Lovelace Case

Testimony highlights of 32 witnesses in Lovelace trial

Former Adams County State's Attorney Jon Barnard | Photo/WGEM
Posted: Mar. 10, 2017 8:20 pm

Twenty-four people testified for the prosecution:

Former Adams County State's Attorney Jon Barnard: Barnard testified that he received a phone call from Curtis Lovelace on the morning of Feb. 14, 2006, and Lovelace told him, "Cory is dead." After Lovelace told him he hadn't called an ambulance, Barnard called 911. He said Lovelace had "a mild level of disturbance" in his voice.

Doug VanderMaiden of the Quincy Police Department: VanderMaiden testified that he went upstairs to the Lovelace bedroom with Quincy firefighters and saw Cory Lovelace's body on the bed. He said her forearms appeared to be raised and "it was obvious she was deceased." VanderMaiden said Lovelace told him he had arrived home about 8:35 a.m. after dropping their children at school, worked on a computer for a while, then went upstairs to take a shower. That's when he noticed his wife was apparently dead.

Cole Miller of the Quincy Fire Department: Miller testified that he saw Cory Lovelace in the bed and "her hands were up by her shoulders."

Paramedic Bill Ballard: Ballard said he recalled Cory's arms and hands were "drawn up against her chest" when he arrived. He said he pulled on her arms while applying electronic sensors to her torso and noticed a certain level of stiffness had set in.

Adams County Coroner Jim Keller: Keller, who was deputy coronor at the time, said Cory Lovelace's body "was in a full state of rigor mortis."

Lori Miles, neighbor: Lori Miles said she heard arguing, yelling or screaming "on a daily basis" coming from the Lovelace home and called the police in February 2005 when daughter Lyndsay Lovelace was pounding on the door of the Lovelace home after being kicked out.

Steve Miles, neighbor: Steve Miles testified that after a police officer arrived and visited the Lovelace home, Curtis Lovelace came over to the Miles home and angrily demanded to know why the police had been called. Lovelace was "clearly intoxicated," Miles said, and his wife testified that she had to stand between the two men to prevent a fight.

Dr. Werner Spitz, seated | H-W Photo/Matt Hopf

Dr. Werner Spitz, forensic pathologist: The professor of pathology at Wayne State University's School of Medicine testified that Cory Lovelace had eight "fingernail marks" on her neck and that the position of her arms when she was found dead was "unnatural for a sleeping person." Spitz testified that Cory Lovelace died of suffocation and her death was a homicide, although he said her death didn't match the textbook definition of homicidal smothering. He agreed with the defense that Cory Lovelace had an inflamed liver, indicating liver disease, but countered that the organ can operate normally with just one-fifth of it functioning. Spitz also testifed that a cut and bruise on Cory Lovelace's inside upper lip showed no signs of healing, although other forensic reports stated otherwise. Spitz estimated the time of Cory Lovelace's death to be about midnight, hours before her husband reported it.

Dustin Strothoff, neighbor: Strothoff, who lived about six houses away from the Lovelace home, testified that he saw a figure he described as a pacing "male silhouette" while walking his dog the morning Cory Lovelace was found dead. He said he remembered the incident because he found it "odd" after learning later that she had died, but he didn't know whether a crime had been committed.

Justin Bower, student in Curtis Lovelace's class at Quincy University at the time of Cory Lovelace's death: Bower recalled that he was supposed to have had a business law class taught by Curtis Lovelace at 8 a.m. the day Cory Lovelace died, but Curtis Lovelace never showed up. He also testified that there had been no note from Lovelace letting students know that the class had been canceled.

Amy Herkert, family friend: Herkert said Curtis Lovelace abruptly ended a phone conversation after telling Herkert about Cory's death. She said she spoke to him a lot after Cory died, and that in one phone conversation a couple of months after the death, Lovelace told Herkert how bad the marriage had been over the past 90 days. Cory "drank a lot," Herkert testified.

Rodney Hart, former Herald-Whig crime reporter: Hart recalled seeing Curtis Lovelace at the Adams County Courthouse the day that Cory died and offering condolences. "Yeah, Happy Valentine's Day to me, huh?" was how Hart said Lovelace responded.

Dr. Scott Denton, left, answers defense attorney Jon Loevy's questions | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson

Dr. Scott Denton, forensic pathologist: Denton testified that Adams County Coroner Jim Keller asked him to review the autopsy report filed by Dr. Jessica Bowman, which said Cory Lovelace's death was undetermined. Denton said it was his opinion that Cory Lovelace died of suffocation but he could not rule out poisoning. In emails, Denton suggested that Keller and Quincy police Detective Adam Gibson ask Bowman to amend the autopsy report and offered them a list of other pathologists because he was "done with Bowman."

Steve Belko, family friend: Belko recalled talking to Cory the Sunday before she died and noting that she sounded congested. He remembered jokingly telling her, "Don't go dying on me," and said that comment still haunts him.

Cathy Meckes, neighbor: Meckes recalled walking past the Lovelace home at dinnertime the night before Cory's death. She said she heard an argument and slowed down to listen to "see if someone was in distress." Meckes said she did not talk to police after the death, but came forward in 2014 after Lovelace's indictment.

