Trial and Heir
James Cornell "Butch" Harrod is on trial, possibly for his life. He's on the witness stand, trying to convince a jury that he didn't commit one of Arizona's most sensational murders.
He's accused of the April 1, 1988, execution of wealthy Phoenix heiress Jeanne Tovrea, who was shot to death as she lay in bed at her sprawling home off East Lincoln Drive.
Jeanne Tovrea was the widow of Edward Tovrea Sr., patriarch of a pioneer Arizona family. She was 55, and Ed's third wife.
One of Harrod's attorneys, Mike Bernays, hopes to show jurors that his client is an entrepreneur, not a hit man. Referring to Harrod's many business ventures--none of them successful--Bernays says, "You seem to have this attitude that something you're interested in, you're going to give it a try."
Harrod replies with the fervor of a motivational speaker: "There's no such thing as failure. . . . Failure is when you don't try something. Some of the biggest people in history have, quote, been failures. . . . You have to step outside of the comfort zone to do it, which means you have to step out on a limb."
Those words will come back to haunt Harrod.
At the close of the most cinematic murder trial in memory, prosecutor Bill Culbertson will remind jurors that Butch Harrod had done just that: He'd stepped out on a limb for Jeanne Tovrea's stepson, Hap Tovrea, in a contract killing that remained unsolved until Harrod's arrest more than eight years after the murder.
"The weight of the state's case has snapped that limb out from under him like a dry twig," Culbertson says.
It's Monday, November 17, and Butch Harrod's judgment day is near.
After more than a month in trial, closing arguments are imminent in room 402 of Maricopa County Superior Court's central building. The jury will begin deliberations after that.
The lawyers have distinguished themselves. Prosecutors Paul Ahler and Bill Culbertson have labored with precision and passion; defense attorneys Mike Bernays and Tonya McMath have fought hard every step of the way.
The proceedings before Judge Ronald Reinstein have lured the courthouse cognoscenti. "A lot better than Symington," a longtime court watcher sniffed one day, referring to the ex-governor's federal trial last summer. "This one has it all."
So it does, except for much doubt in the outcome. Early in the trial, prosecutors presented powerful evidence that Harrod left 18 fingerprints at the crime scene--including 12 on a kitchen window through which he and possibly others entered the victim's home.
The defense has posed a theory about how Harrod's fingerprints and a palm print came to be at the crime scene: In an effort to frame Harrod for the murder, someone somehow secured his prints and transferred them to a prosthetic rubber glove. The bad guys then took the "hand" with them to Jeanne Tovrea's home and stuck Harrod's prints in crucial locations.
It's a reach, to put it mildly, but the defense team has to try something.
Harrod's fingerprints, however, don't provide motive.
The prosecution theory centers on a murder-for-hire plot motivated by greed.
The short version:
Ed Tovrea Sr., a World War II hero, returns to run his family's mammoth cattle operations. He marries, starts a family, then gets divorced in the mid-1960s. Around 1970, he meets Jeanne Gunter, a waitress at a Scottsdale bar. They fall in love and marry. Jeanne is a loyal companion. He dies in 1983 after a long illness, bequeathing to her, among other benefits, more than $4 million formerly slated for his three children--Ed Jr. ("Hap"), Georgia ("Cricket") and Priscilla.
That money is to revert to the children only after Jeanne's death.
Skip to prosecutor Paul Ahler's closing argument:
"Ed Tovrea was quite a man. This man had some substance to him. You don't survive 33 months in a POW camp without having something going for you. . . . Unfortunately, he didn't give those same characteristics to his children. Because it was those children who were the driving force in getting [Harrod] to kill her.
"Clearly, his intention was to take care of Jeanne, was to support her as she had supported him. . . . What he really did was to sign her death warrant when he signed that will. It sealed her fate, because the only way they could get their hands on that money was to have her dead. Their greed knew no bounds."
None of Ed Tovrea's children has been charged in this case; in police interviews, each has denied wrongdoing.
After Ed Sr.'s death, relations between his progeny and their stepmother turn icy. In 1985, Cricket Tovrea convinces a funeral home to give her her father's ashes. Cricket divvies up the remains among her siblings and her mother, which infuriates Jeanne.
Jeanne apparently never talks to the "kids" again.
In mid-1987, Jeanne agrees to meet in Newport Beach, California, with a man who calls himself Gordon Phillips. Phillips has told her he's a writer for Time Life and wants to do a story about Ed Tovrea's military exploits.
Possibly unknown to Phillips, Jeanne's only child, Debbie Nolan, and her future husband, Mike Luster, are staying with her. Debbie is struck during Phillips' half-hour visit by his seeming lack of interest in Ed Sr.'s story--ostensibly why he's there.
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.)
The cops return to Arizona without Hap or Cricket Tovrea. Armed with a search warrant, they raid Hap's home and business office in late 1995. The search unearths banking, phone and other records that solidify the links between Butch Harrod and Hap Tovrea.
As Harrod's case wends toward trial, he contacts New Times through a sister, June Barney. He says he wants to tell his side of the story because he suspects he's "on a conveyor belt to death row."
Harrod spends hours talking with a reporter at the Madison Street Jail, where he's being held without bond. A skilled conversationalist, Harrod seems to know something about almost everything except who killed Jeanne Tovrea. He says he didn't do it, and he doesn't know who did.
In the interviews, he comes across much like jurors will observe him on the witness stand in November 1997--cocky and full of himself.
Harrod seems unfazed when told that time is running out if he intends to implicate Hap Tovrea or anyone else in the murder. Can't give anyone up when I didn't do anything myself, he repeats. He has no explanation for his fingerprints at the crime scene.
Phoenix criminal-defense attorney Tom Henze once told another lawyer it's best to "park it where the sun shines" if you've got the facts on your side.
The prosecutors from the Maricopa County Attorney's Office do just that as Butch Harrod's trial starts in late October. Henze himself is in the front row, listening in on behalf of his client, Hap Tovrea, who's not listed as a witness for either side. The large courtroom is packed.
Seated in the gallery behind the defense table is Team Harrod, as June Barney dubbed it. The team includes Barney and Harrod's mother, Marie Woolitz. The women have missed few, if any, of Harrod's court hearings since his September 1995 arrest.
For the record, Barney says she believes in her brother's innocence. But she's an astute woman who has studied the murder case with the intensity of a Talmudic scholar. In moments of candor, she says that, even if Butch is involved, she'll make it her life's work to find who the real shooters were.
Butch Harrod sits placidly between his attorneys as prosecutor Paul Ahler begins his opening statement. Harrod, 43, looks like a shop teacher in a V-neck pullover sweater and wire-rim glasses. He's a pudgy-faced man who parts his sandy-brown hair down the middle. He feigns disinterest in the goings-on.
Speaking without notes, Ahler gets right to the point.
"The defendant's fingerprints and palm prints are all over this murder scene," he tells the jury. "There may be other killers out there, but the evidence will support beyond any doubt that one of them is him."
With that, Ahler points at Butch Harrod.
Many consider Ahler a cold fish, but they're wrong. He's just very serious about what he does for a living. After the trial, several jurors say that they sense in Ahler someone with an intense sense of right and wrong.
"I'd like to have him on my side in anything," one juror says, unaware of Ahler's reputation as a fierce pickup basketball player.
As County Attorney Rick Romley's top aide, Ahler spends most of his time dealing with administrative issues. But at heart, he's a trial lawyer. In 1988, he was on call when word came of Jeanne Tovrea's murder. He's been on the case since.
Tonya McMath's task is daunting as she starts her opening statement on behalf of Butch Harrod. By law, her side doesn't have to prove anything--that's the state's burden. But she's aware that the cards--more aptly, the fingerprints and the phone message--are stacked against her client.
A skilled barrister in her 30s, McMath has a no-nonsense but pleasant courtroom demeanor. She begins nervously, before settling into a groove.
"James Harrod knew about as much about the Tovrea murder as you or I did" on April 1, 1988, she says. ". . . He doesn't know where the fingerprints came from. He can only say that he didn't place them there. Fingerprints can and have been faked."
The prosecution quickly establishes that someone shot Jeanne Tovrea five times with a .22-caliber gun--twice in the face and three times behind the head.
