The Suspect's Sidekick
The lead news story in Arizona on April 1, 1988, was a grabber. "Socialite found slain," the headline in a Phoenix daily blared.
The crime could have been taken from a Columbo script--a millionaire heiress to a cattle fortune is executed as she sleeps in her home.
Phoenix police had responded about 1 a.m. to an alarm emanating from Lincoln Hills Estates, a gated, exclusive neighborhood near the Paradise Valley border.
Inside a home at the rear of the subdivision, they found the body of Jeanne Gunter Tovrea; she had been shot in the head five times from close range. The widow of famed Arizona cattle baron and war hero Edward Tovrea Sr. was 55.
Within minutes, a police helicopter hovered over the hills behind Jeanne's home. The moon was almost full, but the airborne cops saw nothing amiss.
The subdivision's security guards had nothing of substance to offer.
Police dogs failed to pick up a scent along the suspected escape route--up a hill about 100 yards to a secluded cul-de-sac situated off North 36th Street.
Detectives say the best chance of breaking a case comes in the first few days after a crime. Jeanne Tovrea's murder didn't fit that category. But homicide detectives soon established two leads:
* Jeanne had been frightened of a man named Gordon Phillips, whom she'd met at least once and had spoken with by phone often in the months before she was killed.
* Jeanne and her late husband's three children--Edward Jr., Georgia and Priscilla (known as Hap, Cricket and Prissy, respectively)--didn't get along.
A detective examining Jeanne's relationship with her stepchildren interviewed attorney Ken Reeves a few days after the murder. Now a Maricopa County court commissioner, Reeves in 1988 was Jeanne's attorney. A police report summarized Reeves' comments: "The children of Mr. Ed Tovrea benefit by the death of Mrs. Tovrea simply because she is out of the picture. . . . Mr. Reeves termed the picture as being several million dollars."
Like much of what is being revealed in this three-part series, Phoenix investigators blacked that comment out from reports released to the media.
Detectives also suppressed that someone--surely the killer or an accomplice--had left a dozen fingerprints at the point of entry into Jeanne's home, a kitchen window. The same person had left prints on a kitchen sink and counter. Authorities kept secret that the kitchen window was the only one not hooked up to the home's alarm system.
The police did release snippets of information--that the killer had placed a pillow over Jeanne's head before shooting her, and that some of her credit cards and, possibly, jewelry were missing. (No one ever used the cards, which never were recovered. And the missing jewelry was later found at the home.)
The most intriguing quote published in the days after the murder came not from police but from a Tovrea family member.
"I think someone hired someone to do this thing," Phil Tovrea III--nephew of Ed Tovrea Sr.--told the Phoenix Gazette. "A burglar doesn't shoot somebody five times in the head."
On April 5, 1988, Phoenix detective Dave Lott interviewed Hap and Cricket Tovrea in San Diego. The pair had ironclad alibis--they'd both been in California on the night of the murder.
Lott asked Hap what he knew about Gordon Phillips, a purported writer who had haunted Jeanne during her final months. Hap said he didn't know anyone by that name.
He said his father had left him and his sisters $200,000 each in his will, doled out at $1,500 per month. (He and his sisters also collected $60,000 in life insurance benefits after his dad's death in 1983.)
Hap and Cricket said that whatever money they'd get from Jeanne's estate was of minor consequence. They stated they were financially set, thanks to trusts established by their grandfather, Philip Tovrea, and their father, Ed Sr.
Within months, however, the children would be joined by their sister Prissy in a series of bitter court battles over Jeanne's estate. Their aim--to get more money. (They would lose each of the four lawsuits they brought against the estate, its attorneys, trust companies and others.)
Most of the bickering stemmed from a provision in Ed Sr.'s will. It instructed Jeanne to put about half of his estate into an account that would be given to Hap and his sisters--but only after Jeanne died.
Hap and Cricket told the detective they had no idea and didn't care how much money was in the account--it turned out to be about $4 million.
They may not have known the exact amount. But testimony they gave in the subsequent court cases indicates they did know it would be substantial. And they also knew the will granted Jeanne the right to spend the interest generated by the account--about $400,000 a year.
"They were completely aware of the money, and what they thought they had coming to them," attorney Ken Reeves tells New Times. "Everybody thought the kids would sue her for something someday, and they did."
(None of Jeanne Tovrea's stepchildren responded to requests from New Times for comment; none has been charged with any crime. The most recent record of Hap Tovrea discussing the case was with Phoenix detectives during a September 1995 interview, during which he denied any wrongdoing.)
Detective Lott knew little of this when he first interviewed Hap and Cricket in San Diego. On April 6, 1988, the siblings voluntarily submitted to fingerprinting--"for elimination purposes" as suspects, the cops called it--at the San Diego Police Department. Their sister, Prissy, was fingerprinted in Colorado.
None of the stepchildren attended Jeanne's memorial service in Phoenix.
Jeanne Tovrea was buried in her native Siloam Springs, Arkansas, on April 8. Her will named her sister, Sandra Elder, and her biological daughter, Deborah Nolan-Luster, as her estate's co-executors.
Her taxable estate totaled about $8.8 million, including $2.7 million in life insurance. Jeanne had purchased the massive life insurance policy six months before she was murdered, in part because she feared the mysterious Gordon Phillips.
Jeanne named her daughter as the sole beneficiary of the insurance policy, but, ironically, Hap, Cricket and Prissy were forced to pay almost $1 million in taxes on Nolan-Luster's benefits.
After estate taxes, legal fees, bequests and other expenses, the $4 million trust generated about $600,000 for each of Ed Sr.'s three children.
Phoenix police assigned four homicide detectives to the murder case. Within weeks, the team had interviewed more than 100 people.
Tips came in by the dozen, as they often do in high-profile cases. The best, yet most frustrating lead was Gordon Phillips, the stranger who had intruded into Jeanne's life in 1987 and then retreated to the shadows.
Deborah Nolan-Luster rummaged through her late mother's belongings at the Lincoln Hills residence. It was April 18, 1988, less than three weeks after Jeanne Tovrea's murder.
Nolan-Luster flipped on her mother's phone-answering machine. Two of the messages on the tape startled her.
"Jeanne, this is Gordon Phillips. I'm sorry to get back with you so late. I had a little problem with Ed Jr. [Hap], which I had to go to L.A. to take care of, and I've already talked to a judge over there. Now, I'm back in Phoenix and I will try and call back this afternoon and I have the information for you."
A second message from Phillips promised another call.
Nolan-Luster instantly recognized the voice and name on the machine. Hearing it sent shivers through her. She notified police as soon as she could compose herself.
She and several of Jeanne's friends already had told detectives about Phillips and how he'd frightened Jeanne. But Nolan-Luster was the only person who could say she'd met the man.
That meeting had occurred in July 1987. Phillips had claimed to be a writer for Time Life publications, and told Jeanne he wanted to do a story about her late husband, World War II hero Ed Tovrea Sr.
After rebuffing Phillips for weeks, Jeanne finally had agreed to meet him in Newport Beach, California, during the July 4 holiday weekend.
Nolan-Luster and her future husband, Mike, were with her when Phillips had shown up. (Mike Luster later said he'd never ventured out to meet Phillips.)
Nolan-Luster and her mother thought it odd that Phillips had posed so few questions about Ed Sr.'s exploits. Instead, the middle-aged white man mostly had asked Jeanne about her life, and spoke of his own war experiences in Vietnam.
Subsequent sleuthing by Jeanne's friends revealed that no one named Gordon Phillips worked for Time Life. But Jeanne never followed her daughter's advice that she notify authorities or hire a bodyguard.
Based on other messages on her mother's answering machine, Nolan-Luster deduced that Phillips had left his cryptic messages around October 1987, three months after the Newport Beach meeting.
Detectives worked feverishly on the Gordon Phillips lead, but it quickly reached a dead end. It would take years for the phone message to have any impact on the murder investigation.
When it finally did, it would be profound.
Authorities allege that Gordon Phillips really was James "Butch" Harrod, the man now awaiting trial on charges of murdering Jeanne Tovrea. He says he's innocent, and that he wasn't Phillips.
Nolan-Luster identified Harrod as Gordon Phillips in a December 1996 lineup conducted at Madison Street Jail. At the time, she claimed never to have seen a photographic or videotaped image of Harrod after his arrest.
Unanswered even now, however, is why the Phillips character, whoever he was, had been so insistent on meeting Jeanne in Newport Beach. Had he planned to execute her there, only to be thwarted because her daughter and future son-in-law were present?
