Death of an Heiress
The cop and his prey faced each other in a quiet room at the Phoenix Police Department.
It was the early evening of September 14, 1995. Veteran detective Ed Reynolds had craved this moment since 1992, when he'd taken on the task of revisiting one of Arizona's most infamous unsolved homicides, the 1988 slaying of 55-year-old heiress Jeanne Tovrea.
Now, sitting inches from him was a seemingly placid, middle-aged man he believed to be her killer.
Jeanne's late husband was Edward Tovrea Sr., a scion of a pioneer cattle clan which had dominated Arizona commerce for decades. Ed Sr. had left Jeanne, his wife of 10 years, millions when he died in 1983.
The assets included their home in the Lincoln Hills Estates, an exclusive, gated neighborhood nestled among the mountains north of North 35th Street and East Lincoln Drive, Phoenix.
Detective Reynolds was convinced that, on April 1, 1988, James "Butch" Harrod--the man he was about to interrogate--had sneaked into the community on foot, broken into Jeanne Tovrea's home, and shot her five times in the head with a .22-caliber weapon as she lay in bed.
"Basically, I'm going to tell you what this is all about," Reynolds told Harrod. "Right now, you're under arrest for murder."
"For murder. The murder of Jeanne Tovrea. You know who Jeanne Tovrea is?"
"I know Ed Tovrea," Harrod replied calmly, referring to Jeanne's stepson, Edward Tovrea Jr., known as "Hap."
Reynolds continued: "I know who hired you. I know how much you were told you would be paid for it. I know how much money you actually received for doing it. . . . [Hap] is gonna put 100 percent of the blame on the person that he hired to take all of the heat off of him."
He spoke of Harrod's ex-wife, Anne--"She's gonna give you up in a heartbeat."
The accused hit man remained impassive. He didn't know that his ex-wife--the two were divorced in February 1994--already had implicated him. She told police that Harrod had confided that Hap Tovrea had promised him $100,000 to kill Jeanne or to have her killed--and that he'd held up his end of the bargain.
On the surface, the 41-year-old Harrod seemed an unlikely candidate as a hit man. Before his arrest, he'd been a "consultant," a man who promoted grandiose business ideas but who had little success implementing them. Many considered him an entertaining and harmless braggart.
Harrod had no known history of violence, and no criminal record beyond a 1970s misdemeanor marijuana conviction in Missouri.
Despite Reynolds' bravado, police didn't even have Harrod's fingerprints on file. Getting them was the first order of business after Harrod was arrested without incident at his Ahwatukee home.
Now, Reynolds slipped away from his quarry to find out whether any of the 208 unidentified fingerprints found at the crime scene matched Harrod's. He returned with the news.
"It's your fucking fingerprints," the detective told Harrod. "Just got it confirmed."
Actually, 19 prints--all in telltale locations--belonged to Harrod.
One print was on a gate leading to Jeanne's home. A dozen were on both sides of a pane of glass that someone--surely the killer or an accomplice--had removed from a kitchen window to gain entry.
Police identified another fingerprint from the window's edge--exactly where someone had removed the protective stripping--as Harrod's. His palm print was on the stripping itself, which the intruder had tossed on a chair.
Five of Harrod's prints turned up near the point of entry inside Jeanne's kitchen, including four on a kitchen counter and one on a sink near the scattered contents of Jeanne's purse.
Curiously, that's where the fingerprint trail ended: Investigators found none of Harrod's prints on the door to Jeanne's bedroom or in the bedroom itself.
Though the fingerprints weren't a smoking gun--the murder weapon never was found--Reynolds viewed them as the next best thing:
"Your fingerprint on the window, the night of the murder, and it's only left by one person--the person that pulled the glass out of the window. No doubt. No guesswork."
The detective informed Harrod that the kitchen window into Jeanne's home was the sole point of entry not hooked up to the security system. That fact, known only to the Tovrea family and their close friends, lent credence to the theory that the murder was an inside job.
Faced with this devastating turn of events, Harrod kept his cool.
"I'm not a killer," he said monotonally.
"You're not a professional killer," Reynolds shot back. "Professional killers never mention it ever again. For their entire career. . . . What would it take to get you to give me number one and number two and three? What do you want?"
"I don't have any concept of any of those things."
After more than an hour, the detective gave up trying to elicit a confession, but he left a parting shot:
"All of the evidence points to Jim Harrod. Now you're not gonna get the opportunity to move to South America or Central America or anywhere else. And old Hap Tovrea is gonna be sittin' on that hill, laughing. He conned you big-time."
