Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Jeanne Tovrea

On Behalf of
the Defense

Charles C. Harrod
Charles C. Harrod

One of the defenses key witnesses was James Cornel "Butch" Harrod, who took the witness stand on November 10, 1997. Initially, Harrod outlined his business and educational background, informing jurors that he was born in Miami Beach, Florida in 1953 and lived there until he and his family moved to the Phoenix area when he was five years old. At the age of 16, he said he dropped out of high school and briefly worked as a carpenter. Between 1973 and 1979, he lived in Ocean Beach, California near San Diego where he enjoyed "the southern California lifestyle...surfing (and) working as a bartender," Reeves quoted him as saying. He later received his high school equivalency diploma and worked at various jobs in construction and as a mechanic.

Then Harrod described how he got hit by the entrepreneurial bug and worked in the import businesses, where he designed athletic shoe and beachwear prototypes for a Korean company and Gordon & Smith. It was around that time, in the 1980s that Harrod met Hap Tovrea and got involved with his company MECA. He told jurors that he received $3,000 a month from Hap with whom he had signed a 20-year business contract. However, he suggested that the money was by no means payment for killing Jeanne. He stressed on the stand that he wasn't physically present at her home at the time of her death nor did he shoot her or enter through her kitchen window, despite the facts that his fingerprints were found on the kitchen window, countertop and an outside gate.

Attorney Michael Bernays
Attorney Michael Bernays

The fingerprint evidence was very damaging to the defense and proved difficult to explain. Attorney Michael Bernays who led the defense said in a Dominick Dunne interview that his team had to come up with some theories as to how Harrod's fingerprints might have gotten on Jeanne's kitchen window. One outrageous theory put forth by the defense was that the real killer likely used a prosthetic hand with Harrod's prints on them, which they could use to plant the prints at the crime scene. Bernays said during the interview that if "someone had the resources of Hap Tovrea and you wanted your stepmother dead to gain the millions of resources that would come from that and you had a good fall guy like James Harrod... you know, could you get him drunk or stoned or slip him a "mickey" and get an impression of his fingerprints? Maybe you could, I don't know."

Inside Tovrea Home
Inside Tovrea Home

As unconvincing as the prosthetic limb argument was, Harrod didn't help the defense any when he was unable to provide any other explanation as to why his fingerprints were at the scene of the crime. The defense argument was further damaged when Harrod took the stand on November 15th and said he never told anyone about the murder. The statement was significant because it opened the door for the prosecution to bring in Anne's testimony, which earlier she couldn't present to the court.

When Anne took the stand, her testimony was the final assault against the defense team. She told jurors everything she knew about her ex-husband's alleged involvement in the murder, including Harrod's confession to her that he killed Jeanne, that he was Gordon Philips and the he also collected money from Hap for months after the murder. The evidence proved disastrous to Harrod's case.

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