Trial and Heir

In the trial of the decade, Butch Harrod is found guilty of the 1988 murder of wealthy Phoenix widow Jeanne Tovrea

The meeting so upsets Debbie, she sleeps with a butcher knife under her pillow that night.

Jeanne Tovrea later asks a Phoenix friend--an ex-CIA agent--to check into Phillips' credentials. He reports back that no one named Gordon Phillips ever has worked for Time Life.

Debbie tells Phoenix detectives about Phillips the day after her mother's murder. But the police fail to follow up on a phone-machine tape they find at Jeanne's home. It holds two messages from "Gordon Phillips," each left months before the murder. One mentions Phillips' alleged meeting with an "Ed Jr." in Los Angeles, an apparent reference to Hap Tovrea.

Debbie Nolan and Mike Luster listen to the tape a few weeks later while making an inventory of Jeanne Tovrea's belongings. They call police, who now confiscate the tape as evidence.

Detectives first contact Butch Harrod in August 1988, after they examine Hap Tovrea's phone records and note a spate of calls between Harrod and Hap Tovrea in the days before the murder. The meeting with Harrod doesn't even merit an official report.

A few years pass, and the Tovrea murder investigation has stalled. In April 1992, the television show Unsolved Mysteries runs a story about the case. The piece includes a reenactment of Jeanne's murder and, more important, an edited snippet of one of Gordon Phillips' phone messages.

The TV show replays the Tovrea episode many times over the next few years. Butch Harrod's in-laws--the Costellos--see it and are floored. They strongly suspect that the voice on the tape belongs to Anne Costello Harrod's husband, Butch.

The family members seek counsel with a longtime family friend and Department of Defense investigator, Jeff Fauver. He knows Butch and he, too, believes the voice of "Phillips" is Harrod's. But no one tells the police for months.

Anne and Butch separate in October 1993, with their divorce final in February 1994. Also in early 1994, someone calls the Phoenix police anonymously to say a James Harrod may be linked to Jeanne Tovrea's murder. A few months later, a caller--it was Jeff Fauver--says he recognized Gordon Phillips' voice on Unsolved Mysteries as sounding like Butch Harrod's.

The tips are routed to detective Edward Reynolds, a member of the homicide unit's "cold-case" squad. Debbie Luster (she and Mike married in late 1987) later will call Reynolds "my hero" because of his tireless work in the Tovrea case.

Reynolds dusts off the boxes of aging evidence and starts reading. He and fellow detective Mark Stribling also learn through county court records that Harrod and his wife are recently divorced, that she's reassumed her maiden name--Costello--and that she's a manager at a large Phoenix firm.

In November 1994, they interview Anne's mother and a brother. The mother tells the detectives her daughter firmly believes her ex-husband was involved in Jeanne Tovrea's murder. She says Anne told her, "Do you know what I'm going to have to live with for the rest of my life? That I could have prevented someone's death."

Instead, prosecutors will allege, Anne helped Butch spend the "blood money" he got from Hap Tovrea, on a large down payment on their home, a new Chevy Blazer, a week in Barbados.

A few weeks later, Anne Costello meets with Reynolds at the offices of her attorney, but only after she's promised immunity from prosecution, provided she hadn't participated directly in the murder.

Anne knows details about the Tovrea case that police intentionally had kept from the public. For example, she says Harrod told her the killers entered through Jeanne's kitchen window, which wasn't wired to the home's security system. (He also told Anne he "facilitated" the murder, but didn't commit it.)

Anne says her ex-husband claimed he was to be paid $100,000 by Hap Tovrea to orchestrate Jeanne's murder, from which he was to pay the killers, "Tommy" and "Michael." He later told her he'd waited from a secluded hill near Jeanne Tovrea's home as the two men completed their grisly task.

The motivation for murder, Harrod allegedly told Anne Costello, was twofold: money and hate.

During the interview, Anne falls apart when Reynolds plays her the Gordon Phillips phone message: "I asked her, 'Was that Butch's voice on the tape?' Anne stated, 'Yes. He's a bad person. Bad person.'"

The police don't have Butch Harrod's fingerprints on record, so they can't compare the unidentified latents at the crime scene to his. But they decide to arrest him anyway.

On September 14, 1995, Phoenix police take Harrod into custody without incident at his Ahwatukee home. He is fingerprinted, and 18 latents found in portentous locations at Jeanne Tovrea's home match.

Reynolds interrogates Harrod, but fails to get a confession.
Before the Tovreas learn of Harrod's arrest, detectives go to La Jolla, California, to interview Hap Tovrea and his sister, Cricket. At first, Reynolds invents a story that allows him to mention Butch Harrod's name in passing.

Hap replies casually that he once knew a Butch Harrod, but hasn't talked to him in years. His memory improves after Reynolds reminds Hap of the 1,200-plus phone calls between the pair from 1987-91, about thousands of dollars paid to Harrod to "consult," supposedly on a sulfur-mining venture in China. (Prosecutors will allege that the China deal allowed Hap Tovrea to launder money to Harrod for the contract killing of Jeanne Tovrea.)

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