Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Jeanne Tovrea

Gordon Philips

There was, however, one piece of evidence that investigators still had to follow-up on which they hoped would lead to the identity of Jeanne's killer. Several weeks after her mother's murder, Deborah stumbled upon an answering machine tape while cleaning her mother's home. The answering machine message was that left by a man who referred to himself as Gordon Philips.

Jeanne Tovrea
Jeanne Tovrea

One year prior to her death, Philips called Jeanne, claiming to be a free lance reporter for Time Life Publications and expressing interest in writing an article about Ed's harrowing WWII experiences. Jeanne was hesitant to meet with him because she was suspicious. Nevertheless, Philips persisted until Jeanne finally gave in to his request and agreed to meet him in Newport Beach, California, while on vacation with her daughter.

Jeanne and her daughter sat down with Philips at a restaurant to discuss Ed Tovrea's wartime experiences. Jeanne had even brought with her some of Ed's WWII memorabilia thinking that it might help Philips with writing his piece for the magazine. Surprisingly, the alleged reporter showed little interest in the memorabilia or discussing Ed.

Immediately, Jeanne's suspicions that something was terribly wrong with Gordon Philips were proved correct and she became frightened. She was so scared that she even asked a friend of hers, a retired CIA agent to check Philips out. Her friend's research revealed that no one by Philips name actually worked for Time Life Publications. Petrified for her safety, Jeanne saved the answering machine recording of Philips voice and went so far as to take out a $2.7 million life insurance policy.

The day after Deborah found the tape, she handed it over to the police. According to Paul Rubin, "detectives worked feverishly on the Gordon Philips lead but it quickly reached a dead end." He stated that "it would take years for the phone message to have any impact on the murder investigation." In the meantime, the investigation slowed and then stalled. As years passed, it appeared as if Jeanne's murder would never be solved but in 1992 the case would unexpectedly heat back up again.