Harrod stared at him sphinxlike. He was taken to the Madison Street Jail, where he has been kept now for 17 months. He has maintained his innocence in court proceedings and in interviews with New Times.
Butch Harrod remains the only person charged in connection with Jeanne Tovrea's assassination. And, despite what Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley told the media after Harrod's arrest--"I do not believe this is the whole story"--law enforcement sources say it seems unlikely anyone else will face prosecution, unless Harrod sings.
That doesn't seem imminent.
"It's obvious they're trying to prosecute someone else by using me," he tells New Times. "Hap Tovrea is a flag-waving, searchlight-on-me suspect, I know that. But I don't for a minute think he had anything to do with this."
Detectives obviously believe otherwise. In November 1995, after Harrod's arrest, they obtained a search warrant that allowed police to raid Hap's La Jolla, California, home, business office and bank accounts.
An affidavit attached to the warrant claimed the search was justified because "Edward Arthur 'Hap' Tovrea and James Cornel Harrod, a.k.a. Gordon Phillips, had entered in an agreement for Harrod to murder Jeanne Tovrea."
Neither police nor prosecutors would discuss the case. But documents reviewed by New Times indicate that authorities believe Hap Tovrea had a motive--greed--for wanting his stepmother dead.
Despite a comfortable income from trust funds left him by his grandfather and father, Hap always seemed strapped for funds, before and after the murder.
He and his two sisters, Georgia (known as "Cricket") and Priscilla (known as "Prissy"), stood to gain from their stepmother's death. After the murder, the siblings collected more than $600,000 each, after taxes, from a trust fund formerly controlled by Jeanne.
Hap Tovrea did not respond to a request for an interview, and his attorney, Tom Henze, says he hasn't been authorized to discuss the case. In an interview with police hours after Harrod's arrest, Hap denied any involvement in the murder. But he also made stunningly inconsistent statements about his relationship with Harrod.
Harrod has no plausible explanation for the presence of his fingerprints at the crime scene.
"I'd like to know the answer to that," he says.
Harrod doesn't claim he's the victim of a Mark Fuhrmanlike police conspiracy. Instead, he alludes to vague but powerful figures who have successfully diverted attention to Hap Tovrea through him.
His family and some of his friends are standing by him. Says his best friend, former Phoenix radio personality Ernesto Gladden: "You're telling me that someone who is as intelligent as James would park his car on the top of the road, hike to the back of this place, cut the window pane out and then leave fingerprints all over the place? I know he owns three or four pair of gloves. Anybody who would walk in and kill someone in a situation like that is fucking stupid. Jim is very, very bright."
Gothic in magnitude, the Tovrea murder case has more twists and turns than a mountain trail. It winds through Arizona's roughhewn, "old money" society to modern-day Phoenix--and all the way to China and back. There was even a mysterious stalker--police are convinced it was Harrod--who got close to Jeanne by claiming to be a writer for Time Life publications.
Few substantive details of the investigation have been disclosed--until now. This three-part series lifts the veil that has surrounded the case for nearly nine years.
It's no secret that Ed Tovrea Sr.'s children considered Jeanne a gold digger. But his own friends didn't see it that way; to this day, they praise Jeanne for the devotion she showed Ed Sr. during his difficult final years.
If it turns out that Hap Tovrea was involved in the plot to murder her, Ed Sr. unwittingly helped seal his wife's fate. In his will, the patriarch left to his three children, among other gifts, a $4 million trust fund. But they could collect it only after Jeanne was dead.
And his will allowed Jeanne to live lavishly off the income generated by that trust.
Even before Ed Sr. died in 1983, his kids--especially his two daughters--showed disdain toward Jeanne, Ed Sr.'s third wife. Things deteriorated even more after his death, culminating in a bizarre April 1985 incident involving Ed Sr.'s cremated ashes. To Jeanne's chagrin, the children obtained the ashes from a mortuary and scattered them.
The children apparently had no contact with their stepmother after that incident. But their civil lawyers expressed the trio's animus during bitter and protracted litigation early this decade.
"She was more than amply taken care of [by her late husband]," an attorney said of Jeanne during a lawsuit filed by the Tovrea children against a law firm that had represented her. "She got greedy. And, unfortunately, her lawyers capitulated in what she did to satisfy her own desire for money."
The stepchildren lost that and other lawsuits they brought against Jeanne's estate and others, including her natural daughter Deborah. The effort cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, on top of the $2 million-plus they had to pay in estate taxes before they got a penny from the trust.
