Lovelace takes the stand in his own defense
The second the defense called Curtis Lovelace to take the stand, chatter emanated from a courtroom gallery that has been all but silent throughout this murder trial. Walking a thin line between vindication and conviction, Lovelace testified about his relationship with his first wife, Cory, her death and the investigation that lead to his arrest in 2014.
Lovelace met Cory in high school, but they did not date until college, where he was a star center for the University of Illinois football team. They were engaged on Christmas Eve 1988, and married in January 1991. Lovelace acknowledged that the couple had its fair share of tribulations during their 15 years of matrimony. “It wasn’t a perfect marriage,” Lovelace admitted. However, Lovelace said the accounts of witnesses towards their disputes were “exaggerated.”
What wasn’t exaggerated, however, was the role alcohol played in the marriage. “Alcohol was part of our life. Alcohol was in every family occasion, it was part of our daily lives,” stated Lovelace, who characterized himself and Cory as alcoholics. For Cory, the drinking got worse when Lovelace accepted a job far away from the family. “I would come home at later hours and I could tell she was drinking. I noticed more drinking in that time period in our lives,” Lovelace remembered. He later stated he tried to talk to Cory about giving up drinking, but to no avail. “She wasn’t really open to that conversation, and because I was an alcoholic, I probably was not in the best position to say, ‘You’re drinking too much’ when I was drinking too.”
Nevertheless, Lovelace described Cory as a loving mother. “She loved the kids. She loved them,” he said. “Was she a good mother?” Defense attorney Jon Loevy inquired. Lovelace hesitated for a few seconds, then responded “I know she did the best she could.” Prosecutor David Robinson picked up on the hesitation, asking Lovelace why he paused. “I think Cory was a good mother, and looking back and looking at my drinking, her drinking and the yelling, neither of us were perfect and in hindsight, I wished we would have done things differently.”
When Lovelace became the assistant state’s attorney for Adams County, he was able to see his family more, stating an “improvement” in the marriage as a result. According to Lovelace, however, Cory’s omnipresent demons took a turn for the worse, as her drinking was compounded with an eating disorder. “On occasion after a meal, I would go upstairs to the restroom, and I would smell vomit, and it would be on a regular basis,” he said.
Lovelace then recounted his recollections of Valentine’s Day, 2006. Lovelace claimed that Cory was up that morning, preparing the children’s Valentine’s Day cards and even doing laundry for one of the kids. According to Lovelace, the last time he saw her alive was right before he took the kids to school. Forty-five minutes later, he returned home. After doing some work on his laptop, he went up the stairs, where his 4-year-old son, Larson, was waiting. When entering the bedroom, Lovelace said he found Cory in an unresponsive state, already sensing the worst. “Cory was dead. That’s what I saw. That’s what I saw,” Lovelace said. “I didn’t know what to do. I shook her. I yelled at her.” With emotion in his voice, Lovelace quickly collected himself. “I hope I never have to go through that again. I remember thinking this can’t be happening. She has to be alive.”
Lovelace stated that he picked up Larson and took him to the home of Cory’s mother, Martha Didriksen. According to Didriksen’s testimony, Lovelace dropped off Larson and stated, “Oh, by the way, Cory’s dead.” However, Lovelace could not verify making the statement. “I can’t remember what I said to Marty,” he said.
Lovelace later offered his opinion on his second wife, Erika Gomez-Steinkamp, who he denied abusing. “I know I rushed into that marriage with Erika. We were different people and I knew that. Things went well for a while, then things didn’t go well,” Lovelace said. “It was her relationship with my children and the way she treated them that created problems, and while I was observing that, she was talking about wanting to have a child. We were moving in two different directions.” Lovelace then recalled the afternoon of Aug. 27, 2014, when he was arrested by Detective Adam Gibson. Lovelace said he was on his way to meet his third wife, Christine, at her store, when he was approached by Gibson. “I went up to shake his hand, and then the officer said put your hands behind your back,” said Lovelace.
In his cross-examination, Robinson named all the key witnesses for the prosecution, insinuating that Lovelace thought they were lying. “So having sat through the trial so far, you determined Erika is lying, Detective Gibson is lying, Larson is lying, Marty is lying and the science is lying,” said Robinson. “I’m going to give you, I know this is a lawyer response, but it’s up to them (the jury) to decide if they’re lying,” Lovelace responded. Robinson later cut to the chase and asked him the $64,000 question. “Did you kill Cory?” “No I did not.”
The dialogue soon switched to Lovelace making funeral arrangements a day after Cory was found dead, and the decision to cremate her body. “Your wife is 38 years old, and the next day you’re making funeral arrangements? Weren’t you curious why she died?” “Yes.” “So in order to figure that out, would you need the body?”
Loevy asked Lovelace if he thought it was fair that he was on trial for Cory’s death “No. I don’t think it’s fair that they’re accusing me for any of this,” Lovelace concluded. It remains to be seen if the defense’s gamble to put Lovelace on the stand pays off. Closing arguments are Friday.
Alex Camp is an editorial intern at Illinois Times. He is pursuing his master’s degree at University of Illinois Springfield. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org