Witnesses next provide motive for the Tovrea children to have wanted Jeanne dead--"four million reasons," according to Ahler's opening statement.
Police fingerprint technicians describe how 12 of the 13 latent fingerprints on the kitchen window are Butch Harrod's (the other remains unidentified). The technicians also tell how they found four of Harrod's prints on a kitchen counter, one print on a gate outside the home, and a palm print on weatherstripping removed from the kitchen window.
Oddly, the trail of Harrod's fingerprints ends in the kitchen, which suggests that he may not have been the trigger man.
Fingerprint expert Pat Wertheim tells the jury that Harrod's prints have not been forged or fabricated. The only way the prints could have gotten where police found them, Wertheim says, is when Harrod left them there.
His testimony is devastating.
Mike Bernays trots out the prosthetic-glove theory during his cross-examination of Wertheim. The expert says it's possible, at least in theory, for a person's fingerprints to be transferred to a glove and then be placed at another location.
But Wertheim tells Bernays that the hypothesis doesn't work in this case, because forged prints look, well, forged.
Debbie Luster takes the stand to tell jurors about her July 1987 meeting in Newport Beach with the man calling himself Gordon Phillips. Prosecutor Bill Culbertson walks Luster through the fateful meeting.
"I was scared," Luster says in a lilting drawl that reveals her rural Arkansas roots. She is a delicate, auburn-haired woman in her mid-40s.
"It was sort of a growing concern I had during the conversation . . . When he tried to go, all of it came over me and I was very, very upset. I [told my mom] that something was really wrong with this man."
Mike Bernays faces a challenge on cross-examination. He can't beat up on the victim's daughter, but--a rarity in this one-sided case--he has the chance to score some points.
Like his co-counsel, Bernays is a former public defender who loves criminal-defense work and is good at it.
"Isn't it true," Bernays asks Luster right off the bat, "that you would characterize yourself as having a very vivid imagination?"
"No," she replies calmly.
Bernays then shows Luster a copy of a September 1989 interview with police in which she'd said just that.
Bernays asks Luster to recount photo lineups that predated a December 1996 live lineup during which she identified Butch Harrod as Gordon Phillips.
In each photo lineup, Bernays points out, Luster chose someone as most likely to be Gordon Phillips, and each time she was wrong. Before Butch Harrod's arrest in September 1995, police showed Luster photographs of five men, including Harrod. Luster picked the subject next to Harrod.
After the trial, several jurors assess Luster's testimony as flawed, but honest.
A progression of Butch Harrod's former in-laws and other witnesses tell jurors that Gordon Phillips sounds like Butch Harrod. Prosecutors ask one of Anne Costello's brothers, Mark, why he didn't call the police after he saw and heard the Unsolved Mysteries broadcast.
"I wasn't 100 percent sure it was his voice," he says, "and I didn't want to believe it was him."
Paul Ahler asks Mark Costello to listen to the actual Phillips tape.
"This is much more clear [than the television show]," Costello says.
"Who do you believe that to be?"
Finally, it's Anne Costello's turn to testify against her ex-husband. She's in her late 30s, with blond hair that she wears with bangs. Her frightened eyes dart around the room as her testimony begins, and she has a hard time sitting still.
What she will be allowed to say on the stand already has been decided by Judge Reinstein. At a pretrial hearing, prosecutors asked Reinstein to override Arizona's marital-communications privilege law so Anne could testify about what Harrod told her about the murder.
The privilege protects confidential statements made by one spouse to the other.
They argued that "an outdated testimonial privilege should not obstruct justice or the state's search for truth in this first-degree murder case. . . . This court must not encourage other would-be criminals to enlist their spouses in an effort to prevent justice from being served."
Reinstein didn't buy it. He ruled that Anne Costello could only testify about what she saw and did around the time of Jeanne Tovrea's murder, but not what Harrod may have said to her.
Though Anne is an important prosecution witness, Paul Ahler keeps his distance, not wanting to cozy up to someone who did nothing to stop a contract killing.
First, he gets what he needs from Anne--testimony about Fed Ex packages of cash arriving from Hap Tovrea before and after the murder, and other key facets of the alleged plot.
