Post by Graveyardbride on Feb 15, 2016 2:18:13 GMT -5
Mrs. Lovelace Died on Valentine’s Day: Was it Murder?
QUINCY, Ill. – On Friday, February 5, Judge Bob Hardwick ordered a new trial for Curtis Lovelace (above left), a former Illinois prosecutor charged with murder in the Valentine's Day 2006 death of his first wife, after jurors failed to reach a verdict. Lovelace had pled not guilty in the death of 38-year-old Cory Lovelace (right). The retrial is scheduled for May 31.
Lovelace claimed he found his wife dead in bed after dropping off three of their children at school. An initial autopsy was inconclusive, but prosecutors argued that subsequent forensic tests and photographic evidence determined the mother of four died from suffocation. Two of the couple's sons, now teenagers, testified they saw their mother alive the morning of her death, a time frame that contradicted the state's theory that Lovelace used a pillow to smother his wife in her sleep. But their older sister said she was not certain she saw her mother before leaving for school.
Valentine's Day 2006. Following is a timeline of events that transpired at the Lovelace residence located at 1869 Kentucky Street (pictured below) on the morning of Tuesday, February 14, 2006, when Cory D. Lovelace was found dead inside the home:
8:15 a.m. - Curtis Lovelace takes three of the couple's four children to school. Lovelace tells police this is the last time he saw his wife alive and the last time he spoke with her.
8:40 a.m. - Lovelace returns home and allegedly worked on his computer in the kitchen.
9:05 a.m. - Lovelace walks upstairs to the bedroom he shared with his spouse and noticed her eyes were partially open and she wasn’t moving. He told police he shook his wife and called to her, but she appeared to be dead and he didn't think CPR would help. He also said one of her arms was stiff and her eyes were locked.
9:10 a.m. - According to Baird, Lovelace takes the couple's youngest child to the home of his wife’s parents on Grove Avenue behind the Kentucky Street house. Another officer makes no reference to this in his report.
9:15 a.m. - Lovelace calls Adams County State's Attorney Jon Barnard, who calls emergency medical technicians.
9:23 a.m. - Quincy Fire Department and EMS dispatched to scene.
9:25 a.m. - Deputy Chief Doug VanderMaiden arrives on the scene.
9:44 a.m. - Detective Jeff Baird arrives at residence. It was his opinion that Curtis Lovelace appeared to be in a normal state of grief.
9:45 a.m. - Cory Lovelace is pronounced dead by Adams County Coroner Gary Hamilton.
Cory Lovelace. Born December 7, 1967, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Cory Didriksen graduated Quincy High School in 1986 and the University of Iowa in 1990. Although she and Curtis Lovelace attended QHS at the same time, they did not begin dating until they were in college. They were married January 26, 1991. Mrs. Lovelace, who was 38 at the time of her death, was a stay-at-home mother to the couple's four children: Lyndsay, now 22; Logan, 18; Lincoln, 17; and Larson, 14. She was active in the PTA at both Madison and Baldwin Schools and served as a room mother. She was a member of the First Union Congregational Church, Friends in Council, Quincy Service League and the Women's Interdenominational Bible Study.
Marty Didriksen described her daughter as a go-getter, upbeat, hardworking – a girl who "always had a smile on her face." When Cory announced, "I've met the man I'm going to marry” and named Curtis Lovelace, Mrs. Didriksen was surprised. The two never dated before going their separate ways to college, but she could see he made her daughter happy and said, "If you love him, that's all that matters."
After returning to Quincy, Cory stayed at home to raise their children. According to Mrs. Didriksen, her daughter struggled with knee problems aggravated by a cheerleading accident she suffered as a high school freshman. She took over-the-counter medications for pain relief. In 2002, John Didriksen learned he had lung cancer and during the final year of his life, Cory would visit and sit with him almost every night. (John Didriksen died March 8, 2006, three weeks after the death of his daughter.)
Curtis Lovelace. Lovelace first gained fame in Quincy though his athletic exploits as a member of the high school football team and the Western Big Six Conference heavyweight wrestling champion. He was a National Honor Society member with a 3.159 grade-point average and ranked 101st in the 578-member QHS class of 1986. Lovelace attended the University of Illinois, where he played football and was team captain, three-year starting center and two-time All-Big Ten standout. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1990 and his juris doctorate in 1994. He became a member of the Illinois Bar in November 1994. He initially accepted a position as an associate in the law firm of Schmiedeskamp, Robertson, Neu and Mitchell. In 1998, he stopped practicing law and served as the perishable distribution center manager at Dot Foods in Mount Sterling until he was hired by the state’s attorney’s office in December 2004, a position he held until June 2012. According to Lovelace's bio on LinkedIn, he prosecuted almost 600 cases that included 17 jury trials. He also served as counsel for the Adams County Board, as an adjunct instructor at Quincy University for 6½ years and maintained his own law practice, Lovelace Law Group, from January 2005 until his arrest.
In May 2008, Lovelace married Erica Gomez-Steinkamp in Puerto Rico and the two divorced in September 2013. He married his third wife, Christine Brewster, December 26, 2013.
Lovelace represented himself during his first two court appearances, then hired two defense attorneys from Springfield. Considering his legal background, he had the capacity to be more involved in his case than a normal defendant.
