Man sentenced to death again in Tovrea slaying
Resentencing sent '88 case back to court
Michael Kiefer
The Arizona Republic
April 16, 2006

Seventeen years ago, a wealthy socialite was shot to death in her Paradise Valley home. On Wednesday, the man convicted of her execution-style murder was sentenced to death in Maricopa County Superior Court for the second time.

James Cornell Harrod had already spent five years on death row for killing Jeanne Tovrea, the widow of a war hero, cattle baron from a pioneer Arizona family. But his case was sent back to Superior Court for resentencing after a 2002 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court changed the way death penalties are imposed.

"This was a contract killing. It was a hit for money," prosecutor Paul Ahler, who first tried the case in 1997, said during his closing arguments Tuesday.

But the person or persons police and prosecutors believe hired Harrod to do the killing were never charged.

"There have been no consequences to the others," said defense attorney Lynn Burns. "They walk free."

Harrod, who goes by the nickname of Butch, was 34 when the crime was committed and 41 when he was arrested. Now 51, his red hair has gone gray and has grown long enough to pull back into wavy ponytail.

"I have always said I'm innocent," he declared on Tuesday.

Jeanne Tovrea was found dead in her home April 1, 1988, by police responding to a burglar alarm. She'd been shot fives times in the head and police speculated that she had surprised a burglar who had somehow circumvented her sophisticated alarm system.

The case remained unsolved until it was featured on the television program Unsolved Mysteries in 1992. According to court records and news accounts of the time, Harrod's own relatives identified Harrod's voice from a tape recording played on the show, supposedly that of a man posing as a magazine writer seeking an interview with Tovrea.

Harrod was arrested in 1995 after his fingerprints were matched to the scene. Investigators found that Harrod had made numerous calls to Tovrea's stepson, Edward "Hap" Tovrea Jr., and learned that Hap Tovrea had paid Harrod more than $35,000, money they believed was partial payment for the murder.

Hap Tovrea was never charged in the murder.

Harrod was convicted of first-degree murder in 1997; his own wife testified against him during the trial. Judge Ronald Reinstein sentenced him to death and the conviction was upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court in 2001.

But in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court, ruling on another Arizona murder case, said that juries and not judges had to determine if there were aggravating factors in a case that called for the death penalty. Harrod's case, along with nearly 30 other death penalty cases, was re-examined, and like many, was sent back to Superior Court for re-sentencing by new juries.

Harrod's re-sentencing trial lasted seven weeks in Judge Brian Hauser's courtroom. Only one "aggravating factor" is required in a case to justify the death penalty, and that's all the jury found: that Harrod had murdered for money. After several days of considering mitigating evidence that might outweigh the aggravator, the jury deliberated for less than a day and returned with the verdict of death.

Copyright 2006, azcentral.com. All rights reserved.