The Suspect's Sidekick

It was an arduous trail that led investigators in the Jeanne Tovrea murder case to accused killer James "Butch" Harrod. A common sight en route was Edward "Hap" Tovrea Jr.

In July 1988, investigators obtained Hap's phone records. Most of Hap's high-frequency toll calls immediately before the murder were explicable. He had spoken often to his mother, to a girlfriend, to a lifelong pal, and to his sister Prissy in Colorado.

But detectives were curious about one spate of calls from Hap to a Tempe number in the days preceding Jeanne's murder. Hap had phoned someone named James Harrod 33 times in the 10 days before the murder.

The records showed Hap had phoned Harrod at 8:20 on the morning after the murder. That call was placed immediately after Hap's first long-distance call that day, which was made to a family friend. He told police that the friend had told him of Jeanne's death.

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(Detectives wouldn't learn until years later that there also had been a flurry of calls from Harrod to Hap, including seven on the day before the murder.)

Detective Lott made a notation in a notebook on July 26, 1988, to contact Harrod. An interview was scheduled for August 8.

Remarkably, he and another detective, Richard Fuqua, have little recollection of their meeting with the man now accused of being Jeanne Tovrea's killer.

They certainly drew no connection at the time between Harrod's soft Southern twang and the voice in the messages left by Gordon Phillips.

Harrod says he recalls the interview vividly.
"It was one guy, Richard Fuqua," he tells New Times. "First thing, he shook my hand and said, 'You're not the guy.' 'What do you mean?' 'No offense, but whoever did this is a real athlete.' I said, 'In this case, no offense taken.'

"He told me unequivocally that I wasn't Gordon Phillips and, obviously, he'd heard that tape recording hundreds of times. I told him right out that I had talked to Jeanne once when I was looking for Hap. The thing was over quick."

The police didn't consider the short interview noteworthy, and didn't even document it in a report. Instead, one of the detectives scribbled notes in a spiral book:

"James C. Harrod. 1130. Known Hap for about one year--business associate. . . . See no problem with Hap. Last saw him last week. Trying to contact him. Now, Monday, 8-8-88, lives in San Diego. . . . Have no knowledge of [murder]. Had spoken to [victim] about Hap. She said he [Hap] is irresponsible."

Harrod's claim about "trying to contact" Hap was an understatement.
Phone records obtained by New Times indicate Harrod called Hap Tovrea 17 times in the 12 days between July 27--when police likely had contacted Harrod to set up the interview--and August 8, the date of the interview. (Hap called Harrod twice during that period.)

The pair spoke for 22 minutes on the night after the interview. Explains Harrod:

"Maybe this was around the time Ed Jr. [Hap] told me, 'I think someone might come after me,' talking about his stepmother's murder. I said, 'Anything you want to tell me?' and he said no. I said, 'Is there some reason I should not be working with Hap Tovrea? If there's a problem here, I don't want to be involved.' He told me I wasn't involved.

"I'm not claiming to be a genius, but if I was plotting with him, don't you think I could have found a phone booth?"

Butch Harrod says he and Hap Tovrea met through a mutual friend, probably in early 1987. Though the two came from disparate backgrounds--Harrod grew up in a middle-class household, while Hap was born into money--they had much in common.

Both were big talkers who eschewed the 9-to-5 life and had flitted from project to project without hitting the jackpot.

Harrod was married in September 1985 to Anne, a respected midlevel employee at a large Phoenix company. From the start, the couple relied on Anne's income to make ends meet.

Harrod fancied himself a "consultant," capable of arranging business deals. In reality, his skills rarely translated into dollars.

In 1989, for example, he listed $13,300 in gross receipts for his consulting efforts, all stemming from work he did for Hap Tovrea. And that was a good year.

Unlike Harrod, Hap in the late 1980s knew where his next dollar was coming from--the trust funds he'd inherited from his father and grandfather.

Never married, Hap played the field in his personal and business relationships. He adored in no particular order: the ocean, pretty women and a good joke.

This playboy image, however, contradicted another facet of Hap's personality: He seemed to want to prove that, like his father, he could be a business whiz.

He wasn't.
In 1988, Hap became the chief executive officer of a Chilean-based sulfur-mining firm, Minerals Exploration Corporation of the Americas.

Records show he poured $225,000 into MECA on April 11, 1988, 10 days after Jeanne's murder. But other records show Hap claimed only $22,529 in taxable business income for 1988. In 1990, he claimed just $6,084.

Harrod says he first approached Hap about expanding MECA's horizons to the People's Republic of China in late 1987.

Investigators betrayed their strong suspicions in interviews and police reports before and after Butch Harrod's arrest in September 1995: They suspect that the "China deal," as it came to be known, was a ruse devised to allow Hap to pay Harrod for murdering Jeanne Tovrea.

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