Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Jeanne Tovrea

Love, Hate
and Will

Jeanne Tovrea
Jeanne Tovrea

Jeanne and Ed instantly became an item and were virtually inseparable after their initial meeting. After a brief courtship the smitten couple married in 1973. Some in Phoenix social circles thought them an unlikely couple because Jeanne was "blue collar" and Ed came from a wealthier background. Yet, as people became more acquainted with her they realized that she was an endearing woman with a bubbly personality. It didn't take long for her to win people's hearts and climb the Phoenix social ladder.

Unfortunately, Ed's children were less enthusiastic about their father's choice for a wife. Paul Rubin reported that the kids saw Jeanne as a "gold digger," which created animosity that strained their relationship with her. However, Jeanne's actions consistently disproved the "gold digger" myth.

In the early part of the 1980s Ed's health declined significantly and he was diagnosed with emphysema and cirrhosis of the liver. Jeanne devoted herself completely to her husband and cared for him day and night until his death in July 1983. Regardless, the children were not impressed by Jeanne's display of affection and continued to believe that she was only after the money.

Their problem with Jeanne was exacerbated when Ed's kids found that he willed most of his multi-million-dollar fortune to her. In his will, Ed criticized his kids for being hard on Jeanne, being frivolous with their money and taking no initiative to better their own lives. Ironically, prior to his death, Ed contemplated cutting the kids completely out of his will but at Jeanne's insistence he decided to leave them what some would consider a small token of the total value of his assets. He stated in his will that none of them earned their inheritance so they should be happy with whatever he decided to leave them, which was $260,000 each plus a $3.9 million trust fund that could only be collected and split only after Jeanne's death.

Jeanne, on the other hand, received assets worth more than $8 million plus the interest generated by the kid's trust fund totaling around $400,000 a year. According to Rubin, what Ed's kids likely found most "vexing" was that "they would have to pay taxesabout 50% before they saw a cent of what remained" of their trust fund. Over the following years, Prissy, Hap and Cricket launched four lawsuits against Jeanne to try and get a hold of the money they believed was rightfully theirs. However, Ed's demands prevailed and the kids lost each lawsuit, which additionally cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. They also had to pay Jeanne back for her legal costs.

Jeanne, who repeatedly tried to repair the relationship with her stepchildren throughout her marriage with Ed, was undoubtedly hurt by what she believed to be ruthless attacks against her. Yet, she was most upset by what the kids did directly after Ed's death. When she went to retrieve his ashes from the mortuary, she allegedly discovered that they had taken her husband's ashes without telling her. They apparently divided his remains up amongst one another, some of which were scattered in undisclosed locations. Jeanne was devastated and severed all contact with the kids thereafter.

The behavior of Ed's kids especially that of Hap, described by Dunne as a "failed entrepreneur always in need of money," led investigators to suspect whether they might have in some way been involved in her murder. Despite their suspicions, detectives didn't have any evidence to substantiate their theory and Ed's kids all vehemently denied any involvement. Investigators were forced to look elsewhere, focusing instead on Jeanne's new boyfriend named Eddie, who was married. They also looked at her boyfriend's irate wife, as well as Jeanne's daughter, Deborah Nolan-Luster who was the sole beneficiary of a $2.7 million life insurance policy Jeanne took out months before her death. Notwithstanding the potential suspects' possible motives, all of them had alibis, none of their fingerprints matched those at the crime scene, and none could be tied to the murder.

Deborah Nolan-Luster
Deborah Nolan-Luster