A Hap-less Case

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Reynolds returned.
"I have a question," Harrod said. "If I have been a suspect in this for quite some time, why hasn't someone come out there before?"

"The suspect's always the last person to be picked up," Reynolds explained. "Since I got involved in 1992, it's taken me this long to get to this point. It's a big case."

"I obviously haven't gone anywhere."
"So, are you denying involvement?"
Harrod's answer was odd.

"I'm just saying that, as far as if anyone ever wanted to talk to me, I've always been . . ."

"Are you denying involvement? You're saying that you're sittin' at home because you're not involved in this at all?"

"No. I'm just sayin' if people wanted to talk to me about anything, I've always tried to cooperate."

Reynolds told Harrod he planned to meet with chief deputy county attorney Paul Ahler, who had visited the murder scene in April 1988 and still was on the Tovrea case.

"He's the top dog," Reynolds said of Ahler. "And I'm gonna go to him and say [you] didn't give me squat. Didn't tell me nothin'. Slam dunk. 'Cause all of the evidence points to you."

Harrod tells New Times that the detective added another comment after he turned off the tape recorder: "He told me, 'Jim, you're gonna be living here until you give up Hap Tovrea.' I didn't say a word."

Phoenix police kept a lid on Butch Harrod's arrest for about 24 hours. They wanted their shot at 45-year-old Hap Tovrea in La Jolla, California, before he learned of it.

Ed Reynolds scheduled an interview with Hap in La Jolla for the day after Harrod's arrest. No big deal, he told him, we just want to catch up on a few things. Reynolds and Randy Force flew to Southern California on the morning of September 15, 1995.

Reynolds had developed a circumstantial case that pointed to Hap Tovrea's involvement in a murder conspiracy: Hap had a motive--Jeanne's money; and police had identified crime-scene fingerprints as matching those of his ex-business associate, Butch Harrod.

But Harrod hadn't confessed.
Hap's older sister, Georgia (known as "Cricket"), was present at the start of the interview, according to a transcript obtained by New Times.

"About two months ago, I recovered a whole stack of documents from a pawnshop that belong to the Tovrea family," Reynolds told the siblings.

"No kidding," Hap replied.
The pawnshop reference was a ruse by Reynolds to lead Hap down the path he wanted.

Sergeant Force asked Cricket if he could interview her separately.
Alone with Hap, Reynolds told him a name had come up in the alleged pawnshop investigation. He said it happened to be the same name he'd seen in a dusty evidence box of Jeanne Tovrea's murder.

"I'm trying to think of the guy's full name. Let me see here if I've got it. I keep thinking Butch or something like that. Harrod, that's the name. Butch Harrod. James C. Harrod."

"Now I know a guy by that name," Hap replied.
"What do you know about him?"
"I used him on a consulting project for China years ago. . . . I don't know him that well."

"What was the deal in China?"
"We have mining properties down in Chile that are sulfur properties. And China had some sulfur properties that needed some development, and so there was kind of an invitation to come to China and see if they were developable. And I did that and turned it down."

"Okay, how much work did he do for you?"
"Oh, a few months."
Though Reynolds wouldn't discuss the case with New Times, it's safe to assume his adrenaline was pumping. He knew Hap had paid Harrod thousands of dollars over a yearlong period through his mining firm, MECA (Minerals Exploration Corporation of the Americas).

"How much would you say that cost you?"
"A few thousand dollars. . . . There was the plane tickets and there was consulting fees and all that. It was kind of a waste of time and money, but it was worth a shot because you can get your leg up in China, it was fine. And I remember right after that, Tiananmen Square blew up. Perfect timing."

Reynolds narrowed the questioning.
"Now, in that time you're only dealing with him on . . . business."
"Yeah, I've just met this guy," Hap said, speaking of late 1988 and early 1989--months after Jeanne Tovrea was murdered.

"When did you go to China?"
"I went to China in March, April '89, '90." (It was March 1989.)
"So, almost a year after your stepmother was killed?"

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin