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.

Harrod tells New Times that the detective added another comment after he turned off the tape recorder: "He told me, 'Jim, you're gonna be living here until you give up Hap Tovrea.' I didn't say a word."

Phoenix police kept a lid on Butch Harrod's arrest for about 24 hours. They wanted their shot at 45-year-old Hap Tovrea in La Jolla, California, before he learned of it.

Ed Reynolds scheduled an interview with Hap in La Jolla for the day after Harrod's arrest. No big deal, he told him, we just want to catch up on a few things. Reynolds and Randy Force flew to Southern California on the morning of September 15, 1995.

Reynolds had developed a circumstantial case that pointed to Hap Tovrea's involvement in a murder conspiracy: Hap had a motive--Jeanne's money; and police had identified crime-scene fingerprints as matching those of his ex-business associate, Butch Harrod.

But Harrod hadn't confessed.
Hap's older sister, Georgia (known as "Cricket"), was present at the start of the interview, according to a transcript obtained by New Times.

"About two months ago, I recovered a whole stack of documents from a pawnshop that belong to the Tovrea family," Reynolds told the siblings.

"No kidding," Hap replied.
The pawnshop reference was a ruse by Reynolds to lead Hap down the path he wanted.

Sergeant Force asked Cricket if he could interview her separately.
Alone with Hap, Reynolds told him a name had come up in the alleged pawnshop investigation. He said it happened to be the same name he'd seen in a dusty evidence box of Jeanne Tovrea's murder.

"I'm trying to think of the guy's full name. Let me see here if I've got it. I keep thinking Butch or something like that. Harrod, that's the name. Butch Harrod. James C. Harrod."

"Now I know a guy by that name," Hap replied.
"What do you know about him?"
"I used him on a consulting project for China years ago. . . . I don't know him that well."

"What was the deal in China?"
"We have mining properties down in Chile that are sulfur properties. And China had some sulfur properties that needed some development, and so there was kind of an invitation to come to China and see if they were developable. And I did that and turned it down."

"Okay, how much work did he do for you?"
"Oh, a few months."
Though Reynolds wouldn't discuss the case with New Times, it's safe to assume his adrenaline was pumping. He knew Hap had paid Harrod thousands of dollars over a yearlong period through his mining firm, MECA (Minerals Exploration Corporation of the Americas).

"How much would you say that cost you?"
"A few thousand dollars. . . . There was the plane tickets and there was consulting fees and all that. It was kind of a waste of time and money, but it was worth a shot because you can get your leg up in China, it was fine. And I remember right after that, Tiananmen Square blew up. Perfect timing."

Reynolds narrowed the questioning.
"Now, in that time you're only dealing with him on . . . business."
"Yeah, I've just met this guy," Hap said, speaking of late 1988 and early 1989--months after Jeanne Tovrea was murdered.

"When did you go to China?"
"I went to China in March, April '89, '90." (It was March 1989.)
"So, almost a year after your stepmother was killed?"
"Yeah."

"And you knew him for about, you say, a three-month period of time during that?"

"I would say we probably worked for about three months prior to going to China. Getting visas and all the bullshit together. I find this interesting."

Reynolds knew Hap and Harrod had spoken incessantly on the phone for about four years, from 1987 to 1991. But he wasn't ready to play his full hand.

"So, did you meet him around the time that you did the China thing?"
Hap recollected something.
"No, you know what. I knew him before that."

"Can you give me a rough guesstimate as to how much it was that you owed him for the consultant work?"

"Well, I think it was $3,000 a month as it was going on and it probably went on for six, seven months or something like that. But I mostly worked with Jason."

Jason was Ji Sheng Hu, an associate of Harrod's in two failed ventures in China--a mid-1980s shrimp-farming project and the sulfur-mining deal with Hap.

"And what would Harrod do in these China visits?" Reynolds asked Hap.
"Nothing. Just be there."
"He connected you to Jason Hu and that's what he got his $3,000 a month for?"

"Mmm hmm."
"When was the last contact you had with this Harrod guy? Was it after this China deal?"

"Pretty much after the China deal. I had no reason to talk to him anymore. There might have been one or two calls after that . . ."

"How often would this guy call you?"
"After China?"
"Yeah."
"Hardly at all."

Actually, phone records show Hap and Harrod had spoken a few hundred times after the March 1989 China trip. But Reynolds still wasn't ready to tighten the noose.

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