***Copied from The Ahwatukee Foothills News***
"Harrod Testifies in Murder-for-Hire Trial"
by Guinda Reeves
November 15, 1997
Defendant James Cornel Harrod, 43, took the wirness stand Monday, denying participation in or any forehandknowledge of the April 1, 1988, killing of Phoenix solialite Jeanne Tovrea in her Lincoln Hills Estates home. He faces cross-examination by the prosecution today.
"No," the Ahwatukee Foothills man said, he wasn't physically present when Jeanne Tovrea was killed, he didn't shoot her, and he didn't enter her house through her kitchen window, and he didn't participate in any plan to kill her.
Harrod's testimony contradicts that of his ex-wife, Ann Costello, to whom he was married from late September 1985 to February 1994.
Defense co-counsels Michanel Bernays and Tonya McMath have tried unsuccessfully to invoke the state's marital privilege provision, to prevent deputy prosecutors Paul Ahler and Bill Culbertson from recalling Costello to rebut Harrod's testimony. If Costello is recalled, she would be subject to further cross-examination by the defense.
On the stand Monday, Harrod outlined his educational and business background. Born in 1953 in Miami Beach, Florida, he and his family moved to the Phoenix area when he was five years old. At 16, he dropped out of Alhambra High School, and worked at carpentrfor a while.
From about 1973 to 1979, he lived in Ocean Beach, California, in the San Diego area. "I was just enjoying the southern California lifestyle," he said, "surfing (and) working as a bartender."
Harrod returned to Arizona about 1979, got a job as a journeyman carpenter in housing construction, and received a General Education Degree (high school equivalency).
Citing a "lifelong love" of automobiles and a mechanic father, he often worked on cars for "easy money." He also managed a Valley off-road equipment retail center, and later a motorcycle parts and accessories shop in Chandler.
"I always had an interest in the import business," said Harrod, and had "some artistic ability" like other family members.
He began doing outer-design prototypes for athletic shoes, as well as prototypes for other athletic or beachwear including some for a Korean company.
He often had to call his Asian contacts late at night. "There's a time-zone difference," the defendant said. "When it's late evening here, it's morning hours there."
Lack of a college degree didn't dampen Harrod's entrpreneural spirit. "Failure is when you don't try," he said. "The richest man in the country never finished college-(Bill Gates) owns Microsoft."
Harrod also did some prototypes for a Californis beach apparel company, Gordon & Smith-the logo on a wallet found when he was arrested on September 14, 1995. Through his Gordon & Smith work, he said he "opened up some doors" in Hong Kong.
In the mid-1980's, Harrod met Gilbert Montano, A Valley attorney, representing some Denver investors; Edward A. (Hap) Tovrea Jr., whose Minerals Exploration of the Americas (MECA) company mined sulfur in Chile; and import/export entrpreneur in Ji Sheng (Jason) Hu (pronounced in Chinese as "woo").
For the Denver investors, Harrod investigated "what it would take to set up aprocessing plant" for a shrimp-farming venture along China's eastern coast. He and Hu traveled to China in 1986 and got a letter of intent from the Chinese government-considered the important first step of the complicated Chinese way of doing business. Harrod also named a major investor he met in Hong Kong before returning from that trip.
The defendant became what he termed "a liason" between Hap Tovrea and his company MECA, and Hu, with influential family and friends in the Chinese government.
Meanwhile, the shrimp-farming deal collapsed apparently due to Montana's embezzelment of $50,000 from the Denver investors-a feat for which Montana was indicted in mid-1986 for fraud and theft. (prosecutors in that case reportedly had approached Harrod to be a prosecution witness. Montana reportedly remains a fugitive, having fled before sentencing.)
In 1989, Harrod made a second "exploratory" trip to China regarding MECA becoming involved in sulfur mining there. The idea, he said, was to get a letter of intent, then a technical agreement.
However, that project "died slowly," said Harrod. He said he learned MECA "was having some financial problems" from Hap Tovrea's business partner, Peter Vanderworth.
Harrod said he received $3,000 a month in fees, as outlined in a business agreement, but didn't get all that was owed. "This was a 20-year contract," he added.
Asked if he took money from Hap Tovrea to kill his stepmother, Jeanne Tovrea, Harrod said, "No, and I wouldn't take any money like that."