"On March 31, 1988, do you have a recollection of that evening?" Ahler asks her.
"Yes, I do."
Trembling, Anne describes how Harrod left home around 9 p.m.
"Who else was at home besides you and your husband?" Ahler asks.
"Just myself," she answers, weeping. "He was wearing a black sweat shirt and he had a green Army jacket on. He was carrying a duffel bag . . . I don't know when he came back."
"When was the last time you saw him [that night]?"
"In the foyer."
"After he left, what did you do?"
"I, I, uh, um, I stood in the living room and, just stood there actually, thought for a while, and I went to grab the telephone, and I held the telephone."
"Did you make any phone calls?"
"No, I didn't."
"So what did you do?" Ahler asks, not expecting the answer he gets.
"I, I, um, I, I, I prayed is what I did."
Anne describes how she looked in Harrod's home office and saw that his guns were missing.
And what did Anne do then? She says she went to her bed and fell asleep.
When she awoke, apparently briefly, about 2 a.m., Butch wasn't home.
"When I woke up the next morning about 5 or 6 o'clock, I looked over and he was there."
Ahler asks her if she's heard the Gordon Phillips tape. Yes, Anne Costello says, her voice quaking.
"Gordon Phillips was my husband."
The prosecution rests after Anne Costello's testimony. The jury doesn't know she'll soon be back on the stand, to tell a far more detailed version of her troubling tale.
In the wake of Anne Costello's testimony, Paul Ahler asks Judge Reinstein to reconsider his marital-privilege ruling. Harrod's attorneys have hinted that he plans to testify, which may provide the prosecution with an opening.
"The state's position," Ahler tells Reinstein, "is that the defendant should not be allowed free rein to perjure himself . . . This is not what justice is all about and what truth is all about . . . Once [Harrod] gets up and says, 'I'm not Gordon Phillips, and I didn't get paid by Hap Tovrea to do this,' I think you have waiver [of the privilege]."
Mike Bernays makes an impassioned plea to Reinstein.
"The mere fact that James takes the stand. . . . at the risk of losing the marital-communication privilege is an unfair position to put him in . . . How do we know that [Anne] hasn't perjured herself?" he asks.
Reinstein says Ahler's argument is more compelling because Anne Costello is Butch Harrod's ex-wife. He is not currently married.
"In this case, I think the search for truth is more important than the protection of a long-gone marriage," the judge states.
Butch Harrod mouths a silent expletive at Reinstein.
In the end, Butch Harrod does testify.
Mike Bernays starts with four rapid-fire questions:
"Were you physically present when Jeanne Tovrea was killed?"
"Did you shoot Jeanne Tovrea?"
"Did you enter Jeanne Tovrea's home through the kitchen window on April 1, 1988?"
"Did you participate in any way in the killing of Jeanne Tovrea?"
Harrod answers no to each question.
What the jury doesn't know is that, on September 13, 1997, polygraph examiner David Raskin asked Harrod the same questions.
According to Raskin's report, "It is my professional opinion that James Harrod was truthful when he denied having participated in any way in the murder of Jeanne Tovrea."
If the prosecution's theory holds, and if Butch Harrod may not have been the trigger man, it's possible that he may be telling a version of the truth: He may not have been present when Jeanne actually was killed, and, thus could honestly answer the fourth question about participating in any way in the woman's murder. As for the question about entering Jeanne's home on April 1, it's possible the killer or killers got inside on March 31.
Then again, Harrod may just have beaten the polygraph box.
His testimony starts benignly, as he describes his early years in Apache Junction. It sounds nice enough. But Harrod's first words chill more than one juror.
"He's sounding perfectly okay," one panelist recalls, "but I can't think of anything but, 'Damn! He is Gordon Phillips!'"
Harrod's tone is flat, as if he's testifying in a minor civil suit, not trying to save his own skin. He presents himself as a sound businessman who contracted with Hap Tovrea on a sulfur-mining venture in China. For serving as a "liaison," Harrod says, Tovrea promised him a $3,000 monthly retainer and, in writing, guaranteed him a small percentage of royalties on the prospective project.
