An Injustice beyond belief.
In my 30 years working as a criminal defense investigator, the Curtis Lovelace story is by far one of the most tragic and disappointing.
If something like this can happen to Curtis Lovelace--a husband; a loving father; All-Big Ten starting center; a decorated JAG Officer; school board president; adjunct professor at Quincy University; and Assistant State's Attorney of Adams County (entrusted by his community to bring criminals to justice)--the injustice of a false arrest can happen to any one of us. ~ Bill Clutter
The tragic death of Cory Lovelace
On Valentine's Day 2006, Tuesday morning in the Lovelace home on Kentucky Ave. began like any other morning. Cory Lovelace began her morning getting their four children ready for school. She usually was the parent who took the children to school, but after getting the kids prepared for their day, making sure they had their Valentine's cards packed and clean clothes to wear, Cory sat down to rest on the bottom of the stairs. Cory, who was 38, had been feeling ill all weekend. The children watched as their father helped their mother up the stairs, back to bed. By the time Curtis returned home after dropping the four children off at school, he found his wife dead in bed around 9 a.m.
Autopsy--Steatosis of the Liver--known to cause sudden death
Det. Jeff Baird of the Quincy Police Department was dispatched to the scene to investigate. He found Cory laying face up with the covers pulled up to her waist. There was no sign of a disturbance. Her hands were in an unusual position, wrenched up above her chest. Det. Baird noted there was "mild rigor" in both the left and right arms. Rigormortis is the stiffening of the limbs of the corps caused by chemical changes in the muscle after death. Generally, this begins several hours after death. However, in this case, Det. Baird felt the body and it was warm, not cold. Det. Baird reported, "The body was warm to the touch at both forearm and abdomen". This fact supported death had happened rather suddenly. After several hours, the warmth produced by a live body would dissipate and turn the skin cool. If she had died 12 hours earlier, her body would have been cool to the touch.
Dr. Jessica Bowman performed the autopsy at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield. She found evidence of a condition called steatosis, fatty deposits in the liver, which is caused by alcoholism.
Cory's mother told Det. Baird that her daughter was bulimic and an alcoholic, a fatal combination in the case reports of the medical literature describing sudden death related to steatosis. A team of French physicians reported in a 1992 article a possible risk factor for patients not eating who died suddenly with no apparent cause, other than an abnormal liver due to severe steatosis. "No obvious cause of death was found in these 4 patients. Shortly, before their death, the 4 patients had increased their ethanol and decreased their food intake". A team of doctors in Japan published an article reporting a similar phenomenon among 11 patients who died suddenly with steatosis discovered afflicting the liver. "Death followed several days of uninterrupted drinking often with little dietary intake".
Dr. Bowman found a cut on the inside of Cory's upper lip, which could be suspicious of suffocation. However, Dr. Bowman found no evidence of petichial hemorrhage, which is often found in suffocation deaths. She asked Det. Baird to investigate this further. He interviewed the children. The oldest daughter reported that her mother had fallen on Sunday, which could explain the cut inside the lip.
The cause of death was ruled undetermined.
Curtis and Christine are Married Dec. 26, 2013
Eight years after Cory's death, Curtis remarried. Curtis married for a third time, reuniting with his high school Homecoming date through Facebook. His current wife Christine, quit her job in Minneapolis, where she lived and moved back to Quincy. She opened a pie shop, and had a blissful marriage. The wedding was held the day after Christmas 2013.
That December, Adam Gibson was promoted from patrol officer to detective. A week after Curtis and Christine married, Det. Gibson opened a homicide investigation. Det. Gibson began his iinvestigation on Jan. 3, 2014. One of the first witnesses he interviewed was Curtis' ex-wife, whom he divorced in a bitter battle that ended his second marriage. This was the same woman whose daughter was caught on video purchasing a rat from a pet store minutes before her friends entered Christine's pie shop and released the rat.
Police Misconduct--Withholding Exculpatory Evidence
Det. Gibson started his investigation with the predetermined conclusion that Curtis either poisoned or suffocated Cory. During his eight month investigation, Det. Gibson found none of the usual motives that make men kill their wives. There was no insurance policy. There was no mistress or infidelity.
In fact, the first three medical experts Det. Gibson consulted with told him there were problems with his theory.
On Jan. 6, 2014, Det. Gibson met with the Adams County Coroner and decided to consult with a forensic pathologist to review the autopsy that had been conducted by Dr. Jessica Bowman. After meeting with the corner, Det. Gibson wrote, "I will complete my report once the autopsy is reviewed". On Feb. 7, 2014, Det. Gibson met with Dr. Scott Denton. After meeting with Dr. Denton, Det. Gibson did not request a report from Dr. Denton documenting his review of the autopsy, nor did he summarize his interview of Dr. Denton in his own report. After the meeting with Dr. Denton, Det. Gibson reported, "I will not cover the findings in my report". When the defense interviewed Dr. Denton he said he told Det. Gibson there were problems with his case. The first problem with his theory that a pillow had been used to suffocate Cory was the fact that there was no transfer of blood onto the pillow. If the cut under the inner lip had been caused by pressing a pillow over her face, Dr. Denton would have expected there to have been active bleeding that would have transferred onto the pillow. Dr. Denton said the liver was enlarged due to fatty tissue (steatosis) twice the size of a normal liver, which could have caused her death.
Det. Gibson then sought the services of a second forensic pathologist, Dr. Shaku Teas of Chicago. On March 17, 2014, Dr. Teas gave Det. Gibson an extensive verbal report. She told him there was no evidence of a homicide, but plenty of medical evidence that the death was related to the medical findings of a failing liver. Dr. Teas sensed that Det. Gibson was not happy with her findings. He asked her not to write a report. So Dr. Teas sent a detailed email to Det. Gibson summarizing what she discussed with him. She asked Det. Gibson what were the findings of Dr. Denton. He refused to share that with her. Dr. Teas said, "Part of the reason I sent him that email was when I asked him what Dr. Denton said he wasn't being really forthcoming. So I'm not going to get caught committing a Brady Violation".
A Brady violation is when police and or prosecutors withhold evidence that tends to negate the guilt of the accused, that tends to support actual innocence.
Det. Gibson kept shopping for experts who would give him the conclusion he was after.
Curtis Lovelace was indicted for the murder of his wife on Aug. 27, 2014, based on the findings of Dr. Jane Turner from St. Louis. In her opinion, Cory had been murdered at least 12 hours before her death was reported based on rigor mortis of the body. Dr. Turner opined that the position of the hands suggested to her that a pillow had been used to suffocate her. Other doctors have explained that the unusual position of the hands could have been caused by a seizure during death.
Dr. Turner relied on what Det. Gibson told her, photographs and reports. Those who actually touched the body, like Det. Baird, and the children who saw their mother alive Monday morning are more reliable witnesses as to the time of death.
Bond was set at $5 million. Curtis was jailed pending trial.
The two week trial ended in a hung jury on Feb. 5, 2016. Curtis' family had paid private counsel a six figure fee that drained their life savings. Special Prosecutor Edwin Parkinson announced he would retry Curtis. His second trial is set for May 31, 2016.
He remains in the Hancock County jail on a high bond.
His wife Christine is determined to assemble funds to retain additional experts and new counsel.