Arrest. Curtis Lovelace left his law office at 608 Vermont Street in downtown Quincy a little after noon on August 27, 2014. But instead of grabbing a bite to eat, meeting with a client or doing something else, he soon learned his life was about to be turned upside down when he was met by Detective Adam Gibson. Earlier in the day, Gibson had testified before an Adams County grand jury in a case concerning the death of Cory Lovelace. Gibson had spent the better part of nine months investigating the death and the grand jury returned an indictment of first-degree murder. The bill of indictment claimed Lovelace suffocated his wife, his bond was set at $5 million and he has since been held in the Hancock County Jail.
Lovelace was taken into custody without incident that afternoon. The news of a lawyer who worked in the Adams County state's attorney's office at the time of his wife's death being indicted for murder drew national attention. The story of a former star University of Illinois football player-turned-lawyer who served as president of the Quincy School Board made headlines throughout the country. The story was the No. 1 most-clicked story on The Herald-Whig's website by a wide margin in 2014. Fox News interviewed Quincy Police Chief Rob Copley, who had also been contacted by several national news organizations.
Cause of Death. Jessica Bowman, M.D., labeled the cause of Cory Lovelace as undetermined, but indicated "there is unexplained trauma to the mouth and a sign of death inconsistent with the time frame given." However, before the lip trauma came to light, both Lovelace and his daughter, Lyndsay said Mrs. Lovelace had fallen out of bed the previous Sunday. According to Baird, Lyndsay said her mother did not complain of any injuries, did not say she hurt herself or where, but did say she had fallen. Marked steatosis of the liver (fatty liver), which can be associated with sudden demise, was also noted. Fatty liver can be caused by diabetes, obesity, alcoholism and/or drugs. A Styrofoam cup half-full of vodka and tonic was found next to the bed and smelled faintly of alcohol. According to Curtis Lovelace, his wife had been sick with "flu-like" symptoms at least since Saturday, February 11. But even though it was early morning when she allegedly died, her blood alcohol level was 0.049. There was also a suggestion of suicide.
Martha "Marty" Didriksen, the mother of Cory Lovelace, said she was afraid her daughter was either alcoholic or suffered from an eating disorder, possibly bulimia.
When the grand jury was informed of Mrs. Lovelace's illness and the possibility of suicide, one juror observed, "She also had not eaten because she was sick." A third said, "It is kind of strange that a person would drink themselves to suicide."
Trial. During opening statements, Special Prosecutor Ed Parkinson told the jury the Lovelace residence "wasn't a happy place." Three people who lived near the home testified they heard raised voices coming from the house. Lori Miles, who lived next door, said she primarily heard Cory Lovelace yelling, and Elizabeth Schlembach confirmed her testimony. Catherine Meckes, who lived behind 1869 Kentucky, recalled walking in the neighborhood on the night before Mrs. Lovelace’s death and hearing an argument coming from the house. After learning of the arrest of Curtis Lovelace, she contacted the police. The most relevant testimony, however, was that of Amy Herkert and her husband who were friends of the Lovelaces and had spent New Year’s Day 2006 with them. Mrs. Heckert remembered both Cory and Curtis were intoxicated by 3 p.m., January 1. She also related what happened when she called Curtis after learning of his wife’s death. "He said, 'Cory’s dead' and hung up." Later in the spring, she spoke with Curtis again, at which time he said "the last 90 days of their marriage had been horrible" and blamed their marital problems on Cory. Mrs. Herkert also expressed amazement that Curtis Lovelace took the couple's three oldest children back to school on February 14, after bringing them home to advise them of their mother's death.
On cross-examination, defense attorney James Elmore asked Amy Herkert if she knew Lovelace took his kids back to school so they wouldn't have "to be around a bunch of crying adults." Afterwards, Parkinson asked Mrs. Herkert if Curtis Lovelace would have been one of those "crying adults" and she practically shouted, "Absolutely not!"
Elmore then asked if she was of the opinion that Curtis Lovelace grieved differently because he was a "big, tough-guy, football player," referencing his time as an All-Big Ten center for the University of Illinois. "He was not a big, tough guy to me," Herkert countered.
The jury was then shown approximately 10 minutes of the interrogation of Curtis Lovelace by the Quincy police on August 27, 2014:
"I've not been in this situation before," Lovelace said shortly after entering the interview room, repeatedly insisting he had nothing to do with his wife's death.
In describing what happened when he discovered Cory Lovelace that morning, he said, "She was cold and stiff. I recall her hands being up or something like that." He then admitted both he and his wife had problems with alcohol and claimed he had not drank since December 2012 when he realized he was an alcoholic.
When asked if he suffocated his wife, Lovelace replied, "No, I did not. … All of this is surprising to me, shocking."
During the interview, Lovelace remained calm, never raised his voice and answered all questions. He admitted to being confused when he was first arrested. "I can tell you my first thought was concern about my current wife and that something had happened to her," he told police. "She was baking pies on North 12th." (Christine Lovelace had recently opened Oh My Pie, a shop where she bakes and sells pies.)
Curtis and Cory Lovelace's two youngest children, ages 14 and 17, continue to live with Christine Lovelace.
Sources: Don O'Brien, The Herald-Whig; Jennifer Tapley, WGEM; The Chicago Tribune; Associated Press, and Office of Adams County Clerk.