". . . I'm on a Conveyor Belt to Death Row"

James "Butch" Harrod contacted New Times through his sister, June Barney, a few months after his September 1995 arrest.

Barney said her brother was unhappy at the time with his attorney, a Maricopa County deputy public defender. She said Harrod wanted to tell his story publicly, no holds barred.

New Times' Paul Rubin spent hours interviewing Harrod over a year's time in a small room at the Madison Street Jail in downtown Phoenix.

Harrod's roots are in Kentucky, where his pioneer namesake--Captain James Harrod--built a fort in 1774 at what's now known as Harrodsburg. The second of four children, Butch Harrod moved to the Valley as a youngster, where he attended schools in Phoenix and Apache Junction before dropping out of high school. He later earned his GED.

A gregarious and an articulate conversationalist, the accused murderer says he's innocent.

During the interviews, he spoke of his alibi for the night of Jeanne Tovrea's murder and comments by his ex-wife Anne (who is expected to testify against him at his trial); about his onetime business associate Hap Tovrea; about "Gordon Phillips"; about the presence of his fingerprints at the murder scene:

* On his theory of the case: "Why is someone trying to set me up? That's what I've asked myself over and over. . . . As far as I can determine, though, I'm not sitting here because of anything I did--I'm sitting here because someone wants Ed Tovrea. Everything the police has done is geared toward prosecuting Ed. I don't believe for a minute that Ed was involved in this. But that's why I'm in this position, 'cause they think I can put him right back into the thick of it."

* On the Gordon Phillips tape: "My personal opinion is that it's a crock. There are parts of it that sound like me, but it's also very choppy in parts. I can take your words and make you sound just like anyone. Bottom line, I wouldn't have known the victim if I saw her on the street."

* On his alibi for the evening of the murder: "During that time, I was a cocaine user. That night, I met up with a guy I knew and we went to the old Longhorn Bar at Priest and Baseline over in Tempe. No, I can't tell you his last name because I never got it. We weren't into last names at the time. We had a couple of beers in there and snorted some cocaine. Then we went over to a park near there with a six-pack of beer. That was it. I got home at about 11:15, no later, and Anne saw me and turned right back over and went to sleep, like a thousand times before. I wasn't a party animal, but I also didn't have a regular get-up-and-go-to-work kind of job like she did. I had a couple of glasses of wine and fell out on a couch. About 1:30 or 2, I woke up and went to bed. I hear my ex-wife is going to testify that I got home at 2 in the morning and supposedly told her I had done this murder like I said I was going out to do a few hours earlier. So, hubby went out to do a hit while the wife watches TV for a while, then goes to sleep. Wouldn't she have been plugged into a wall socket?"

* On his ability to negotiate the steep desert terrain near Jeanne Tovrea's home: ". . . I was a lot bigger in those days, and I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, drank a lot and did some drugs. The thing about committing this act in what they call an expedient manner--if anybody bothers to check my high school records or anything, they'll see I wasn't allowed to compete in physical education because of the ligament and nerve damage in my right foot. I can't run--hell of a deferment for the draft during the early Seventies."

* On his ex-wife and her damaging statements to police: "Anne has had a lot of problems in her life and is a very skittish person. I never thought of her as a bad person, and I know she loved me at one time. After Jeanne's murder, Anne was flipped out because of my connection to Ed Jr. and because we also had a break-in around that time. So I took out a license and got her into shooting. I even bought her her own pistol. I'll say this: Her family hated me so bad they wanted me dead, and I think this has a lot of bearing on things she said. I wasn't this Svengali character that had control of her mind or anything. I never threatened her in my life. All she had to do was call the police at any time and say, 'Psst! Jeanne Tovrea!' and they would have come running. Her statement about me dressing up like Rambo and walking out with an arsenal on the big night--weird. She says on the one hand that I would always keep my file cabinets locked and she knew that's where I kept my guns. Then, how did she know that the guns were missing that night? She didn't even have the key."