Police always had viewed the stepchildren as prime suspects, but there were several others. The list has included Jeanne's boyfriend at the time of her death, a married, onetime rodeo champion who lived in Las Vegas but spent lots of time with her in Phoenix; the old cowboy's wife; a friend with whom she had engaged in a business deal that went sour; mobsters and land speculators whom she allegedly had crossed.
Another early suspect had been Jeanne Tovrea's natural daughter, Deborah Nolan-Luster, if only because she was sole beneficiary of Jeanne's $2.7 million life insurance policy. The possibility of Nolan-Luster's involvement gained slight momentum in September 1989 after she showed deception during a polygraph test. But the examiner claimed her fragile emotional state probably had skewed his readings.
Another theory had emanated from Hap Tovrea himself. He speculated to police that his father somehow had orchestrated a "hit from the grave" as a final, macabre payback to his free-spending wife.
In a sense, Ed Tovrea Sr. had spoken from the grave, but to his children, not to his wife. In a three-page letter dated July 21, 1981, but not delivered until after his funeral, Ed Sr. provides insight into a troubled family.
"Remember," Ed Sr. scrawled to his children, "none of you have earned any of your inheritance, so be thankful for whatever you get."
These days, the Tovrea (pronounced TOE-vree) name is familiar locally because of Tovrea Castle, the quirky landmark that sits atop a saguaro-studded hill at 52nd Street and Washington.
Bill Roer says he has nothing against "that house or whatever it is," but he laments the fact that the Tovrea Castle is what most people think of when they hear the name.
"I think of Big Phil [Philip Edward Tovrea], who built that empire with handshake deals and a lot of hard work," says the 80-year-old Roer, a real estate agent, cattle dealer and retired roper. "He knew how to handle cattle and he knew how to handle people.
"And I think of my friend, Ed Sr., everything he did and went through. The Tovreas kind of ruled things around here with Kemp [businessman Kemper Marley] and the rest of 'em. They were a family to reckon with, until it all petered out."
In their heyday, the Tovreas had a sprawling, vertically integrated business. They owned cattle, farms where cattle feed was grown, meat-packing plants and, at one time, the world's largest stockyards--near east Phoenix's Stockyards Restaurant, which they owned. The Tovreas even started a bank.
The family also held expanses of property in Arizona and New Mexico. Some of the most valuable acreage was near the Castle, which the City of Phoenix has owned since 1993. About 31 prime acres near the Castle are still being held in trust for Big Phil's surviving grandchildren, including Hap Tovrea and his two sisters.
It all began in 1883, when 22-year-old Edward Ambrose Tovrea migrated to Arizona from his native Sparta, Illinois. Legend has it that E.A. or "Big Daddy," as he became known, arrived in Holbrook on a freight wagon.
The stout, big-boned young man moved to Bisbee, near the Mexican border, after a time. There, he opened a butcher shop and, in the 1890s, took the first steps toward becoming a cattle baron.
E.A. and his first wife, Lillian, had five sons together. The youngest, Philip Edward Tovrea--the legendary Big Phil--later assumed the role as family patriarch.
Divorced from Lillian, 45-year-old E.A. married Della Gillespie in 1906. She was only 18, but was feisty and could stand her ground.
The Tovrea cattle concerns flourished over the next two decades. By the late 1920s, Big Daddy began to turn control over to Big Phil. Big Daddy died in 1932 at the age of 70, just months after he and Della had moved into the recently completed Tovrea Castle. (Della, who did not have children, lived at the Castle until shortly before she died in January 1969, after two men beat and tortured her during a robbery. Both were caught.)
Big Phil was married twice, and his two sons, half-brothers Ed Sr. and Phil Jr., planned to join him in the family business when they came of age. But duty called, and the young men volunteered for the Army Air Corps as World War II approached.
In 1941, Ed Sr., a lieutenant, was shot down as he flew over the English Channel. German sailors patrolling the area rescued him. Placed in Stalag Luft III southeast of Berlin, Ed Sr. forged a place for himself in military history--and later Hollywood--as a chief tunnel construction worker on what became known as the Great Escape.
He never did get to escape, which probably was a blessing in disguise. Though it never made it into the movie script, the Germans coincidentally moved the American prisoners to another camp just a few days before the planned escape. Of 86 Allied prisoners who did flee, 50 were shot to death and only three reached friendly lines.
Ed Sr. returned to the States after 33 months in captivity, emaciated and never again in top health. His fondness for cigarettes and whiskey didn't help.