But the China deal fell through, Harrod testifies, because Hap Tovrea didn't come through financially as he'd promised.
Bernays asks Harrod if he'd ever told the Costellos and others if he'd served in the military.
"Had you been in the military?"
Some jurors look askance at Harrod.
Harrod says he's being framed. He says he's never been to or inside Jeanne's home. Again, he doesn't know how his prints got to the crime scene. He says Hap Tovrea never paid him for murdering the woman.
"I would not take any money like that," Harrod says.
"I'm going to play for you a tape that has been played once or twice during this trial," Bernays tells him.
The jury has been listening to Harrod for more than an hour, tuned at times more to the sound of his voice than what he is saying. Now, they're going to hear Gordon Phillips' taped voice in proximity to Butch Harrod's.
Several jurors close their eyes, concentrating intently.
"Is that you?" Bernays asks Harrod.
"Do you think it sounds like you?"
"Is that you on that tape?"
"That is not me on that tape."
"Did you make that phone call?"
Harrod denies being Phillips, or ever meeting Jeanne Tovrea.
Harrod's alibi for the night of the murder is similar--but not identical--to one he gave New Times.
"Early that evening I was home," he testifies, "but later, I went out and procured some cocaine [at a Tempe bar]. During that period, I was, I guess, what you call a recreational user, and I was getting some for the weekend."
Harrod remembers the drug seller's first name as "Carlos." He says he shared a six-pack of beer with the man at a park, then drove home about 11 p.m. He says he went to bed around 2 a.m. on April 1, and Anne was sound asleep. He says he learned of Jeanne's murder later that morning when he spoke to Hap Tovrea.
Months earlier, Harrod had told New Times he couldn't recall the coke seller's name, and that he'd snorted the drug with the man that night.
The delicious task of cross-examining Harrod is left to Bill Culbertson. He's a former defense attorney and county court commissioner who is no stranger to high-profile cases--the AzScam trials come to mind.
Culbertson is rock-solid as he shreds the defendant on significant points. Perhaps most important, the prosecutor elicits from Harrod that Hap Tovrea paid him thousands of dollars more than he's ever admitted before. Culbertson asks Harrod why he told New Times that Hap paid him only $13,300, not the $35,000-plus he's owned up to for the first time on the stand.
"At that particular time, I didn't have access [to my records]," Harrod responds.
(This reporter was called as a witness in the case to verify comments made by Harrod during those interviews.)
Harrod has no good answer for why Hap Tovrea paid him three times more in the China deal than he did another partner, Jason Hu. He also concedes that Hu was far more crucial to the deal--such as it was--than himself.
Implausibly, Harrod maintains he never discussed Jeanne Tovrea's murder with his ex-wife, and that she's lying if she says otherwise.
"Those 18 prints at the crime scene say she's right, don't they?" Culbertson shoots back.
"Mr. Culbertson just picked him apart," says Phoenix resident Rachel Shaw, who heard the testimony but was chosen at random as one of two alternates before jury deliberations started. "Butch seems like a normal guy on the outside, but inside his circuitry is screwed up. He's a schemer, and he didn't have the answers to the important questions."
Anne Costello's rebuttal testimony is most memorable for an outburst that Judge Reinstein tells the jurors to disregard.
It happens shortly after she takes the stand, in response to a question from Paul Ahler about her intentions after Butch Harrod left home on the evening of March 31, 1988.
"I was going to call the police," she replies, "because I was afraid there was going to be a murder that night."
So, Ahler asks, why didn't you?
"I was afraid for my life and for my family's life," Anne says, after which she seems to look for someone in the gallery.
"I'm sorry, Debbie!" she wails, covering her eyes.
Debbie Luster stares straight ahead, taken aback.
The distraught Anne recounts what Butch Harrod allegedly told her about the murder plot.
"Are you still concerned for your safety?" Paul Ahler asks her.
"Yes, I am," she says. "Because, in my mind, Butch is not the shooter. Butch had something to do with it, but Butch is not the shooter."
She seems stunned to learn that Harrod's fingerprints were found inside Jeanne Tovrea's home.
