***Copied from The Ahwatukee Foothills News***
"Closing Arguments in Harrod Case"
by Guinda Reeves
November 22, 1997
Prosecution and defense attorneys presented their summations to the jury Monday in the murder-for-hire trial of James Cornel (Butch) Harrod, accused of participating in the 1988 killing of Phoenix socialite Jeanne Gunter Tovrea, as follows:
"This was a planned, premeditated execution," said Paul Ahler, chief deputy prosecutor for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. "And while they were in there, they stole things."
"The state does not have to prove that this man pulled the trigger," the lead prosecutor said. "If he was there, he is guilty-whether or not he pulled the trigger."
There's strong evidence that there were other people involved in the murder, Ahler said, adding, "It is very disturbing that we may have one or more other killers out there."
"We have provided more tham ample evidence in this case," he said, citing the "money trail"--withdrawls from accounts of Jeanne Tovrea's stepson, Hap Tovrea, and his company, Minerals Exploration Corporation of the Americas (MECA), and depositis to bank accounts of Harrod and his business, Mainland Cunsultants, involving checks and wire transfers.
Ahler outlined these critical facts:
1. The patio/jitchen area and Jeanne Tovrea's bedroom were the only disturbed areas in an otherwise "immaculate" house, and a safe containing valuable jewelry, visible in a hallway closet, apparently ignored.
2. From weatherstripping and a kitchen window pane that had been removed, allegedly providing entry into the house, 13 latent fingerprints were taken-12 were identified as Harrod's and one was unidentified.
3. From the kitchen countertop by the sink right under the window, 10 latents were usable prints-four were idnetified as Harrod's, one as a handyman's, and another as a housekeeper's; and four were unidentified.
It doesn't matter that the kitchen window pane wasn't retained by police, said Ahler, because the defendant "would still deny these are his fingerprints-why are his fingerprints at this murder scene?"
Ahler said Jeanne Tovrea's daughter, Deborah Nolan-Luster, who identified Harrod as the Gordon Phillips character she had met with her mother in July 1987, was accused of having a "vivid" imagination. "Do you think that she imagined that meeting in Newport Beach? Is she crazy?"
The composite, done soon after the murder from a description given by Nolan-Luster, fits Harrod, said Ahler. He cited pghotos of the defendant through the years, saying,"This guy's like a chameleon."
"(Nolan-Luster) did the best she could under difficult circumstances-over the years," the prosecutor said. "Nolan-Luster had no motive to lie (about Harrod)."
"He's a liar, he's a fraud-what an imagination he has," Ahler said of Harrod to the jury. "He's arrogant, he's a braggart. The problem is, when you tell so many lies, you can's remember the last lie you told. He's trying to perpetrate the last big con on you, hoping you're going to buy this."
Harrod's ex-wife, Ann Costello, "is no saint," said Ahler. "this lady has got some demons she's going to have to live with the rest of her life. She also benefitted from the blood money-and she has this bloood money on her hands. But she's consistent on the important facts of the case."
"This (killing) was not a brave act, an adventure-this was a cowardly act," said the prosecutor, "against a defenseless woman." It was a "heinous, depraved, evil act. (Harrod) has to be held accountable for what he did-don't let himget away with this," Ahler concluded.
"What scares me is maybe I haven't done enough," defense co-counsel Michael Bernays told jurors. He cited the American system of justice, "that no innocent man shall be convicted, that every person is absolutely presumed innocent" unless proven beyond any reasonable doubt.
Nolan-Luster was trying to identify Harrod as Phillips after nearly 10 years, he said, playing a videotape of a physical line-up of December 16, 1996. In that tape, Nolan-Luster told Detective Ed Reynolds, "I very much feel that No. 5 (Harrod) reembles the man I met that night in California."
Taking issue with the composite from an earlier description provided by Nolan-Luster shortly after her mother's murder, Bernays said Harrod has a rounder face, broader nose, and the "eyes and hair look nothing like the composite."
"Common sense tells you that you're going to be able to better recognize and describe a face the closer in time that you do so," he added. "There's a real possibility that she's wrong."
Bernays said that it was Nolan-Luster herself who told a North Carolina detective during a photo line-up,"I have a vivid imagination." "That's not something I concocted," said the defense attorney.
Bernays pointed out that Harrod's .22-caliber handgun had been tested and excluded as the murder weapon, and that "the crime scene itself creates reasonable doubt."
The state presented "theories, not facts," he said, citing Harrod's physical condition at the time of the murder-overweight and still a smoker, as opposed to the desert mountain terrain police say was traversed into Jeanne Tovrea's property.
"It was at night, with a lot of cactus-there's a jumping cholla out there," said Bernays, but the crime scene inside the house had no desert debris.
"Do I have the (rubber) gloves that (Harrod's fingerprints? No," he said, adding "Does the state have the murder weapon? No."
Regarding the missing window pane that reportedly had Harrod's prints on it, Bernays cited an expert's testimony that it absolutely clean except for the prints. "At that time of year, in the desert, with the kind of weather we have? he asked.
"What evidence is there-what actual evidence-that that window pane came from that window?" asked Bernays. "Why didn't police technicians follow the protocol by their own experts?" The defense attorney said Hap Tovrea, Jeanne Tovrea's adult stepson, "certainly had the resources to set up" Harrod. He mentioned life-insurance money and trust funds Hap Tovrea inherited from his mother, and a trust fund from his grandfather.
Bernays cited grout-striping that didn't match up in evidence photos, and "thousands and thousands of dollars" spent on the China trip in 1989, versus not spending "$1.59 on a pair of gloves."
Often paralleling the pattern oc telephone calls between Harrod and Hap Tovrea around the time of the murder are a similar pattern of calls between Hap Tovrea and his reportedly long-time friend, Michael Cudahy, (reportedly employed in state Attorney General Grant Woods' office), according to Bernays.
"Does a contract killer make 1,200 phone calls, and leave a toll record? And keep a record of all the payments he gets?" he asked.
Saving Ann Costello was "manipulative" rather than pathetic. Bernays said, reiterating inconsistencies in some of her testimony, asked jurors, "How can you accept that she went to Barbados and partied on that money? How can you believe a woman like that?"
Commenting on the legitimacy of the China deal, the defense attorney said the 1989 trip, the documents, and the meeting with Chinese government officials "don't happen on a whim."