Police considered Deborah Nolan-Luster a suspect soon after the murder, if only because of the $2.7 million in life insurance proceeds she collected after her mother's death.
But their investigation revealed that mother and daughter had gotten along well. (The only naysayer had been Hap Tovrea, who told police Jeanne's knuckles would "turn white" whenever she mentioned her daughter.)
Detectives also had discounted as a suspect the man Jeanne was romancing at the time of her death. Jeanne's boyfriend, a former rodeo champion from Las Vegas named Eddie, had spent time with her in Phoenix and Las Vegas, with no apparent discord.
Eddie's wife of two decades perhaps was a better suspect than her wayward husband. She had a motive--jealousy--but no evidence against her turned up.
As Phoenix detectives learned more about the rancor between Jeanne and her stepchildren, they focused on Hap, who was living in La Jolla, California.
In July 1988, investigators obtained Hap's phone records. Most of Hap's high-frequency toll calls immediately before the murder were explicable. He had spoken often to his mother, to a girlfriend, to a lifelong pal, and to his sister Prissy in Colorado.
But detectives were curious about one spate of calls from Hap to a Tempe number in the days preceding Jeanne's murder. Hap had phoned someone named James Harrod 33 times in the 10 days before the murder.
The records showed Hap had phoned Harrod at 8:20 on the morning after the murder. That call was placed immediately after Hap's first long-distance call that day, which was made to a family friend. He told police that the friend had told him of Jeanne's death.
(Detectives wouldn't learn until years later that there also had been a flurry of calls from Harrod to Hap, including seven on the day before the murder.)
Detective Lott made a notation in a notebook on July 26, 1988, to contact Harrod. An interview was scheduled for August 8.
Remarkably, he and another detective, Richard Fuqua, have little recollection of their meeting with the man now accused of being Jeanne Tovrea's killer.
They certainly drew no connection at the time between Harrod's soft Southern twang and the voice in the messages left by Gordon Phillips.
Harrod says he recalls the interview vividly.
"It was one guy, Richard Fuqua," he tells New Times. "First thing, he shook my hand and said, 'You're not the guy.' 'What do you mean?' 'No offense, but whoever did this is a real athlete.' I said, 'In this case, no offense taken.'
"He told me unequivocally that I wasn't Gordon Phillips and, obviously, he'd heard that tape recording hundreds of times. I told him right out that I had talked to Jeanne once when I was looking for Hap. The thing was over quick."
The police didn't consider the short interview noteworthy, and didn't even document it in a report. Instead, one of the detectives scribbled notes in a spiral book:
"James C. Harrod. 1130. Known Hap for about one year--business associate. . . . See no problem with Hap. Last saw him last week. Trying to contact him. Now, Monday, 8-8-88, lives in San Diego. . . . Have no knowledge of [murder]. Had spoken to [victim] about Hap. She said he [Hap] is irresponsible."
Harrod's claim about "trying to contact" Hap was an understatement.
Phone records obtained by New Times indicate Harrod called Hap Tovrea 17 times in the 12 days between July 27--when police likely had contacted Harrod to set up the interview--and August 8, the date of the interview. (Hap called Harrod twice during that period.)
The pair spoke for 22 minutes on the night after the interview. Explains Harrod:
"Maybe this was around the time Ed Jr. [Hap] told me, 'I think someone might come after me,' talking about his stepmother's murder. I said, 'Anything you want to tell me?' and he said no. I said, 'Is there some reason I should not be working with Hap Tovrea? If there's a problem here, I don't want to be involved.' He told me I wasn't involved.
"I'm not claiming to be a genius, but if I was plotting with him, don't you think I could have found a phone booth?"
Butch Harrod says he and Hap Tovrea met through a mutual friend, probably in early 1987. Though the two came from disparate backgrounds--Harrod grew up in a middle-class household, while Hap was born into money--they had much in common.
Both were big talkers who eschewed the 9-to-5 life and had flitted from project to project without hitting the jackpot.
Harrod was married in September 1985 to Anne, a respected midlevel employee at a large Phoenix company. From the start, the couple relied on Anne's income to make ends meet.
Harrod fancied himself a "consultant," capable of arranging business deals. In reality, his skills rarely translated into dollars.