Anne testifies that Harrod told her "Hap's sisters and Hap hated [Jeanne]," because she'd gotten the inheritance that the siblings considered their birthright.
"You didn't know a thing about this case," Mike Bernays says during cross-examination, "except what you read in the paper and what you saw on Unsolved Mysteries."
"That's just not true."
On redirect, Ahler asks, "Why did you stay with this man for so long?"
"Because of the fact that he had told me it was a hired hit," Anne says, "that he had contracted men who were very dangerous. I will tell you that I knew that night [of the murder] that someday I was going to get away from this man. . . . It took me a very long time, but I finally did it."
Ahler bats lead-off for the prosecution during closing arguments, and he's in top form.
"It is very disturbing that we may have one or more killers out there who have not been caught, who have not been brought to justice," the prosecutor says, while reminding jurors that Butch Harrod is this trial's sole concern.
Ahler urges the jury to remember that "the fingerprints are the glue which holds this whole thing together."
As for his key witness, Anne Costello, Ahler says: "She is no saint. Anne is not up for any good citizenship awards. This lady has got some demons that she's gonna have to deal with for the rest of her life. She's gonna live with the demon that, had she made that phone call on March 31st, Jeanne Tovrea would still be alive. And she also benefited from some of this blood money, maybe indirectly, and she's got that blood on her hands.
"It's time, ladies and gentleman, that the lying and bullshitting and the conning stop . . . You have the power to tell this man in no uncertain terms, we're onto you, you're not going to get away with this."
Mike Bernays delivers the closing argument on behalf of Butch Harrod.
"It scares me that maybe I have not done enough," he starts, walking behind his client and resting his hands on Harrod's shoulders.
Bernays does a fine job reiterating a few sympathetic facts. He hammers at Debbie Luster here and Anne Costello there for imperfections in their testimony, and at the Costello clan for their animus toward Harrod. He also raises a common-sense question that's on everyone's mind.
"Why spend thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars creating what the state would have you believe is a ruse on the China trip," Bernays asks, "and not spend a $1.39 on a pair of gloves?"
One juror tries to answer that after the trial.
"Butch wasn't a professional killer," said the juror, a Chandler man in his 30s. "He wasn't a professional anything from what we heard. It didn't really surprise us he forgot to put on his gloves, or maybe even to buy them."
Bernays next tries an argument that jurors thought laughable.
"What actual evidence is there that the [kitchen] window came from that window frame?" he asks. "Or could that pane of glass have been imported by the same people who killed Jeanne Tovrea?"
The last word goes to Bill Culbertson, who jumps all over Bernays' belated second pane-of-glass theory:
"Oh, yeah. And maybe little green men in aluminum suits with New Mexico plates from Roswell arrived and toted it in."
The prosecutor recalls something Harrod testified to about truth starting at his front door.
"Maybe the truth starts at Jeanne Tovrea's kitchen window . . ." Culbertson says.
"Don't you be conned. After this murder, the defendant was flush with money. He went to the Caribbean and he partied and enjoyed the fruits of that blood money, and he enjoyed the party.
"The party's now over."
After only about four hours of deliberation, the jury returns with its guilty verdict on November 18.
Butch Harrod's demeanor is consistent to the end. He shrugs slightly, then turns to let a deputy handcuff him.
Debbie Luster sobs uncontrollably in the second row, engulfed by her husband and supporters. Harrod's arrest and, now, his conviction, in Debbie's words, "have given me my life back," even if others who have been involved evade justice.
On the other side of the courtroom, Butch Harrod's sister, June Barney, scribbles something in a notebook. Harrod's mother tries to catch his eye, but doesn't.
Someone wishes Harrod luck as he is whisked away to his jail cell.
"My luck just went away," he replies.
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- Inmates Accuse Arizona of Experimenting with Lethal-Injection Drugs
Thu., Dec. 10, 6:25pm
Fri., Dec. 11, 7:00pm
Fri., Dec. 11, 7:30pm
Fri., Dec. 11, 7:30pm
- 10 Things Arizonans Hate About Snowbirds
- Scottsdale Couple Are Pioneers in Tiny-Home Movement in Arizona