***Copied from Ahwatukee Foothills News

"Harrod Murder Trial Closes Testimony"
by Guinda Reeves
November 19, 1997

The first-degree murder trial of an Ahwatukee Foothills man, James Cornel Harrod, 43, ended testimony Friday, as he continued to deny that he killed Phoenix socialite Jeanne Tovrea or that he was involved in plotting what prosecutors say was a murder-for-hire, amid contrdicting testimony by his ex-wife. Closing arguments were presented Monday.

The body of Jeanne Tovrea, 55, was found by police early April 1, 1988, in her Lincoln Hills Estates home where officers responded to a burglar alarm.. The third wife and widow of Edward A. Tovrea Sr. had been shot five times in the head with a .22-caliber weapon, apparently as she slept.

After Harrod had taken the witness stand in his own behalflast week, deputy prosecutors Paul Ahler and William Culbertson recalled Harrod's ex-wife, Ann Costello, to rebut his testimony.

Asked by Culbertson wheknew where her then-husband was going the evening of March 31, 1988, Costello said, "Yes, I did--because he told me. He told me he was going to go over sit on the hill behind (Jeanne Tovrea's) house."

Harrod had testified he went to a now-defunct bar on Baseline Road near Priest Drive, at the Tempe-Guadalupe border, to buy cocaine and to drink "a few beers" the evening of Jeanne Tovrea's murder.

Costello said, "I was going to call the police." Asked why she didn't notify poice, she said,"Because I was afraid for my life-I was afraid for my family."

"I'm sorry, Debbie!" a sobbing Costello blurted out to Jeanne Tovrea's daughter, Deborah Nolan-Luster, who was sitting in the courtroom. Judge Ronald S. Reinstein, responding to objection by defense co-counsel Michael Bernays, had the remark stricken from the court record and admonished jurors to disregard it.

Costello said Harrod was beside her in bed when she awoke for work at 5 a.m. the next morning after the murder. She said, she asked,"Is it over?" and he reportedly replied, "yes, it's over."

During later cross-examination, Bernays reminded her a statement she made September 23 of this year, in which she had said it was "between two and one, is when he appeared," regarding when Harrod returned home.

According to Costello, Harrod also told her he was posing as Gordon Phillips, the mystery figure who reportedly had contacted Jeanne Tovrea in 1987 claiming to be a Time-Life reporter researching World War II prisoner of war experience, such as that of her late husband.

Asked why Harrod, allegedly posing as Phillips, was to meet with Jeanne Tovrea, Costello said, "Because he was supposed to get into the house and check out the security system."

According to Nolan-Luster's previous tstimony, Jeanne Tovrea had met with Gordon Phillips while vacationing in Newport Beach, California-rather than her Phoenix home-the second weekend in July 1987. Her daughter reportedly had joined her for part of the meeting with Phillips.

During later cross-examination by Bernays, it was revealed that Costello had earlier said Harrod had told her in March 1988 that he "was going to try" to interview Jeanne Tovrea and get into her house, and that Harrod's trips to California first started in the fall of 1987-inconsistent with Nolan-Lister's testimony.

Costello said Harrod had told her the reason for the killing was that Hap Tovrea and his two sisters-Georgia and Priscilla- hated their stepmother because "she had received all the inheritance."

Costello said Harrod's job was to "coordinate the hit" and he was still owed "somewhere between" $50,000 to $60,000 of the alleged $100,000 payment.

Harrod's ex-wife admitted she had deposited the money-previously saido be about $30,000-into her and Harrod's joint account for her mother. Sue Streibel, who had lived with the couple for "nine to 11 months" sometime in 1992 or 1993. She said it was from her mother's workers' compensation insurance, that her mother didn't have a checking account at the time, and was "going through a bad time with her husband."

Harrod had contended the deposits were to hide the money from Streibel's ex-husband and federal bankruptcy court, and he had objected to his then-wife doing so.

I left him because of this terrible thing that he had done, because I couldn't stand living with someone who had been involved with a murder," said Costello.

However, Costello said she didn't leave immediately because Harrod had told her the two hired killers, identified only as Tommy and Michael, had been in their house and had seen her photograph. She testified Harrod had told her she'd be safe "as long as I stayed with him."

Costello said she is still afraid for her safety "because in my mind, (Harrod) is not the shooter-but he knows about the shooter."

During cross-examination by Bernays, Costello said Harrod "didn't 'threaten me directly'."

"You left him three years ago, and no physical harm has come to you?" asked Bernays. "No," replied Harrod's ex-wife.

Costello agreed with Bernays time line, that she had met Harrod in 1983, married him in 1985, but didn't leave him until October 1993, with the couple's divorce occurring in 1994. That was nearly six years after Jeanne Tovrea's murder, Bernays said, "because you couldn't live with someone who had been in a murder?"

"Yes, that's true," Costello said, that she first heard of the plot to kill Jeanne Tovrea in 1987 or 1988. She said she also had been told the day of the murder as well as the day before the murder, and that she had gone to Barbados with Harrod in September 1988, but denied later tellign Detective Ed Reynolds she knew the trip was made with money from Jeanne Tovrea's killing.

On redirect by Culbertson, Costello said she didn't contact police sooner because Harrod "would tell me so much. I wasn't sure if he was telling me the truth or not. I kepy waiting to hear-(to see)signs-that it wasn't true."

"I was very frightened," she said. "From the night that happened, I determined I was going to get away from that man-it took me a long time to do it."

In response to juror's questions posed by Reinstein, Reynolds said Harrod's prints weren't found on the arcadia door at the crime scene, and that he didn't know why Harrod's prints weren't available from the state real extate board.

Asked whether Costello had told him the Harrod's trip to Barbados was with money from the murder, Reynolds said, "To the best of my recollection, yes," and that she had told him Harrod had gotten into Jeanne Tovrea's house prior to the killing.

The Tovrea Homepage
The Jeanne Tovrea Murder Listing
25. (page 82) Closing Arguments in Harrod Case