Longform

Death of an Heiress

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As Jeanne sought to find her way, her daughter lived much of the time with Jeanne's parents. It's uncertain if the arrangement led to later mother-daughter tensions. But at the time of Jeanne's death, the pair appeared to be on excellent terms.

In the mid-1950s, Jeanne married a New Mexico man named Daniel Daniels. It isn't certain how long they were married or if they were together when Daniels, said to have been a professional gambler, was himself murdered.

Jeanne loved rodeo, and felt at home with country folk and blue-collar types who, like herself, had come up the hard way. That's not to say she rejected the concept of wealth.

Jeanne was a shopaholic before the word was coined. After her murder, Hap Tovrea told police that his dad had paid salespeople to stop selling to her. But Ed Sr. would tell friends affectionately that those spending habits were to be expected from someone who had gone without for so long.

Jeanne landed in Arizona in 1961, and found work as a cocktail waitress at the Safari Restaurant on North Scottsdale Road. (The establishment gained notoriety in June 1978 in another of Arizona's infamous homicides, as the last place Hogan's Heroes star Bob Crane was seen in public before he was murdered.)

In the mid-1960s, Jeanne returned to her native Arkansas for a few years to battle cervical cancer. Doctors pronounced her cured after a heroic struggle, and she returned to Arizona in the late 1960s determined to improve her lot.

She attended real-estate school by day and waited tables at the Safari at night. After earning her license, Jeanne worked for a real estate firm on North Central Avenue.

Then she caught Ed Tovrea Sr.'s eye.
The two clicked. They enjoyed many of the same things--playing cards, eating at fine restaurants, partying with friends.

When Ed Sr. introduced her to his three children, who by now were young adults, the siblings justifiably were skeptical. But they held that view long after Jeanne became a fixture in Ed Sr.'s life, and long after she'd won over Ed Sr.'s best friends with her personality and obvious attachment to the aging cattleman.

"Ed had the sweets for Jeanne and he wasn't afraid to say it," says his old friend, Bill Roer, echoing the sentiments of many contemporaries. "No ifs, ands or buts about it."

Ed Sr. and Jeanne married in 1973.
But Ed Sr.'s health slipped badly in the late 1970s with the onset of emphysema and cirrhosis of the liver.

And there were his continued troubles with his only son, Hap.
It couldn't have been easy being the only son of a larger-than-life figure such as Ed Tovrea Sr. How do you impress a man who helped orchestrate the Great Escape, who was one of the West's most powerful cattle barons?

Certainly not with the Hap Tovrea method.
Even his friends concede that Hap has embraced the life of a stereotypical trust-fund baby--a self-proclaimed free spirit who dabbles in "projects."

But his track record has been dismal. Neither the agriculture degree he obtained from the University of Arizona in 1973 nor his father's deep pockets could bring success in the mid-1970s when Hap tried to run a cotton farm north of Tucson.

That venture cost Ed Sr. a tidy $200,000.
As a 25-year-old in April 1976, Hap wrote to his father about a new "opportunity," in a letter that reflects the stormy relationship.

"It does not help me for you to badmouth me at the various social gatherings you attend," Hap carped. "I am busting my ass putting together a business that will mean definitely millions of dollars to me in my lifetime, and these rumors do not help. . . . You're so worried about me asking you for anything--Don't worry, I don't want to. My ego won't allow it anymore. In closing, I trust this will shed a small ray of light in the darkness in which you vision me."

Such drivel rankled Ed Sr., his friends say, and he reacted more than once by changing his will.

He was terminally ill and almost totally reliant on Jeanne by the start of the 1980s. The couple had moved into the beautiful $500,000 home at Lincoln Hills Estates, where they were forced by Ed Sr.'s condition to spend much of their time.

Their neighbors included Kemper Marley, who'd been one of Arizona's most powerful businessmen for decades. Kemper and his wife, Ethel, had been friends of Ed Sr.'s since the 1930s.

"We knew Ed since he was a little old kid," says Ethel Marley, a keen woman who is pushing 90. "We housed him many a night back then--he was always hauling his horse around, and we'd put him and the horse up at our place. It was kind of funny that now we were sitting across from each other in these nice fancy houses. Those two [Jeanne and Ed Sr.] loved each other, and they weren't faking it, whatever his kids might say."

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin