A millionairess is stalked and murdered by a hit man claiming to be a magazine writer.
Jeannie Gunter was born in Arkansas and got married right out of high school. She eventually divorced and wound up in Phoenix, working as a cocktail waitress. But she had higher ambitions than that. Jeannie got her real estate license and was immediately successful. According to Jeanne’s sister, Sandra Elder, that’s when she met Edward Tovrea, a charming, wealthy divorcee:
Less than a year after they met, Jeannie and Ed were married. According to society columnist Danny Medina, Jeannie was warmly accepted into the Phoenix upper crust:
Then, ten years after getting married, Ed’s health began to decline. Sandra Elder said that
When Ed eventually died, he left Jeannie an estate worth millions, including the house and a valuable art collection. After a period of mourning, according to columnist Medina, Jeannie re-entered the Phoenix social world:
On April 1st, 1988, Jeannie prepared invitations for a high society party she planned to host. At 7 PM, she spoke with her sister. By 1AM the next day she was dead. She had been shot in the head five times.
At the murder scene, police found several fingerprints, but no other physical evidence. According to Phoenix Police Detective Ernie Hamrick, Jeannie’s purse, identification, and credit cards were all missing:
Det. Hamrick said that he was sure the killer was familiar with Jeannie’s neighborhood because he entered her home so easily:
Police believe that the killer scattered Jeannie’s costume jewelry to make it look like a burglary. Thousands of dollars worth of real jewelry was left untouched in the next room. Det. Hamrick said he suspected the killer wanted someone to know he had been there:
Who wanted Jeannie Tovrea dead? Police had no idea. That is, until they listened to the tapes from her answering machine. One message began “Yes, Jeannie, this is Gordon Phillips. And I have some information for you.”
Phillips claimed to be a freelance magazine writer working for Time Life. He had met with Jeannie, saying that he wanted to interview her about her late husband’s POW experiences. According to Sandra Elder:
Gordon Phillips would not give up. If Jeannie didn’t answer his calls, he left messages on her machine. Sandra said Jeannie was sure he was following her:
Police concluded that the name Gordon Philips was an alias adopted by a contract killer trying to get Jeannie alone.
After a seven-year investigation, the man who called himself Gordon Phillips was identified. His real name is James Cornell Harrod and his fingerprints matched those found at the crime scene.
Harrod was found guilty of first-degree murder. Because it was a contract killing, he was sentenced to death. However, the person who hired him to murder Jeannie is still a mystery.
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