Longform

A Hap-less Case

Page 5 of 7

Reynolds showed Hap a composite sketch drawn in 1989 by a police artist. It was based on information provided by Jeanne Tovrea's daughter, Deborah Nolan-Luster--who'd met Gordon Phillips briefly in July 1987. (During a December 1996 lineup at Madison Street Jail, Nolan-Luster identified Harrod as the man who called himself Gordon Phillips.)

"Now, who does that look like to you?" Reynolds asked Hap.
"Yeah, it kind of looks like him. Mr. Harrod. Kind of."
"So when you look at that composite or when you listen to the voice of Gordon Phillips, who does that voice sound like?"

"Well, you know, I don't want to implicate somebody that's innocent."
"Would there be any reason for the two of you to be having contact frequently in, let's say, the first four months of 1988?"

"I don't think so . . . unless I don't remember some stuff. . . . If we went to China in March or April of '89, things got started in earnest probably three months prior to that. I can kind of remember a three-month real busy time preparing for it."

Reynolds moved in.
". . . In the 10 days before your stepmother's death, Jim Harrod phoned you 33 times."

"Wow. . . . You're asking me to try to remember things that are a while back. I mean, don't start pointing some finger at me here."

"I'm pointing a finger at you."
"If this guy is a stalker weirdo, you know, I'm not part of this. But I find this all very interesting."

Reynolds mentioned the fingerprints that police had recovered from the Tovrea murder scene years earlier, but had been unable to identify until a day earlier.

"Old Mr. Harrod got himself in a DUI not too long ago where they took his fingerprints." (The detective was using time-tested and legally defensible interrogation techniques to move things along--he was lying.)

"And guess what, right?" Hap replied.
"You tell me."
"I know exactly what you're leading up to. I'll bet his fingerprints were at the crime scene."

"Yep."
"That's great."
"His prints are inside the house. . . . Comes down to, he's now in jail. We arrested him last night."

"That's great."
"Guess what he says."
"Oh, I cannot wait to hear this. What?"

"He says that you've hired him to kill your stepmother." (Harrod had said nothing of the sort.)

"Oh, fuck him."
"Did that ever occur?"
"No."
"You never hired him to kill your stepmother?"
"No."
"How about to arrange to have someone kill your stepmother?"
"No. . . . You guys must have a psycho on your hands here."

Sergeant Force interjected with a strangely conciliatory comment: "If there was any evidence or proof of anything that [Harrod] has told us up to this point, I think you realize we'd be having this conversation at a police station in handcuffs, not here sitting in your office chatting."

"This was a hell of a sleigh ride," Hap said.
Force told Hap what the cops wished Butch Harrod had told them: "This wacko lays out this scenario that you approach him because Jeannie stands between you and your sisters' inheritance, and that she's spending the interest and from the trust account."

"Oh, it's sexy, isn't it?" Hap said sarcastically.
"And that you offer him a large sum of money to coordinate her demise. On the surface of things, that's as good a motive as any."

"So how do I know this perfect stranger is a person that can do this?"
"Well, he's not a perfect stranger if you're calling him 33 times in the 10 days before this happened."

"Well, you know what I mean. I mean a relatively new acquaintance . . ."
"What if he produces a tape with your voice discussing with him the murder of your stepmother?" Reynolds asked Hap.

"That I'd like to hear."
(Anne Harrod had told police that her ex-husband had claimed to possess such tapes. But they have never turned up.)

"In the future, if such tapes do turn up, you're not gonna say, 'I was extorted, he threatened me, he would kill me if I didn't go along with it?'"

"I can't remember any of that."
"Can't remember any of that?"
"No."

"We're talking about probably the biggest thing that ever occurred in your life."

"Well, I'm remembering that it didn't [occur]."
". . . Originally, you didn't want to talk to me because everybody had always pointed the finger at you and accused you. Everybody was saying, 'The stepchildren did it because that was their inheritance she was spending.'"

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin