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Friday, March 10, 2017 06:02 pm

Lovelace found not guilty

After two hours and 20 minutes of deliberating, a jury found Curtis Lovelace not guilty in the murder of his wife, Cory. In an emotional mix of jubilation and sorrow, the verdict was the final destination to an odyssey that began 11 years ago. On Feb. 14, 2006, the body of Cory was discovered in the couple’s home in Quincy. After an initial investigation, Lovelace was cleared of any wrongdoing by Detective Jeff Baird of the Quincy Police Department. Eight years later, Detective Adam Gibson reopened the case, spurred by death photos and testimony by Lovelace’s second wife, Erika Gomez.

Perhaps the telling moment of this trial occurred before it began, when it was revealed that Gibson withheld evidence, specifically an email correspondence with pathologist Dr. James Denton, from the defense. Following the verdict, a jubilant Lovelace stated how grateful he was to be free. “We finally understand the facts in the case. Jon did a great job presenting that to the jury.”

Earlier that morning, the prosecution and defense made a last-ditch effort Friday to appeal to the jury with closing arguments. A packed courtroom at the Sangamon County Courthouse witnessed both sides stressing the importance of the enormous power that the jury possesses. “This is probably one of the most important decisions in your life,” Defense attorney Jon Loevy summarized. “Did this man commit murder? That is the awesome power you have in your hands. It’s time to do justice.”

Starting arguments for the prosecution, David Robinson asked jury members to use their brains in reaching a verdict. “You will either find him guilty or not guilty using your own observations and experience,” Robinson said. “I want you to remember back what I said two week ago. Don’t trust me. Listen to the evidence, listen to the science, listen to the experts and listen to the witnesses. And don’t be descriptive. Remember that.”

Robinson referenced the findings of expert witnesses who ruled that Cory died of suffocation. “There’s Dr. Jane Turner, Remember her? Nineteen years of experience, board certified, over 5000 autopsies, a reasonable degree of medical certainty, and what did she rule? Suffocation,” Robinson said. “Homicide, death at the hand of another. She said, in the constellation of the slides, photos, statements, the totality of it all. You have to look at the whole picture.”

Robinson pointed out the experts for the defense. Dr. Shaka Teas, for example, concluded that Cory’s death showed no evidence of suffocation. “She admits that she relied heavily on Detective Jeff Baird’s timeline, then alluded to upper respiratory infection,” Robinson said. He then reminded the jury that despite Teas’ opinion, she did admit the scene was “unusual and unnatural.”

Robinson moved on to other witnesses. He mentioned Amy Herkert, the friend who testified that Lovelace told her that Cory locked him out of the house after arguments. There was Cathy Meckes, the neighbor who claimed that she heard a dispute at the Lovelace residence the night of Feb. 13, 2006, the day before Cory’s body was discovered. “She heard a loud argument between a man and woman to the point that it caused her to pause and slow down. Remember that?” He brought up Dave and Lisa Schlembach, also former Lovelace neighbors. “Remember the nice couple? They testified they heard frequent arguments even with their windows closed. Remember that?”

Robinson mentioned the defense’s assertion that Detective Adam Gibson committed perjury for withholding emails during his investigation into Lovelace. “Use your common sense? Why would he do that? We’re not arguing a conspiracy theory,” Robinson exclaimed. “You know what crime he committed? Detecting.”

In his closing argument, Loevy talked about the irony of Gomez’s claims to the National Guard that Lovelace abused her coincided with the beginning of Gibson’s investigation. “What a crazy coincidence. He got married. She got rejected by the National Guard. When she struck out with the National Guard, all of a sudden Gibson picks up the case. I think Gibson caught on soon enough. Maybe I shouldn’t have believed Erika Gomez,” Loevy said.

Loevy said that the prosecution wanted the jury to disregard the actual witnesses, the science, the autopsy, common sense, and a total lack of evidence. Loevy then went into the smoking gun of the investigation, telling the jury that Dr. Jessica Bowman, who performed the autopsy, was not associated in the uncovered correspondence. “Dr. Bowman, who was maligned throughout this email, was not implicated in those emails. They are trying to prove without a reasonable doubt that he committed this crime, and they couldn’t even call the woman who performed the autopsy.”

For now, Lovelace walks vindicated, knowing he will be able to spend more time with his family as a free man. “It’s amazing how the truth finally comes out,” he said.

Alex Camp is an editorial intern at Illinois Times. He is pursuing his master’s degree at University of Illinois Springfield. Contact him at intern@illinoistimes.com.

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