne Tovrea shot to death? Investigators believe a lust for her huge inheritance is a distinct possibility.

And there were his continued troubles with his only son, Hap.
It couldn't have been easy being the only son of a larger-than-life figure such as Ed Tovrea Sr. How do you impress a man who helped orchestrate the Great Escape, who was one of the West's most powerful cattle barons?

Certainly not with the Hap Tovrea method.
Even his friends concede that Hap has embraced the life of a stereotypical trust-fund baby--a self-proclaimed free spirit who dabbles in "projects."

But his track record has been dismal. Neither the agriculture degree he obtained from the University of Arizona in 1973 nor his father's deep pockets could bring success in the mid-1970s when Hap tried to run a cotton farm north of Tucson.

That venture cost Ed Sr. a tidy $200,000.
As a 25-year-old in April 1976, Hap wrote to his father about a new "opportunity," in a letter that reflects the stormy relationship.

"It does not help me for you to badmouth me at the various social gatherings you attend," Hap carped. "I am busting my ass putting together a business that will mean definitely millions of dollars to me in my lifetime, and these rumors do not help. . . . You're so worried about me asking you for anything--Don't worry, I don't want to. My ego won't allow it anymore. In closing, I trust this will shed a small ray of light in the darkness in which you vision me."

Such drivel rankled Ed Sr., his friends say, and he reacted more than once by changing his will.

He was terminally ill and almost totally reliant on Jeanne by the start of the 1980s. The couple had moved into the beautiful $500,000 home at Lincoln Hills Estates, where they were forced by Ed Sr.'s condition to spend much of their time.

Their neighbors included Kemper Marley, who'd been one of Arizona's most powerful businessmen for decades. Kemper and his wife, Ethel, had been friends of Ed Sr.'s since the 1930s.

"We knew Ed since he was a little old kid," says Ethel Marley, a keen woman who is pushing 90. "We housed him many a night back then--he was always hauling his horse around, and we'd put him and the horse up at our place. It was kind of funny that now we were sitting across from each other in these nice fancy houses. Those two [Jeanne and Ed Sr.] loved each other, and they weren't faking it, whatever his kids might say."

(Kemper Marley--a pivotal but never-indicted figure in the 1976 car-bomb slaying of Arizona Republic reporter Donald Bolles--spoke with police about Jeanne Tovrea in 1990. He promised a detective he would discuss what he'd heard about Jeanne's murder after he returned from a trip to California. But Marley died before that interview.)

In July 1981, Ed Sr. wrote the letter that would one day be central to courtroom battles between his children and the people or institutions they say pillaged their father's estate.

One of those people was Glenn Kearney, Ed Sr.'s close friend and longtime employee. Now 83, Kearney says Ed Sr. asked him to deliver the letter to his three children after his death.

It said in part:
". . . You three get a KNOWN amount to begin with. Jeannie gets certain assets outright and all the income of the balance of the estate. The balance is an unknown quantity as who knows what it will be, what are the taxes, legal fees, etc.

". . . As it stands right now, Jeannie will be amply cared for which in my opinion she is most certainly entitled to as we have had a wonderful life together and love each other very much.

". . . I know that you are not fond of Jeannie, especially you girls, which I guess is normal between stepmother and stepchild. She tried very hard to be your friend, but you declined to accept her, which made it difficult for me.

". . . I want you to know that at one time you were not going to be considered in my will as I was extremely disappointed in the way you were conducting your lives. Jeannie intervened and persuaded me to not pursue that line of thinking, telling me to give you all more time and maturity.

". . . [Hap] has gone through so much money it is hard to believe; he owes everybody and refuses to work and stated he would never work.

". . . Remember, none of you have earned any of your inheritance, so be thankful for whatever you get."

Ed Sr. signed a new will a year later, in July 1982. In it, he named confidants Kearney and Harold Christopherson as his estate's co-executors.

As envisioned in the letter, Ed Sr.'s will left his children $60,000 each from two life insurance policies, and $200,000 plus interest each in a fund to be disbursed at $1,500 a month.

Most would consider $260,000-plus a tidy sum, but it's a pittance in comparison with Ed Sr.'s total holdings. His probate listed assets worth $8.7 million, of which he left Jeanne $3.7 million in property, stocks and bonds.

Ed Sr. also created a trust fund worth another $4 million. In the will, he promised his children they could split the fund--but, tellingly, only after Jeanne Tovrea's death.

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