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.

Police on November 30, 1995, served a search warrant on Hap Tovrea in La Jolla. The cops searched his home and office, then seized his bank records from four San Diego-area institutions. But they didn't arrest him.

Hap hired Tom Henze, one of Arizona's most formidable criminal defense attorneys. Henze, who declined to comment for this story, has been playing both sides--prosecution and defense.

Butch Harrod's sister, June Barney, says Henze visited her months ago at her Phoenix home, politely digging for updates about her accused brother. Henze also has cooperated with prosecutors, voluntarily turning over documents police didn't seize in the late 1995 raid at Hap's home and business.

The documents indicate Hap paid Harrod about $35,000--more money than authorities previously had suspected--over a 15-month span. Harrod claims he was paid less than $14,000.

Harrod's mother and stepfather, meanwhile, have put up most of their life savings to retain respected Phoenix attorneys Mike Bernays and Tonya McMath. The pair undoubtedly will mount a spirited defense of their accused client.

But short of a dramatic explanation, those close to the case agree, Harrod's telltale fingerprints at the crime scene make the chances of his acquittal slim.

Law enforcement authorities called a press conference in Phoenix hours after the detectives finished grilling Hap Tovrea in California.

Butch Harrod's arrest on a first-degree murder charge was a bombshell. But Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley and Phoenix police chief Dennis Garrett offered few details.

"There are other aspects to this homicide that we're looking at," Romley said, "and to comment right now would be a bit premature. . . . I do not believe this is the whole story with the arrest of Mr. Harrod."

Neither Romley nor Garrett mentioned Hap Tovrea.
A few days after Harrod's arrest, the late Phoenix Gazette opined about the Tovrea case in an editorial titled "The mystery remains."

"They call it the cold case file," it said, "where the only leads police have for solving some crimes seem as chilled and lifeless as, well, the corpses in the morgue.

"Such was the celebrated murder of Jeanne Tovrea, attractive widow of wealthy Arizona rancher Ed Tovrea, murdered in her sleep in April 1988. An assailant put a pillow over her head and pumped five pistol rounds into her body.

"The mystery, the questions remain, even as police arrested an Ahwatukee man last week and charged him with murder. In time, County Attorney Richard Romley assures us, we will know how the alleged killer, James Harrod, managed to elude a manned security station at her upscale complex and a double-alarm system to enter Mrs. Tovrea's home . . .

"Was it a murder for hire? If so, who else was involved?
". . . A close-mouthed Mr. Romley said the evidence would become clear as the case develops in court. Until then, we wait and wonder, encouraged that a determined investigative team persevered in this high-profile murder, but puzzled why it took so long."

James C. "Butch" Harrod has been held at the Madison Street Jail since his arrest. He awaits a jury trial in the death-penalty case before Superior Court Judge Ronald Reinstein, probably later this year.

Key Dates in the Tovrea Murder Case

1973
Cattle mogul Edward A. Tovrea Sr. weds Jeanne Gunter, his third wife.
July 1983

Edward A. Tovrea Sr. dies. His widow, Jeanne, is named co-executor of his vast estate.

April 1985
All communication between Jeanne Tovrea and her three stepchildren--Hap, Cricket and Prissy--ends after a bizarre incident involving Ed Sr.'s ashes.

July 1987
Jeanne Tovrea and her daughter meet in Newport Beach, California, with a man who says he is a writer named Gordon Phillips.

November 1987
Jeanne Tovrea buys $2.7 million in additional life insurance, paying a premium of $500,000.

April 1988
Jeanne Tovrea is shot to death at her home.

September 1995
James "Butch" Harrod is arrested and charged with murdering Jeanne Tovrea.

December 1995
Authorities search Edward "Hap" Tovrea's California home and office.

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