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.

Sergeant Force interjected with a strangely conciliatory comment: "If there was any evidence or proof of anything that [Harrod] has told us up to this point, I think you realize we'd be having this conversation at a police station in handcuffs, not here sitting in your office chatting."

"This was a hell of a sleigh ride," Hap said.
Force told Hap what the cops wished Butch Harrod had told them: "This wacko lays out this scenario that you approach him because Jeannie stands between you and your sisters' inheritance, and that she's spending the interest and from the trust account."

"Oh, it's sexy, isn't it?" Hap said sarcastically.
"And that you offer him a large sum of money to coordinate her demise. On the surface of things, that's as good a motive as any."

"So how do I know this perfect stranger is a person that can do this?"
"Well, he's not a perfect stranger if you're calling him 33 times in the 10 days before this happened."

"Well, you know what I mean. I mean a relatively new acquaintance . . ."
"What if he produces a tape with your voice discussing with him the murder of your stepmother?" Reynolds asked Hap.

"That I'd like to hear."
(Anne Harrod had told police that her ex-husband had claimed to possess such tapes. But they have never turned up.)

"In the future, if such tapes do turn up, you're not gonna say, 'I was extorted, he threatened me, he would kill me if I didn't go along with it?'"

"I can't remember any of that."
"Can't remember any of that?"
"No."

"We're talking about probably the biggest thing that ever occurred in your life."

"Well, I'm remembering that it didn't [occur]."
". . . Originally, you didn't want to talk to me because everybody had always pointed the finger at you and accused you. Everybody was saying, 'The stepchildren did it because that was their inheritance she was spending.'"

"Here's something else we can document," Hap responded. "We never knew about an inheritance."

(To the contrary, testimony in civil cases filed by Hap and his sisters shows Jeanne's stepchildren did know they would collect a large sum after Jeanne died. After taxes, attorney's fees and other expenses, they each netted more than $600,000.)

"Well, this is like a novel," Hap continued. ". . . I mean, this has got to be some sick mind that's taking all this coincidence and blending this into some bullshit scenario. I feel like I've been kind of set up now."

It's unclear if Hap meant he'd been set up by Harrod or by the police.
The interview neared its end.
"Will you take the polygraph test, Hap?" Force asked him.
"Maybe."
"Are you an innocent man?" Reynolds blurted.
"Yeah."
"Would you have any problem taking the polygraph today?"
"Maybe."
"What do you mean, maybe?"

"Back a long time ago, I believe you guys asked me and my sisters to do this, and we asked our attorneys and they said, 'Don't do it.'"

"Is that what you're gonna do again, ask your attorney again?"
"Yeah."
"We can assume, then, your attorney will say, 'No, don't do it?'"
"This thing is too weird, guys. You know I had nothing to do with it."

His voice dripping with sarcasm, Reynolds responded, "We're not gonna ask you questions like, 'Did you kill your stepmother?' and stuff. We're just gonna ask you questions like, 'Did you pay him to arrange to have your stepmother killed?' Simple little questions like that."

"Well, the answer's no and that's that," Hap concluded.
The cops had taken their best shots at both Butch Harrod and Hap Tovrea, but hadn't won any confessions. They returned to Phoenix that night without Hap Tovrea. But because of Hap's apparent attempts to diminish his relationship with Harrod, the detectives were even more certain Hap had been involved in the murder plot.

Believing something and proving it in court are vastly different things.

How often did Hap Tovrea and Butch Harrod discuss the Panama Canal? How much was there to say about sulfur mining in China?

The pair phoned each other more than 1,300 times from mid-1987 to mid-1991, an average of almost once per day. Records obtained by New Times show an increase or a decrease in the number of calls at key points in the Tovrea murder case's chronology:

* After noticing a flurry of calls between Harrod and Hap in the days leading up to Jeanne's murder, police scheduled an interview with Harrod for August 8, 1988. Harrod called Hap 11 times in the week before the interview. They spoke for 22 minutes a few hours after Harrod was interviewed.

* Phone records show Harrod called Hap 77 times from February 1988 until the end of April 1988. Hap called Harrod seven times that March 31--the day before Jeanne was murdered. And records show that Harrod was the second person Hap called long distance on the morning of that April 1. His first call was to a family friend, from whom, he later told police, he'd learned of Jeanne's murder.

* Police accounts indicate "Gordon Phillips" met with Jeanne Tovrea and her daughter in Southern California during the Fourth of July 1987 weekend. The record of calls between Hap and Harrod does little to refute the suspicion that Harrod masqueraded as Phillips. On July 4, Harrod phoned Hap four times, the last call at 2:53 p.m. Harrod's first call to Hap on July 5 was at 12:25 p.m., followed by calls at 5:35 p.m. and 10:10 p.m. The next toll call Harrod made from his home wasn't until July 8, when he called Hap. That gap between calls might exist because Harrod wasn't home on July 6 or 7. Authorities are convinced he was in California.

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