***Copied from Ahwatukee Foothills News***
"Prosecution, Defense Outline Harrod Case"
by Guinda Reeves
October 29, 1997
Opening statements by attorneys October 20th in the murder-for-hire trial of James Cornel Harrod, 43, outlined the course the trial is expected to take during its three-to-four week duration. Harrod is charged with first-degree murder and burglary in the 1988 death of Phoenix socialite Jeanne Gunter Tovrea, 55. Arrested at his Ahwatukee Foothills home in the 4800 block of East Capistrano Avenue on September 14, 1995, Harrod has since remained jailed without bail. PROSECUTION HIGHLIGHTS Phoenix police get a call from a security-alarm company about 12:45 a.m. on April 1, 1988. About 10 minutes later, two police officers spoke with the security guard at 3500 E. Lincoln Drive, enroute to No. 26, where audible alarms were sounding, said Deputy Prosecutor Paul Ahler. At Jeanne Tovrea's upscale Lincoln Hills Estates home, a kitchen window pane had been removed and an arcadia door was open, the prosecutor said. A police K-9 unit was summoned, arriving about 1:10 a.m. In a bedroom at the upscale home, police found the victim in her bed, "lying in a pool of blood." She had been shot five times in the head and face with a .22-caliber weapon. "That gun was right in her face, " Ahler said. "Two rounds came execution-style (through a pillow)." The house was "spotless," he said, and the front door was locked. Other windows in the house "seemed to be secure." Even a portable safe in a hall closet was found undisturbed. The prosecutor said latent fingerprints were found on both sides of the glass kitchen window pane: on weatherstripping, alleged to be from the kitchen window; and at the sink area of the U-shaped kitchen counter, under that window,"where the killers came through." Ahler said the victim's house had an electronic security system, including a perimeter system, but the kitchen window reportedly wasn't wired to it. The motion-detector system in Tovrea's bedroom apparently wasn't on the night she was killed. In the victim's bedroom, some drawers in an acrylic jewelry case had been pulled out and a telephone had been ripped from the wall, the prosecutor said, and Jeanne Tovrea's purse was found lying on a chaise lounge in the bedroom. "It was staged to look like a burglary," Ahler said. Ahler provided a brief history of the Tovreas, a pioneer Arizona family, starting with Phil Tovrea Sr. and one of his sons, Edward Arthur Tovrea Sr., Jeanne's husband, who died in 1983 at age 64. Ed Tovrea Sr. left Jeanne, his third wife, the Lincoln Hills Estates house in Phoenix and two houses in the Pinetop area, and cash and stocks, said the prosecutor. Ed Tovrea Sr.'s three adult children from his first marriage-Georgia, Ed Jr. (Hap), and Priscilla-reportedly were each provided with a $200,000 trust, receiving $1,800 monthly payments each from the trust. About half of Ed Tovrea Sr.'s estate was put into a residual trust, with Jeanne receiving the interest income from it "for life," and that residual trust's worth by 1985 was estimated at about $4 million. The residual trust would go to Jeanne Tovrea's three stepchildren upon her death. Ahler later said each of her stepchildren got about $700,000 from the residual trust. The victim's relationship with her three stepchildren had become "strained" following an April 1985 incident involving disposition of Ed Tovrea Sr.'s ashes, according to Ahler. On July 11, 1987, Jeanne Tovrea reportedly met with a man known as Gordon Phillips, representing himself as a writer for Time-Life magazines interested in World War II prisoners of war in Newport Beach, California. The elder Tovrea had been a prisoner of war. The prosecution alleges that Phillips was an alias used by Harrod. Jeanne Tovrea's daughter by her first marriage, Deborah Nolan-Luster, also was present for part of that meeting. The meeting with Phillips upset Nolan-Luster so much that she slept that night with a butcher knife under her pillow, said the prosecutor. Ahler said that Phoenix police focused on the Gordon Phillips figure. He cited Nolan-Luster's description of Phillips to a detective as a white male, in his mid-30s, 5-feet-9 to 5-feet-10-inches tall with a stocky build, no glasses and no facial hair. The prosecutor also cited an answering-machine tape found about two weeks after Jeanne Tovrea's murder with two messages from Phillips among about 14 calls from December, 1987. That tape, played during a segment of the national television show Unsolved Mysteries that aired in April 1992, caught the attention of Harrod's two ex-brothers-in-law, Kurt and Mark Costello. They are on the witness list for