A Hap-less Case

Try as they might, Phoenix police have not been able to get the evidence they need to charge Jeanne Tovrea's stepson in her murder.

Part 1 of this series established that animosity between Jeanne Tovrea and her stepchildren led to estrangement and litigation. It showed how James "Butch" Harrod, the man accused of killing her, continues to proclaim his innocence despite the damning presence of his fingerprints at the crime scene.

Part 2 examined the arduous trail that led investigators to Harrod and to Harrod's onetime business associate, Edward "Hap" Tovrea Jr.--the victim's stepson. But Harrod remains the only person charged in the case.

Part 3, the final installment, describes police interrogations of Harrod and Tovrea. Among other revelations, Harrod also provides an alibi for the night of the murder, April 1, 1988.

James "Butch" Harrod was working on his car outside his Ahwatukee home in the late afternoon of September 14, 1995.

"A lady strolls up and asks me if I'm Jim," he recalls. "'Sure am.' Next thing, the cops pour in like it's Desert Storm. They tell me I'm under arrest. I thought it was for some tickets I hadn't taken care of. I thought, 'Man, you have had one hell of a bad run these last few years."

Harrod's friends and foes agree he's a chronic braggart. But, for once, he wasn't exaggerating.

His wife, Anne, left him in late 1993; their divorce became final in February 1994. They had relied on her income much of the time, and after the divorce, Butch Harrod floated from job to job, project to project, barely making ends meet. He sold ads for a Wickenburg radio station, started a contract-labor firm and managed a rock 'n' roll singer. Each venture had failed.

In September 1994, Harrod filed an application with the Arizona Banking Department as a prelude to seeking a job as a home-loan officer. He listed his work record from March 1988 to August 1994 as "a self-employed consultant."

The application asked why he had left that job. "Losing money," he wrote.
When police arrested him, Harrod was working for a Tempe mortgage firm. It doesn't appear, however, that his new career was paying off. In June 1995, an insurance company had canceled his homeowner's policy for failure to pay the premium. And in August 1995, Harrod sought help with his house payments from the City of Phoenix's Hardship Assistance Program. (He never got any.)

But if he believed his fortunes had hit the skids, he hadn't seen anything yet.

Butch Harrod was about to be accused of one of Arizona's most storied crimes--the April 1, 1988, murder of wealthy heiress Jeanne Tovrea, who was shot in the head five times as she slept in her Phoenix mansion.

"You're Butch, that right?" detective Ed Reynolds asked the 41-year-old suspect in an interrogation room at the Phoenix Police Department.

"My nickname, yeah," Harrod replied.
The simple exchange marked the start of a verbal dance that would last more than an hour.

Reynolds' goal was twofold: He wanted Harrod to confess to murder, and he wanted to know who, if anyone, had put him up to it.

The detective started by asking Harrod for a brief employment history. Harrod mentioned his most recent job as a loan officer.

"What did you do before that?"
"I set up barricades."
"Just labor, then?"
"Yeah . . . about nine months."
"What did you do before that, then?"
"Umm, just do whatever I could for money. Buy and sell things."
"What would you describe yourself as, then?"

"At that time, I was like a consultant. Somebody who wanted to do something. . . . I was importing from Hong Kong and from Korea. So what I do is, if somebody wanted to get something over there, I'd get a list of the places they could go to get it. Sometimes I'd actually go there."

"So what type of merchandise are you talking about?"
"Tennis shoes, sports bags and stuff, the little nylon wallets."
"Did you do any other type of consulting work?"
"That's it."

Reynolds prodded him about other consulting jobs. Harrod recalled he'd done consulting work in China "on a couple of occasions" with a Scottsdale man named Jason Hu.

The detective decided it was time to get to the point: "Right now, you're under arrest, okay. You're under arrest for murder."

"For what?"
"For murder. The murder of Jeanne Tovrea . . ."
"I know Ed Tovrea," Harrod responded evenly, without a hint of indignation.

He was referring to Jeanne's stepson, Edward "Hap" Tovrea Jr., a former business associate of Harrod's.

Reynolds didn't read Harrod his Miranda rights against self-incrimination after accusing him of murder. Instead, he immediately played a message that someone calling himself Gordon Phillips had left on Jeanne Tovrea's answering machine in late 1987.

Phillips claimed to have been a writer seeking an interview with Jeanne about her late husband, Edward Sr. But the man turned out to be a fraud. In July 1987, he had frightened Jeanne and her daughter, Deborah Nolan-Luster, when he had met with them while they were vacationing in California.

The 30-second phone message ended.
"That, Mr. Harrod, is your voice," Reynolds told him.
"No."

"There is no doubt in my mind that you organized and set up the murder of Jeanne Tovrea. I know who hired you. I know how much you were told you would be paid for it. I know how much money you actually received for doing it. . . .

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