***Copied from The Ahwatukee Foothills News***
"Harrod Found Guilty, Faces The Death Penalty"
by Guinda Reeves
November 22, 1997
Jurors deliberated just three-and-a-half hours Tuesday before rendering a guilty verdict in the murder-for-hire trial of James Cornel "Butch" Harrod, 43-leaving him likely to receive the death penalty, and prosecutors vowing to pursue other suspects in the killing of Phoenix socialite Jeanne Gunter Tovrea.
Harrod, who lived in Ahwatukee Foothils for more than eight years befor his arrest September 14, 1995, was unaanimously found guilty of first-degree murder. Jurors also found the murder was both premeditated and committed during a felony (a burglary), in connection with the April 1, 1988, death of Jeanne Tovrea.
The 55-year-old third wife and widow of cattle-and-stockyard millionaire Edward A. Tovrea Sr. was shot five times in the head execution-style, apparently as she slept in her Lincoln Hills Estates home. Two of the shots were in the middle of the victim's face, with the other three behind her left ear.
"This jury was as attentative as any I've ever seen," said Judge Ronald S. Reinstein, thanking the jury for its work prior to the verdict.
All but three jurors refused to discuss their decision after the verdict, and those three wished to remain anonymous.
The three jurors said the 18 fingerprints-on an outside gate, a kitchen window pane, and a kitchen countertop-identified by police as Harrod's were a big factor. Jurors just couldn't accept the defense team's premise that the fingerprints were somehow planted or forged. "Absolutely not," said a male juror. "We just didn't buy it."
"We went through evidence and consulted (the business) contracts," said a juror, as well as the testimony of Anne Costello, Harrod's ex-wife. Regarding one business contract, a woman juror said they appeared to reflect a "very poor" business sense.
"Both were liars," said a juror, referring to Harrod and Anne Costello. But the trio said jurors felt enough major points of Anne Costello's testimony agreed with other case evidence, and they felt Harrod's testimony was mostly an attempt to con them. "He made a mistake (to testify)," said one juror.
The three jurors expressed disgust that Anne Costello had been promised immunity. "She enjoyed the money for several years, and went to Barbados on blood money," a woman juror said, adding she had seen Anne Costello exit the courthouse after her first tstimony for the prosecution, "laughing and joking" with her friends.
"(Anne Costello) was in la-la land," said another woman juror. "We felt she could have come forward much soner."
A woman juror said a photo of Harrod and Hap Tovrea on a 1989 trip to China, showing Harrod dressed casually in jeans at Tiannemen Square, just before a meeting with high-level Chinese officials, caused them to doubt valid business was conducted.
Jurors reportedly felt a serious business meeting with Chinese, known to be very formal in conducting business dealings, would've required more formal, business attire.
Another major point for the jury was the microcassette tape of the "Gordon Philips" voice, reportedly taken from Jeanne Tovrea's telephone-answering machine following her murder. "it was (Harrod's) voice on the tape," said a woman juror. "I just got chills when I heard him speak (on the witness stand)-it was so distinct."
The three jurors agreed they didn't think Harrod was the "trigger man," the person who shot Jeanne Tovrea to death. "But he assisted-he was the accomplice," said a male juror. "We had to say, 'Yes, we know Hap (Tovrea) had something to do with it, but he's not on trial.'"
"I.m glad we're able to bring a finality to this case," said Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley, who appeared in the courtroom for the verdict. "We're going to stay on the case until we catch the other killers," he said afterward. "The case will stay open-when we have enough evidence, we'll bring the case forward."
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Paul Ahler said officials will go back into the case after Harrod's sentencing, to pursue other suspects.
"I really think the Phoenix Police Department should be given a great deal of credit," he said, praising Detective Ed Reynolds and the cold-case unit. "It's very satisfying to know these people can be brought to justice after all these years of getting away with murder."
Defense co-counsels Michael Bernays and Tonya McMath were somber following the verdict, telling Harrod's family what will happen next, at the sentencing mitigation hearing scheduled for January 16, 1998.
"There will be an appeal," McMath said about a half-hour before the verdict, when asked what would happen if Harrod was found guilty.
Immediately after the verdict was read, a silent Harrod held out his hands to be handcuffed by bailiffs, to be returned to the Madison Street Jail, already his home for more than two years since his arrest September 14, 1995.
The victim's daughter, Deborah Nolan-Luster, began crying as the verdict was read, comforted by her husband, Mike Luster, and others. The Lusters later left the courthouse with deputy prosecutor Bill Culbertson, telling reporters the victim's family didn't want to make a statement then.
Before leaving the courtroom, one of Harrod's sisters, Jane Barney, said, "We love our brother. He took the polygraph and passed the polygraph. I believe he's innocent."
"I do feel sorry for Debbie (Luster)," said Harrod's mother, Maries Wollitz. "Nobody deserves to lose their mother like that."
However, she said she still can't believe her son was involved with killing Jeanne Tovrea. "He was always my good boy," said Harrod's mother, adding that he had worked as a boy and "contributed his money to the household."
"He was a good child and never gave me any trouble in his life," Woolitz said. "I raised the three older children (June, Connie, and Butch) by myself," she said, until she remarried in 1967, to her current husband. "I worked two and three jobs-Inever drew child support, welfare or food stamps," she said, leaning on her cane.
The Tovrea Homepage
The Jeanne Tovrea Murder Listing
28. (page 88) Trial and Heir