Back in Arizona, Ed Sr.'s pal, Barry Goldwater Sr., introduced him to Priscilla Peterson. He married her in 1947, and the couple had three children, Cricket, Hap and Prissy, born in 1948, 1950 and 1954, respectively.
Also in 1947, Big Phil sold the Tovrea packing plant to the Cudahys, another prominent clan. From 1947-59, he and his sons ran the profitable Tovrea Land and Cattle Company. Big Phil retired in 1959, and died three years later at the age of 67.
His will left trust funds worth a few million dollars each to his 13 then-surviving grandchildren, but it was to be doled out over decades.
In the early 1960s, the remaining Tovrea feedlots in east Phoenix succumbed to urban growth. The business relocated to rural Maricopa, where a scaled-down version operated until 1983--the year Ed Sr. died at the age of 64.
That year marked the 100th anniversary of Big Daddy's immigration to Arizona.
"The empire died and left a lot of money behind for us kids to play with," says Phil Tovrea III, an articulate Jerome resident who was the Tovrea Castle's caretaker for years. Like his great-grandfather, Big Daddy, Phil III served for a time as Jerome's mayor.
"I always considered myself a nobody who happened to have a name, which made me different from some of my cousins. They felt that being named Tovrea meant they were automatically somebody as people. Sure."
Ed Sr. and Priscilla were divorced in 1965, when Cricket and Hap were in their teens and Prissy had just turned 11. The children stayed with their mother, but Ed Sr. remained close.
Like Big Daddy before him, Ed Sr. sought companionship in a woman a quarter-century younger. He married a Phoenix woman named Joy in 1969 at a brief ceremony his daughter, Cricket, recalled.
After the couple had completed their vows, Cricket told police, Joy had turned to onlookers and shouted gleefully, "I'm rich! I hooked him!"
Not for long. The union lasted less than a year.
Ed Sr. sought solace at local watering holes. One favored haunt was Joe Hunt's, a bar at Scottsdale Road and Stetson. It was there around 1970 that he became smitten with a fellow patron in her late 30s named Jeanne Gunter.
Jeanne Gunter was as rough around the edges as any of Ed Tovrea Sr.'s wranglers, but with a beguiling twist: She let everyone know in her delightfully nonthreatening manner that, beneath it all, she was a lady and expected to be treated as such.
Ed Sr. had grown up in the lap of Arizona-style luxury. Most of Jeanne's life was a struggle to make ends meet. Born in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, Jeanne migrated as a child with her parents to Oklahoma, California and finally to Redmond, Oregon.
Jeanne married a lumber-mill worker named Stan Nolan shortly after graduating from high school in 1950. Her only child, Deborah, was born the next year. Jeanne separated from her husband while Deborah was still a baby, and began a long odyssey, wandering from state to state, job to job.
She'd always find work--as a hairdresser, secretary, waitress, whatever was available. Attractive and gregarious, Jeanne made friends wherever she went. She never lost--in fact, seemed to cultivate--what she described as her "hillbilly" Arkansas accent.
As Jeanne sought to find her way, her daughter lived much of the time with Jeanne's parents. It's uncertain if the arrangement led to later mother-daughter tensions. But at the time of Jeanne's death, the pair appeared to be on excellent terms.
In the mid-1950s, Jeanne married a New Mexico man named Daniel Daniels. It isn't certain how long they were married or if they were together when Daniels, said to have been a professional gambler, was himself murdered.
Jeanne loved rodeo, and felt at home with country folk and blue-collar types who, like herself, had come up the hard way. That's not to say she rejected the concept of wealth.
Jeanne was a shopaholic before the word was coined. After her murder, Hap Tovrea told police that his dad had paid salespeople to stop selling to her. But Ed Sr. would tell friends affectionately that those spending habits were to be expected from someone who had gone without for so long.
Jeanne landed in Arizona in 1961, and found work as a cocktail waitress at the Safari Restaurant on North Scottsdale Road. (The establishment gained notoriety in June 1978 in another of Arizona's infamous homicides, as the last place Hogan's Heroes star Bob Crane was seen in public before he was murdered.)
In the mid-1960s, Jeanne returned to her native Arkansas for a few years to battle cervical cancer. Doctors pronounced her cured after a heroic struggle, and she returned to Arizona in the late 1960s determined to improve her lot.
She attended real-estate school by day and waited tables at the Safari at night. After earning her license, Jeanne worked for a real estate firm on North Central Avenue.
Then she caught Ed Tovrea Sr.'s eye.
