Butch Harrod and the Tovrea Kid

Heiress's hit man keeps mum about plot that landed him on death row

A juror in the Jeanne Tovrea case took off work May 27 to attend the sentencing of the man convicted of killing the heiress. He said he wanted to see if the judge would order James "Butch" Harrod to death row in the storied 1988 murder of the Phoenix woman.

When it was over, and Superior Court Judge Ronald Reinstein had done just that, the juror watched the courtroom empty and collected his thoughts. The finality of the words "death sentence" seemed to have more meaning to him than to Harrod, who smiled briefly and waved at his family after being told he would die by lethal injection.

"The lawyers asked us a lot of questions when they were picking us about the death penalty, whether we were for it or against it," said the juror, a Tempe tax consultant in his 30s. "I was being honest when I said I wasn't against it. But even though it didn't come close to 'reasonable doubt' when we deliberated, it still hit hard when the judge actually said 'death.' What could have been going on in Butch's mind?"

It wasn't clear if the juror had meant Harrod's mind at the time of sentencing, or when Harrod had crawled through a kitchen window into Mrs. Tovrea's sprawling north Phoenix home, or perhaps when Harrod chose to be part of a murder-for-hire plot.

Whatever really was on Butch Harrod's mind at any of those moments, he wasn't saying. At an earlier hearing, the longtime Phoenix resident had maintained his innocence and promised--a la O.J. Simpson--to find "the real killers" someday, somehow.

Harrod's 18 fingerprints at the murder scene had taken much of the mystery out of whether he'd been involved in the heinous plot. Enduring, however, is the question of why he continues to take the heat for the man whose name and motive for murder hung like a shroud over the courtroom--Edward "Hap" Tovrea Jr.

Testimony showed Hap Tovrea and his sisters stood to gain millions by the death of their stepmother, Jeanne--the widow of famed Arizona cattle baron and World War II hero Ed Tovrea.

At Harrod's trial, prosecutors showed how Hap Tovrea had funneled more than $35,000 to Butch Harrod before and after Jeanne's murder. The funds supposedly had been remitted for Harrod's services as a business "consultant" for Hap's mining business, but prosecutors alleged that had been a ruse to launder blood money.

But authorities still haven't charged Hap Tovrea, or anyone else for that matter, in the Jeanne Tovrea murder case. Hap has proclaimed his innocence to police.

During a yearlong series of interviews in 1996-97 with New Times, the gregarious Harrod continually declined to implicate Hap Tovrea:

"If I knew something, maybe I would give it up--just because of what it's doing to my family. . . . I've always been for the death penalty for people who intentionally take another person's life.

"Why is someone trying to set me up? That's what I've asked myself over and over. . . . I'm not sitting here because of anything I did--I'm sitting here because someone wants Ed [Hap] Tovrea. Everything the police has done is geared toward prosecuting Ed. I don't believe for a minute that Ed was involved in this."

Concluded Harrod, "I get this feeling I'm on a conveyor belt to death row."
That he is. He can be reached at the Arizona Department of Corrections, in Florence, Arizona.

Hap Tovrea currently resides in posh La Jolla, California.

Contact Paul Rubin at his online address: prubin@newtimes.com

 
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