the prosecution. Harrod's ex-wife, Ann Costello, would be testifying for the prosecution under immunity from prosecution, Ahler said. He said she would testify about a trip she and Harrod made to Barbados in September 1988. The defendant and Ann Costello divorced in February 1994. "The defendant's finger and palm prints are all over the crime scene," said Ahler. However, he also said there were "several inidentified latents" and added, "There may be other killers out there." Testimony about telephone records would show that Harrod had contacted Hap Tovrea more than 1,200 times during a 4-year period, said the prosecutor. "Extensive business documents" would show money transfers. Was Harrod's and Hap Tovrea's relationship a legitimate business deal, or "a way to launder money to the defendant?" Ahler asked, adding that the jury would have to decide. DEFENSE HIGHLIGHTS While it's true that Harrod cannot "account for certainty" or "answer precisely" where he was at the time of the murder, said defense co-counsel Tonya McMath, few people could say where they were on a particular day nearly 10 years ago. Neither can Harrod account for why his fingerprints were at the crime scene, she said. McMath underscored the prosecution's "burden of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt" that the defendant is guilty. "That's a burden that the state cannot sustain," she added. The telephone calls mentioned by the prosecution and payments from Hap Tovrea are parts of "absolutely a valid business deal," said McMath. Harrod even made a business trip to China with Hap Tovrea and Jason Hu, she said. There is ample evidence that Harrod's business dealings were "bona fide, legitimate," she said. Hap Tovrea, said McMath, had "ample" resources other than his father's trusts, including a trust from his grandfather, Phil Tovrea Sr. "Evaluate very carefully the evidence of the telephone calls," she urged the jurors. Most of the animosity between Jeanne Tovrea and her three stepchildren were mostly with Hap Tovrea's two sisters, McMath said. And the incident involving Ed Tovrea Sr.'s ashes involved Jeanne and Cricket. Nolan-Luster's identification of Harrod as Phillips during a physical line-up after Harrod's arrest in late 1995 is suspect, the defense co-counsel said, for several reasons. By December 1996, Nolan-Luster had had opportunities to identify Harrod in photo line-ups, but had failed to do so. Nolan-Luster's description of Phillips to detectives on April 2, 1988, the day after her mother's murder, is "as generic as a description on a driver's license," said McMath. Nolan-Luster at the time provided no eye color, no weight, "no unique characteristics whatsoever." Nolan-Luster's "sole contact" with Phillips had occurred at the alleged meeting in California on July 11, 1987. McMath said a police composite sketch of Phillips, from information provided by Nolan-Luster, dated May 2, 1988, "bears no resemblance whatsoever to (Harrod)." However, the No. 4 photo in an earlier photo line-up "bears a strong resemblance" to the composite drawing, she told the jurors. (That photo wasn't Harrod's but that of another man convicted of murder in an unrelated case. However, Judge Ronald S. Reinstein has precluded the photo subject's identity from being discussed in the trial in front of jurors). McMath also said that when Nolan-Luster chose Harrod, No. 5, in the later physical line-up, she had commented to police that she "very much felt that No. 5 resembled" Phillips, rather than positively identifying Harrod as Phillips. Testimony from Harrod's ex-wife, her family members, and their family friend, Jeff Fauvier, are "absolutely suspect," said the defense co-counsel. Their coming forward to law enforcement authorities came on the heels of an acrimonious divorce, she said. "Fingerprints are absolutely fakeable, have been faked, and in ways that can't be detected," McMath added. She questioned whether her client would've left incriminating fingerprints at the murder scene "for want of a $1.50 pair of gloves." The defense attorney pointed out that there are several unidentified prints on Jeanne Tovrea's acrylic jewlry box, as well as one unidentified print on the telephone that had been ripped out. McMath cited the size of the kitchen window as opposed to Harrod's build and "lack of athletic ability." The window itself has been "lost" while in the custody of the Phoenix Police Department, she added. "The state cannot bear its burden" in proving Harrod's guilt, said McMath. "(Harrod) is presumptively innocent in this trial." "The totality of proof (is) that James Harrod is not guilty of Jeanne Tovrea's Murder," she concluded.