The two clicked. They enjoyed many of the same things--playing cards, eating at fine restaurants, partying with friends.
When Ed Sr. introduced her to his three children, who by now were young adults, the siblings justifiably were skeptical. But they held that view long after Jeanne became a fixture in Ed Sr.'s life, and long after she'd won over Ed Sr.'s best friends with her personality and obvious attachment to the aging cattleman.
"Ed had the sweets for Jeanne and he wasn't afraid to say it," says his old friend, Bill Roer, echoing the sentiments of many contemporaries. "No ifs, ands or buts about it."
Ed Sr. and Jeanne married in 1973.
But Ed Sr.'s health slipped badly in the late 1970s with the onset of emphysema and cirrhosis of the liver.
And there were his continued troubles with his only son, Hap.
It couldn't have been easy being the only son of a larger-than-life figure such as Ed Tovrea Sr. How do you impress a man who helped orchestrate the Great Escape, who was one of the West's most powerful cattle barons?
Certainly not with the Hap Tovrea method.
Even his friends concede that Hap has embraced the life of a stereotypical trust-fund baby--a self-proclaimed free spirit who dabbles in "projects."
But his track record has been dismal. Neither the agriculture degree he obtained from the University of Arizona in 1973 nor his father's deep pockets could bring success in the mid-1970s when Hap tried to run a cotton farm north of Tucson.
That venture cost Ed Sr. a tidy $200,000.
As a 25-year-old in April 1976, Hap wrote to his father about a new "opportunity," in a letter that reflects the stormy relationship.
"It does not help me for you to badmouth me at the various social gatherings you attend," Hap carped. "I am busting my ass putting together a business that will mean definitely millions of dollars to me in my lifetime, and these rumors do not help. . . . You're so worried about me asking you for anything--Don't worry, I don't want to. My ego won't allow it anymore. In closing, I trust this will shed a small ray of light in the darkness in which you vision me."
Such drivel rankled Ed Sr., his friends say, and he reacted more than once by changing his will.
He was terminally ill and almost totally reliant on Jeanne by the start of the 1980s. The couple had moved into the beautiful $500,000 home at Lincoln Hills Estates, where they were forced by Ed Sr.'s condition to spend much of their time.
Their neighbors included Kemper Marley, who'd been one of Arizona's most powerful businessmen for decades. Kemper and his wife, Ethel, had been friends of Ed Sr.'s since the 1930s.
"We knew Ed since he was a little old kid," says Ethel Marley, a keen woman who is pushing 90. "We housed him many a night back then--he was always hauling his horse around, and we'd put him and the horse up at our place. It was kind of funny that now we were sitting across from each other in these nice fancy houses. Those two [Jeanne and Ed Sr.] loved each other, and they weren't faking it, whatever his kids might say."
(Kemper Marley--a pivotal but never-indicted figure in the 1976 car-bomb slaying of Arizona Republic reporter Donald Bolles--spoke with police about Jeanne Tovrea in 1990. He promised a detective he would discuss what he'd heard about Jeanne's murder after he returned from a trip to California. But Marley died before that interview.)
In July 1981, Ed Sr. wrote the letter that would one day be central to courtroom battles between his children and the people or institutions they say pillaged their father's estate.
One of those people was Glenn Kearney, Ed Sr.'s close friend and longtime employee. Now 83, Kearney says Ed Sr. asked him to deliver the letter to his three children after his death.
It said in part:
". . . You three get a KNOWN amount to begin with. Jeannie gets certain assets outright and all the income of the balance of the estate. The balance is an unknown quantity as who knows what it will be, what are the taxes, legal fees, etc.
". . . As it stands right now, Jeannie will be amply cared for which in my opinion she is most certainly entitled to as we have had a wonderful life together and love each other very much.
". . . I know that you are not fond of Jeannie, especially you girls, which I guess is normal between stepmother and stepchild. She tried very hard to be your friend, but you declined to accept her, which made it difficult for me.
". . . I want you to know that at one time you were not going to be considered in my will as I was extremely disappointed in the way you were conducting your lives. Jeannie intervened and persuaded me to not pursue that line of thinking, telling me to give you all more time and maturity.
". . . [Hap] has gone through so much money it is hard to believe; he owes everybody and refuses to work and stated he would never work.
". . . Remember, none of you have earned any of your inheritance, so be thankful for whatever you get."
Ed Sr. signed a new will a year later, in July 1982. In it, he named confidants Kearney and Harold Christopherson as his estate's co-executors.
As envisioned in the letter, Ed Sr.'s will left his children $60,000 each from two life insurance policies, and $200,000 plus interest each in a fund to be disbursed at $1,500 a month.
Most would consider $260,000-plus a tidy sum, but it's a pittance in comparison with Ed Sr.'s total holdings. His probate listed assets worth $8.7 million, of which he left Jeanne $3.7 million in property, stocks and bonds.
Ed Sr. also created a trust fund worth another $4 million. In the will, he promised his children they could split the fund--but, tellingly, only after Jeanne Tovrea's death.
On top of that, the will stipulated that Jeanne, not the kids, could live off the income generated by the trust--about $400,000 a year. Perhaps more vexing to the children, she could avoid paying any estate taxes on that asset during her lifetime. Instead, they would have to pay the taxes--about 50 percent--before they saw a cent of what remained.
In February 1983, attorney Ken Reeves was called to St. Joseph's Hospital, where Ed Sr. lay in the intensive-care unit. There, Reeves assisted his client in an important revision of the will: Jeanne Tovrea became co-executor of his estate with Glenn Kearney. (Jeanne would assume sole control of the $4 million trust fund.)
Reeves' notes about the meeting at St. Joe's included a chilling synopsis: "Conversation regarding [Ed Sr.'s] children, his wife, their relationship and his wish that I protect her from them."
Ed Sr. died at home in July 1983. Hap held one of his hands and Jeanne the other as he drew his last breath.
Caring for Ed Sr. had been Jeanne Tovrea's top priority for a decade. After an appropriate period of mourning, the widow--who'd just turned 50--resolved to live life to the fullest.
Within a few years, Jeanne became a regular on the social calendar, donating her time to charity balls, attending galas, collecting art, traveling, making the scene. She lost weight, underwent cosmetic surgery, and, after a while, started dating.
But she never forgot her roots: A few months before she died, for instance, Jeanne briefly visited an old rodeo pal at his dilapidated line shack in northern California. Upon her return, she sent the cowpoke a check for $5,000, with instructions to buy himself a pickup truck or new teeth.
But Jeanne didn't put memories or mementoes of her late husband into storage. Whenever she pulled her Jaguar or Mercedes into her garage, she faced an almost life-size photograph of her and Ed Sr., grinning widely.
"I think my cousins felt that Jeanne just wanted the money," says Phil Tovrea III. "I think she loved him."
Those cousins--Jeanne's stepchildren--steamed as she blossomed personally and financially in the mid-1980s. This was the situation:
Hap was living in San Diego on about $4,500 a month from his father and grandfather's trusts, but his financial woes persisted. Back in Phoenix, Jeanne Tovrea was living like a desert queen, and her stepkids knew it.
"Jeanne Tovrea was not the [stepchildren's] best friend," an attorney for her stepchildren told a jury in 1991. "You are going to hear some things about Jeanne not trusting the kids. Thinking they are watching her. Not wanting to deal with them personally. . . . Every year that went by that Jeanne invested only in her own interests, the amount of money that Edward Tovrea Sr. meant for his children . . . got smaller and smaller and smaller, and the amount of money available for her to live on got bigger and bigger and bigger."
The evidence didn't support the latter claim, and the jury ruled against the Tovrea children.
Of the three, Hap had remained the most civil with Jeanne after their father's death, even though he claimed in a 1993 interview with detectives that she'd moved Ed Sr. into a room "similar to a maid's quarters and left him there to die."
Yet even Hap knew little about his stepmother. For example, he told police that Jeanne had been a rodeo barrel racer who had been his father's maid before reeling him in as her sixth husband. None of that was true.
All communication between Jeanne and her stepchildren ended after the incident involving Ed Sr.'s ashes, which had been stored at a downtown Phoenix mortuary. Jeanne had postponed several meetings with her stepchildren to discuss when and where to spread the ashes. A year passed, then almost two, and Cricket Tovrea finally decided she'd had enough.
She told attorneys in 1991, "My father was in a prisoner of war camp, and he always said he never wanted to be contained again, to scatter his ashes. So I took it upon myself to get the ashes and get them scattered."
Cricket convinced the mortuary to release the urn. She divvied up the ashes among her siblings, and apparently even gave some to her mother, Priscilla. When Jeanne found out what had transpired, she contacted Hap.
"At that point, I was in between what you might say a rock and a hard spot," he recalled. "I was caught between two families."
Hap said it was the last time he spoke with Jeanne.
Attorney Ken Reeves demanded that the siblings return the ashes to Jeanne. But they claimed it was too late, that they'd already scattered them in various locations.
"It seems ridiculous for us kids to have to return our father's ashes," Priscilla Tovrea said in 1991. "It was our father."
In June 1987, Hap Tovrea became a director of his latest "project," MECA (Minerals Exploration Corporation of the Americas). He later called it "a research-and-development and property-owning company" that bought and sold sulfur mines in Chile.
Around that time, Hap started to speak often--sometimes more than once a day--on the phone from his home in La Jolla to a new acquaintance from Phoenix, James "Butch" Harrod.
Harrod was a self-described consultant--"I'm good at putting people together," he says. But his most noteworthy business venture had been a 1986 trip to China as middleman in a shrimp-farming scheme that never went anywhere (and led to another Valley man's indictment on fraud charges).
Four months after the murder, in August 1988, two Phoenix detectives had interviewed Harrod. They sought him out after phone records indicated that Hap Tovrea had phoned him 33 times in the 10 days before Jeanne's murder. (In fact, the pair called each other more than 1,300 times in a four-year period between July 1987 and April 1991.) According to one of the detective's notes, when Harrod was asked about the flurry of calls in the days leading up to the murder, Harrod explained he and Hap had been conducting legitimate business.
The detectives, Richard Fuqua and Dave Lott, apparently made no connection at the time between Harrod and a shadowy figure in the case--a man who called himself Gordon Phillips.
In early July 1987, Jeanne Tovrea and her daughter, Deborah, met in Newport Beach, California, with "Phillips."
For several reasons--including a phone message left on Jeanne's answering machine that witnesses, police and even Harrod agree sounds like Harrod--detectives in 1994 became convinced the man calling himself Phillips was in fact Butch Harrod.
Some time before the meeting in California, Jeanne had told friends of getting phone calls from Phillips. She said he had claimed to be a writer for Time Life publications researching a story on prisoners of war.
Jeanne said she tried to explain to Phillips that she hadn't met her husband until years after the war, but that Phillips insisted they meet anyway. She told friends that she and Phillips again spoke on the phone before the Fourth of July weekend in 1987.
Jeanne said she told Phillips she intended to spend that weekend at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach, and would be unavailable. What a coincidence, she said Phillips replied--he also planned to be in that area. Worn down by his persistence, Jeanne said she agreed to meet him there.
She told a Phoenix friend about the disconcerting meeting with Phillips the day after it happened--on July 5 or 6, 1987.
"She said, 'Remember that guy I was telling you about?'" Heather Richardson told police in July 1996. "'Well, he showed up at my house last night,' and she said he knocked on the door. She said, 'How did you get in?' 'cause it was a guarded community, and he said, 'My car broke down on the street and I just walked in.'"
Richardson said Jeanne was troubled by the tone of the 30-minute session: "[Phillips] never one time asked her any questions about POWs. He was more interested in her. . . . She was absolutely frightened out of her mind."
If Gordon Phillips was Butch Harrod, and if Harrod killed Jeanne Tovrea, he's one of the more gutsy, or foolish, killers on record. It's one thing to let your intended victim see you. But Phillips also met Deborah Nolan-Luster.
Nolan-Luster picked Harrod out of a lineup last December, saying he was the man who called himself Phillips. (However, in January 1995, she was shown a photo lineup that included Harrod. She chose someone else as the man who looked like Gordon Phillips.)
After her mother was murdered, she told police Phillips was a "Rambo type," a white male in his mid-30s, about five-nine or five-ten, with a stocky build and light brown hair. That describes an untold number of men, including Butch Harrod.
She also recalled Phillips telling them he knew Hap Tovrea, and that he had been aware of bitterness between Jeanne and the stepchildren. Finally, Nolan-Luster told detectives, Phillips had said he was from Buffalo, New York.
Heather Richardson's husband, Charles, found a Gordon Phillips in a Buffalo phone directory at a city library. He also called Time Life in New York City, and was told no Gordon Phillips worked for the company.
"At one point," Charles Richardson told police last year, "[Jeanne] said, 'He's really bothering me, these calls I'm getting from him.' She vehemently said, 'I don't want this person near me. If he finds out where I am, where I live, he could come and kill me.'"
In October 1987, Jeanne spoke by phone with the Gordon Phillips in Buffalo. He turned out to be a doctor, and not the man who had appeared on her doorstep in California. Several friends suggested she notify authorities about the Phillips character, but she didn't.
Jeanne's sister, Sandra Elder, told detectives last year that Jeanne was convinced Hap Tovrea was behind the Phillips escapade.
The specter of Gordon Phillips was one reason Jeanne Tovrea in November 1987 insured her life for $2.7 million. She named her daughter as the sole beneficiary.
The premium on the policy was $500,000, which Jeanne took, legally, from the $4 million trust fund established by her late husband.
Phillips left at least two more phone messages for Jeanne Tovrea, probably in the fall of 1987. Butch Harrod may never have been arrested had Deborah Nolan-Luster not found those messages at her mother's home after the murder and turned them over to police.
As 1988 dawned, Jeanne Tovrea had happier things than Gordon Phillips to dwell on. For starters, she had a new boyfriend.
His name was Eddie, and she considered him a gem. Jeanne first had met Eddie in 1959, when he was one of the leading money winners on the pro rodeo circuit.
After hanging up his spurs, Eddie had tried his hand as the lead singer in the country-tinged Gold Buckle Band. By late 1987, he was 58 and working as a greeter at the Sahara casino in Las Vegas when Jeanne Tovrea reentered his life.
Jeanne was attending a party in Las Vegas during the National Finals Rodeo when she and Eddie reconnected. They shared some laughs, and vowed to keep in touch.
Trouble was, Eddie was married. Jeanne apparently believed he intended to divorce his wife. She told friends how happy Eddie made her, how he'd inspired her to work out in the minigym she'd installed at her house and to stay off cigarettes.
Jeanne started to spend a few days every week with Eddie in Las Vegas--usually Friday through Sunday--and he'd spend a few days in Phoenix. She told friends that Eddie had vowed he would separate from his wife, an act Jeanne tried to expedite in March 1988 by renting and furnishing him an apartment in Las Vegas.
She made plans for a huge party in Phoenix. April 15 was the date, and it was to have a country theme. She told several close friends she planned to announce her engagement to Eddie at the bash.
But Eddie hadn't filed for divorce, and on the day before Jeanne's murder, he and his wife saw a marriage counselor.
Jeanne Tovrea's last day was uneventful. She visited a few friends, did some shopping and mailed a few invitations to her party. (Eerily, friends would receive them after her death.) She spoke to her sister Sandra in the early evening for about a half-hour. She had a plane reservation for the next afternoon, April 1, to visit Eddie in Vegas.
At 12:47 a.m. on April Fools' Day 1988, Phoenix police responded to an alarm from Unit 26 of the Lincoln Hills Estates. They arrived at Jeanne Tovrea's home exactly 10 minutes later.
The officers heard an alarm going off inside, but didn't see anything amiss until they reached the west side of the residence. There, they saw someone had removed a window and placed it on a chair, near a piece of weatherstripping.
An arcadia door near the window was ajar, and whoever opened it had triggered the alarm--almost certainly on the way out.
The officers called a K-9 unit, which arrived within minutes. A police dog named Bear entered through the open door, and sprinted the 80 feet to Jeanne's closed bedroom door.
The dog jumped onto the king-size bed, with his handlers in close pursuit. Officer Tom Orlikowski and his sergeant, Bill Heady, saw the shape of a person covered with a sheet and flowered print comforter. A pillow with what appeared to be bullet holes through it lay next to the body. A phone cord had been yanked from the phone, which was off the hook.
Heady pulled the sheet down, and saw a woman with blood oozing from her head onto the bed.
Jeanne Tovrea was dead.
It would be more than seven years before police would arrest Butch Harrod on a charge of murdering her.
If he is guilty, Harrod continues to play a world-class bluffing game as his trial nears in Maricopa County Superior Court--probably late this year.
"If I was in a position where I could drop a nickel on Hap," Harrod says, "he'd be in here with me. But I can't, because I'm not the killer."
Next week: The tangled trail to an arrest.
Key Dates in the Tovrea Murder Case
Cattle mogul Edward A. Tovrea Sr. weds Jeanne Gunter, his third wife.
Edward A. Tovrea Sr. dies. His widow, Jeanne, is named co-executor of his vast estate.
All communication between Jeanne Tovrea and her three stepchildren--Hap, Cricket and Prissy--ends after a bizarre incident involving Ed Sr.'s ashes.
Jeanne Tovrea and her daughter meet in Newport Beach, California, with a man who says he is a writer named Gordon Phillips.
Jeanne Tovrea buys $2.7 million in additional life insurance, paying a premium of $500,000.
Jeanne Tovrea is shot to death at her home.
James "Butch" Harrod is arrested and charged with murdering Jeanne Tovrea.
Authorities search Edward "Hap" Tovrea's California home and office.
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