But short of a dramatic explanation, those close to the case agree, Harrod's telltale fingerprints at the crime scene make the chances of his acquittal slim.
Law enforcement authorities called a press conference in Phoenix hours after the detectives finished grilling Hap Tovrea in California.
Butch Harrod's arrest on a first-degree murder charge was a bombshell. But Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley and Phoenix police chief Dennis Garrett offered few details.
"There are other aspects to this homicide that we're looking at," Romley said, "and to comment right now would be a bit premature. . . . I do not believe this is the whole story with the arrest of Mr. Harrod."
Neither Romley nor Garrett mentioned Hap Tovrea.
A few days after Harrod's arrest, the late Phoenix Gazette opined about the Tovrea case in an editorial titled "The mystery remains."
"They call it the cold case file," it said, "where the only leads police have for solving some crimes seem as chilled and lifeless as, well, the corpses in the morgue.
"Such was the celebrated murder of Jeanne Tovrea, attractive widow of wealthy Arizona rancher Ed Tovrea, murdered in her sleep in April 1988. An assailant put a pillow over her head and pumped five pistol rounds into her body.
"The mystery, the questions remain, even as police arrested an Ahwatukee man last week and charged him with murder. In time, County Attorney Richard Romley assures us, we will know how the alleged killer, James Harrod, managed to elude a manned security station at her upscale complex and a double-alarm system to enter Mrs. Tovrea's home . . .
"Was it a murder for hire? If so, who else was involved?
". . . A close-mouthed Mr. Romley said the evidence would become clear as the case develops in court. Until then, we wait and wonder, encouraged that a determined investigative team persevered in this high-profile murder, but puzzled why it took so long."
James C. "Butch" Harrod has been held at the Madison Street Jail since his arrest. He awaits a jury trial in the death-penalty case before Superior Court Judge Ronald Reinstein, probably later this year.
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.