In 1989, for example, he listed $13,300 in gross receipts for his consulting efforts, all stemming from work he did for Hap Tovrea. And that was a good year.
Unlike Harrod, Hap in the late 1980s knew where his next dollar was coming from--the trust funds he'd inherited from his father and grandfather.
Never married, Hap played the field in his personal and business relationships. He adored in no particular order: the ocean, pretty women and a good joke.
This playboy image, however, contradicted another facet of Hap's personality: He seemed to want to prove that, like his father, he could be a business whiz.
In 1988, Hap became the chief executive officer of a Chilean-based sulfur-mining firm, Minerals Exploration Corporation of the Americas.
Records show he poured $225,000 into MECA on April 11, 1988, 10 days after Jeanne's murder. But other records show Hap claimed only $22,529 in taxable business income for 1988. In 1990, he claimed just $6,084.
Harrod says he first approached Hap about expanding MECA's horizons to the People's Republic of China in late 1987.
Investigators betrayed their strong suspicions in interviews and police reports before and after Butch Harrod's arrest in September 1995: They suspect that the "China deal," as it came to be known, was a ruse devised to allow Hap to pay Harrod for murdering Jeanne Tovrea.
That may be true, though Harrod and Hap deny it. But there's evidence that the deal had threads of legitimacy.
Harrod first had been to China in early 1986, as a middleman in a deal orchestrated by Valley attorney Gilbert Montano.
A former prosecutor, Montano convinced two Denver men to invest $50,000 in a prospective shrimp-farming venture in China's Yantai Province.
Harrod says he met Montano in the early 1980s. Montano in turn introduced him to Ji Sheng "Jason" Hu, a Chinese immigrant now living in Scottsdale.
Hu had connections in China, a difficult country for foreigners to engage in commerce. Exactly what Harrod brought to the table is unclear. But records show Montano paid Harrod $4,000 a month in late 1985 and early 1986 to help with the shrimp deal.
Harrod's passport indicates he spent about three weeks in China and Hong Kong, during which he and Hu won a coveted "letter of intent" from the Chinese government to do business.
But Montano had illegally pocketed much of the investors' $50,000, and the project evaporated before one shrimp ever saw the barbie. A Maricopa County grand jury indicted Montano in June 1986 on fraud and theft charges, and prosecutors recruited Butch Harrod as a potential witness.
(Montano plea-bargained, then fled before his scheduled sentencing in January 1987. He remains a fugitive.)
An investigator in the Montano case wrote in July 1986 that Harrod feared "his reputation and ability to deal with the Chinese government has been damaged severely . . ."
That didn't stop Harrod and Jason Hu from signing a 20-year contract with Hap Tovrea on March 15, 1989. That day, the trio flew to China, ostensibly to investigate prospects for sulfur mining.
The contract called for MECA to pay Harrod and Hu an unspecified amount for services and expenses. If the project took off, Harrod and Hu stood to collect a percentage of the royalties.
The trio spent about three weeks in China. Harrod says he and Hap shared a hotel room during their stay. His descriptions of Hap (whom he calls by his given name, Ed), the China deal and their relationship evolved over a yearlong series of interviews with New Times.
June 1996: "We weren't falling-down-getting-drunk buddies, but I got to know him living in the same room with him. He was not what you call a spending fanatic. Ed's kind of a Southern California, laid-back guy. There's not the greed that I've seen in some people. He's a nice guy. What went wrong with us over China was business, not personal."
August 1996: "He's fairly articulate. He's got this air of assurance--but more from the money he's had backing it up. He's pseudosophisticated or Phoenix-sophisticated--a standard level of arrogance for a trust-fund baby."
December 1996: "Ed thought big because his predecessors did big things, but there was a distinct difference between them: He talked big and they did big. Ed was pampered--you could tell he wanted to scratch the dirt, but that's hard when you get your nails manicured."
February 1997: "It could have been, should have been a deal worth multimillions of dollars. If someone comes back and says, 'Why were you upset with Ed?' Basically, I wasted a lot of time and effort. They're trying to make it look like we put this little package together real quick, so we'd have, quote, a cover for the big payoff on the murder. This was a real deal. Sometimes you get the ring, sometimes you don't."
The sulfur project died as abjectly as the shrimp-farming project had died.
If Harrod testifies at his trial, he'll surely be asked to explain what he did to merit payments from Hap and MECA for 15 months after he returned to the States in April 1989.
Records show MECA paid Harrod $13,300 throughout 1989 for "consulting" fees related to the China trip.
Jason Hu was paid $11,000 by MECA, with payments ceasing that July. That's when the payments to Hu--arguably more important to any deal that might be struck in China than Harrod--stopped.
In September 1989, MECA's board of directors met in a special session chaired by Hap Tovrea. The minutes of that meeting take note of the China deal:
"The chairman noted that the exploratory agreement with its agents in re the possible exploitation of sulfur deposits in the People's Republic of China have been placed on indefinite hold in light of the tumultuous political situation [the June 1989 student rebellion] there."
But Hap's records suggest he continued to pay Harrod for "consulting" work on the China project until July 1990. According to Hap's check stubs, MECA paid Harrod at least $21,000 more after the September 1989 board meeting. It isn't clear who those checks were made out to--only that they were deposited in unspecified accounts in San Diego-area banks.
Authorities suspect that the continued payments were for services rendered not in China, but at Lincoln Hills Estates in April 1988.
Harrod is adamant that $13,300 is all Hap Tovrea ever paid him; records examined by New Times don't show whether he actually collected the extra thousands put into the San Diego banks.
"I never got any $35,000 from Hap," Harrod says, "though I had it coming to me per the verbal part of our agreement. I'd like to see my signature on any of those checks. Sounds to me like he might have been funneling some money to himself and then putting my name on his register."
The investigation of Jeanne Tovrea's murder took several left turns.
In the early 1990s, for example, authorities spent considerable time trying to sort out leads provided by Joe Calo, a hit man who has admitted to committing seven murders. Calo is serving 10 life sentences in Arizona.
Calo alleged that Jim Majors--a former associate now on death row in California for a triple murder--had killed Jeanne Tovrea for some Phoenix mobsters.
He claimed Jeanne had served as a courier of drugs and laundered money for the mob, mostly for thrills. Jeanne "knew too much" about the mobsters' operations, the killer said, and, therefore, had to die.
Calo crafted his tale from bits and pieces gleaned from media accounts and, possibly, his interrogators. County prosecutors eventually determined that Calo's story, while enticing, didn't pass muster.
Stymied Phoenix police contacted the television show Unsolved Mysteries. The episode on the Tovrea murder first aired April 15, 1992. It would lead to Butch Harrod's arrest three years later.
The broadcast let the public in on many previously undisclosed details: The killer had gotten into Jeanne Tovrea's home through a window, then had set off the alarm by exiting through a door.
Most important, the episode aired a portion of the Gordon Phillips phone message, deleting only his reference to Hap Tovrea--"I had a little problem with Ed Jr."
The Arizona Republic published an update on the fifth anniversary of Jeanne's murder, headlined: "Tovrea slaying still Valley mystery; Socialite's homicide lacking motive, suspect."
Everyone close to the case knew it lacked nothing of the sort. What police didn't have was a suspect in the shooting.
That would change in 1994.
In September 1992, Phoenix detective Ed Reynolds became the latest investigator to grapple with the Jeanne Tovrea murder case. The original detectives had retired, and the agency had shipped the files to its "cold case" squad, whose investigators try to solve old crimes.
In January 1994, he caught some huge breaks.
First, an anonymous caller told a police secretary that a James C. Harrod might have been involved in the Tovrea murder. The caller left Harrod's name, address and date of birth.
Soon after that, Reynolds himself spoke with another anonymous caller. This person said he'd seen a repeat of the Unsolved Mysteries episode, and recognized Gordon Phillips' voice as being "identical" to Harrod's.
The second caller said Harrod had told him he was an ex-bodyguard who "has bragged that he could have people taken care of." The man added that Harrod had told him he'd once worked for Hap Tovrea.
In April 1994, Reynolds pulled a box of miscellaneous evidence on the Tovrea case from the Phoenix police property room. A binder in the box contained Hap Tovrea's phone records from 1988.
Reynolds noted that Hap Tovrea had phoned a James C. Harrod 33 times in the 10 days preceding Jeanne's murder, after which his calls to Harrod had nearly stopped.
Reynolds also found the one-page, handwritten account of the short August 1988 police interview of Harrod.
In September 1994, according to police reports, Reynolds spoke with yet another caller who wanted to remain anonymous.
This caller said a man named "Butch" had been bragging about his role in the Tovrea slaying. Butch had told his ex-wife, Anne, about his involvement in the murder plot. Anne allegedly had seen a letter from Hap Tovrea to Butch that promised Butch $50,000 to kill Jeanne.
The caller had more: Butch had admitted--it's not clear to whom--that he'd posed as Gordon Phillips. Butch had been present at the murder, but wasn't the killer, the caller said, adding that an FBI agent knew all but apparently hadn't acted on it.
Reynolds went to the Maricopa County Clerk's Office, and found a copy of James and Anne Harrod's divorce decree. That led him to Anne's last known address, which in turn led him in early November 1994 to Anne's mother and brother.
The mother, Sue, also mentioned the FBI agent at the start of the interview with detectives. She said the agent was Jeff Fauver, a longtime family friend from Albuquerque, and that she had told Fauver everything she knew.
Around 1990, Sue said, her daughter Anne had told her that Harrod was sleeping with a loaded gun under his pillow. Anne also had told her that Hap Tovrea owed Butch $50,000, but Anne didn't know why.
One day, Sue continued, she saw a newspaper story about a land sale involving the Tovrea family trust. She'd mentioned it to Harrod, who'd remarked that the sale would mean he'd get the money owed him by Hap.
Anne's brother, Mark, mentioned the Unsolved Mysteries program, and how Gordon Phillips' voice had reminded them of Harrod's. Sue then offered a stunning piece of information.
From Ed Reynolds' police report:
"Anne had talked to [Sue] about Butch knowing about the Tovrea murder. Anne had said that Butch told her that the Tovrea murderers had actually been in their home. This scared Anne to know this. Butch told her that she was safe as long as she stayed married to him."
Sue promised detectives she'd urge her daughter to come forward, then added a final thought:
"She advised me that Anne previously came to her and said, 'Mom, do you know what I'm going to have to live with for the rest of my life? That I knew something that could have prevented someone's death.'"
Reynolds tracked down Jeff Fauver in Albuquerque. Actually, Fauver was an ex-FBI agent now working as an investigator for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Fauver told Reynolds he'd been the anonymous caller who had left Harrod's name with the police secretary in January 1994, and said he'd phoned again a few months later.
Why this law enforcement official called a police station anonymously is unknown. In any case, Fauver said he'd met Harrod years earlier through one of Anne's brothers--and was unimpressed. He'd considered Harrod a con man who blabbed about his alleged Vietnam War exploits (Harrod never had been in the military) and his claimed connections with rich people, contract killers and international tycoons.
Said Fauver in the tape-recorded interview: "The gist of all this bragging and all this stuff that Butch was talking about all leads back--Is the guy's name Ed? Yeah, Edward . . . Butch said he was [Ed's] right-hand man."
Fauver had attended the Harrods' wedding in 1985 as a gesture to Anne and her family. He had served as a sounding board to her family over the years, as they made no secret of their disdain for Harrod.
Antipathy toward an in-law isn't uncommon. But Anne's mother in early 1992 took a drastic step--hiring a private investigator to do background checks on Harrod and Hap Tovrea.
New Times obtained a copy of that investigator's notes from his assignment, dated January 27, 1992:
"Butch Harrod--claiming Vietnam. Phoenix area. Married Anne about six years ago. . . . Sleeps with loaded gun. Friend Hap Tovrea--now in California."
The investigator didn't uncover much of substance at the county courthouse, just a few lawsuits and routine property transactions.
Later in 1992, Fauver continued, Anne started to meet with him privately: "She had made some comments to me indicating [Harrod] was not home that night [of Jeanne's murder]. He had made some overtures about having some involvement with Hap Tovrea. . . . The impression I got from Anne [circa 1992] was that she herself didn't even know. That she didn't make that connection until a later date."
Anne separated from Butch in October 1993. It was after that--and apparently after another replay of the Unsolved Mysteries episode--that Anne really opened up to Fauver.
According to Fauver:
* Anne said Butch had claimed to be the middleman between Hap Tovrea and unnamed killers in the conspiracy to murder Jeanne Tovrea.
* Anne said Harrod had told her hours after the murder that the deed had been done.
* Butch had told her he had masqueraded as Gordon Phillips.
On November 28, 1994, Ed Reynolds finally sat down with Anne Harrod. Anne had hired prominent Phoenix attorney Jordan Green, who attended the interview at his law office.
Her account was staggering.
As the interview began, Detective Reynolds told Anne Harrod that she wouldn't be charged if she hadn't been involved in the actual Tovrea murder.
With that promise ringing in her ears, Anne talked and talked. Among the revelations in this and subsequent interviews with authorities:
* Butch had told her before the murder that Hap Tovrea's sisters "hated their stepmother so badly that they wanted her dead. They were concerned that she was spending all the interest on their inheritance which they could not touch until her death. . . . Hap said that they hated her with a vengeance, because she was spending too much of their money."
* Butch told Anne that he had agreed to be Hap Tovrea's "coordinator" for the murder, not the hit man. Hap--whom she said she'd never met--had promised to pay Butch $100,000 for his services, which included hiring the killers.
* Just before the murder, the number of phone calls from Hap to Butch had increased dramatically, then dropped off to almost none after April 1, 1988, the date of the murder.
* Butch had left their home about 9 p.m. the night of the murder, toting a large duffel bag. He was wearing a dark-hooded jacket, camouflage pants and hiking boots. After he left, Anne had checked where he kept his guns--they were missing. The next day, all the weapons were back in their usual location.
* About 2 a.m. on April 1, Butch had awakened her. "You did it?" she'd asked him. "Yes, it's over," he'd replied. Later, he told her he'd awaited the hit men--there were two, he said--on the hill behind Jeanne's home. The hit men murdered Jeanne, and had taken her jewelry and credit cards to make it look like a burglary. Butch had paid them that night, though he apparently didn't say how much.
Anne said Butch was irate that Hap Tovrea had paid him only about $40,000 of the $100,000 allegedly promised him. She also claimed Butch had told her he'd recorded many conversations with Hap to protect himself, and that she'd seen these tapes in his desk. (No such tape has turned up.)
Were these the bleatings of a vindictive ex-wife whose marriage had ended in emotional and fiscal disarray just months earlier, in February 1994?
An answer may lie in what Anne couldn't have known unless authorities had tipped her off.
One of those things came to light when Reynolds turned on the Unsolved Mysteries video toward the end of his first session with Anne. She said she'd seen the segment once before.
"I stopped the tape at the point where the narrator mentions the point of entry," his police report recalls. "Anne advised me, 'He knew the window was not on the security system. He talked about the kitchen window--was where to gain access . . .'"
Her declaration was crucial, because police had closely guarded that detail since 1988.
"Anne began to scream loudly, 'Stop it, I can't take it anymore.' Anne then began to cry hysterically. I asked her, 'Was that Butch's voice on the tape?' Anne stated, 'Yes. He's a bad person, bad person."
In interviews with authorities after Butch Harrod's arrest in September 1995, Anne added details about the alleged murder plot:
She said the date of the murder, April 1, had been intentional--"[Butch] had told me prior to that day that they were going to set it up as an April Fools' joke."
Anne said she recalled that Hap Tovrea had phoned Butch the morning after the murder:
"He will talk to Hap that morning. The phone will ring, he answers the phone, he goes out on the patio. . . . And he comes back in and I say, 'Was that Hap?' And he says, 'Yes,' because Hap was supposed to call him in the morning after it had taken place." (Phone records show a 15-minute call from Hap Tovrea's business line to Butch Harrod's home at 10 a.m. on April 1, 1988.)
Finally, Anne described her mental state on the night of March 31, 1988, when she said she'd known her husband was leaving their home to participate in a murder:
"In my heart of hearts, as I'm standing there in the foyer, I am one step away from the phone, and I'm one step from him walking out that door, and I'm evaluating my family and my life and this woman's life . . ."
It remains to be seen how much Anne will be allowed to tell jurors. Butch Harrod allegedly said these things when he and Anne were marries: That means the "privilege"--akin to that between doctor and patient--may allow her to testify only about what she saw, not what her ex-husband may have told her.
For her own reasons, Anne had stayed silent for years. Now, she had opened the door to a prosecution.
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office in September 1995 took the next step. It gave Phoenix police the go-ahead to arrest Butch Harrod for murder.
Next week: The accused gunman sounds off.
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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