Dave Schlembach, neighbor: Schlembach said he heard arguments in the Lovelace household for years. However, he did not remember hearing arguments on Feb. 13, the night before Cory's death. He recalled that Curtis came over to tell him about Cory's death the day she died and that he gave Curtis a hug. He said Lovelace did not appear emotionally upset about the death of his wife.

Elizabeth Schlembach, neighbor: Dave Schlembach's wife testified that she also heard yelling frequently from the Lovelace home and that it was mostly Cory's voice. She said that when Curtis told her and her husband about Cory's death, "he appeared to be sad. His demeanor appeared to be appropriate."

Marty Didriksen, Cory Lovelace's mother, testifies | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson

Marty Didriksen, Cory Lovelace's mother: Didriksen testified during cross-examination that she thought talk of her daughter's reported bulimia was "over-exaggerated." She also said her testimony in Curtis Lovelace's first trial regarding the bulimia was in reference to a "college episode." Despite a police report that indicated she spoke with then-Quincy police Detective Jeff Baird after her daughter's death, Didriksen testified that the conversation never happened. Didriksen opened her testimony earlier by noting that Cory Lovelace's drinking was never a concern for her. She said that the day Cory Lovelace died, Curtis Lovelace came to her house with the youngest child, Larson, and asked her to watch him. Didriksen said that as her son-in-law was leaving, he turned to her and said, "Oh, by the way, Cory is dead." Didriksen also testified that Lyndsay Lovelace came to live with her around Christmas Eve of Lyndsay's freshman year at Quincy High School. She said she didn't remember many of the events of Feb. 14, 2006, but she agreed it was a good move for Curtis Lovelace to have brought Larson to her house.

Larson Lovelace, the Lovelaces' youngest son: The youngest of the Lovelaces' four children, who was 4 years old when Cory died, Larson testified that the morning of Feb. 14, he went into his parents' bedroom and saw his mom asleep. He tried to wake her by calling her and poking her, but she didn't respond. He waited at the top of the steps to tell his dad that his mom wouldn't wake up. He said he believes that his dad went to his parents' room afterward. At the last trial, he said he didn't remember, but he testified he remembered now because "I've had more time to think about it."

Sgt. Jeff Baird testifies | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson

Jeff Baird of the Quincy Police Department, who handled original death investigation: Baird testified that he had spoken to Didriksen, who he said described her daughter as a "heavy drinker" who suffered from bulimia. He testified that Didriksen told him that Cory Lovelace had suffered from bulimia and that she had been "very, very concerned" about her daughter's health. He said he arrived at the Lovelace home at 9:44 a.m. on Feb. 14, 2006, shortly after Cory Lovelace had been reported dead. Baird testified that when he entered the room where Cory Lovelace's body was, he could see she was dead, with her arms in "an unnatural position." He said former Adams County Coroner Gary Hamilton was the first person to examine the body. Baird also testified that Curtis Lovelace told him that day that Lovelace had seen his wife alive at 3 a.m. and that she was not feeling well. Baird said Lovelace told him that when an alarm went off at 6:30 a.m., Cory Lovelace was still ill. Baird said he interviewed the three oldest Lovelace children -- Lyndsay, Logan and Lincoln -- one at a time two days later at the Lovelace home. He testified that he was surprised to see the autopsy report from Bowman list the cause of Cory Lovelace's death to be "undetermined." He said he had expected the report to list natural causes as the reason. Baird testified that Curtis Lovelace was distraught in the home's kitchen when Baird arrived and that neither he nor Hamilton noticed any signs of a struggle in the bedroom. Baird also said he and Hamilton noted that her abdomen felt "warm to the touch," as did her forehead, and rigor mortis was forming. He also noted that a cup in the bedroom smelled of alcohol. And he said Lovelace told him his wife was a "drinker." Baird reiterated that he did not cut corners in his investigation and that his best professional determination led him to close the case. He did note that Quincy police Detective Adam Gibson did not approach him until about five months after Gibson had reopened the investigation in 2014.

Erika Gomez breaks down on the stand | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson

Erika Gomez, Curtis Lovelace's second wife: Gomez, who was married to Curtis Lovelace from 2008 to fall 2013, testified that she was convinced that Curtis Lovelace killed his first wife but had no evidence to back up the claim. She said Curtis Lovelace brought in a large "garbage disposal" to the house where the family was living in the 1800 block of Kentucky and disposed of "everything in the house." Gomez made numerous accusations about Lovelace that suggested he had killed his wife. For example, she said he once said "she was writhing underneath me," which she interpreted as a reference to Cory. Gomez also claimed Lovelace "violently attacked" her one day in 2012, rushing at her and going for her throat. She also claimed Lovelace poisoned her and sexually abused her. She said she noticed her hair had started falling out and suspected that Lovelace had slipped something into her orange juice, a claim that could not be substantiated. Gomez also charged that Lovelace stole $20,000 from her child-support account, forged documents using her Social Security number, and stole shovels and a bicycle from her. On cross-examination, the defense peppered Gomez with questions aimed at showing she filed a series of reports with police agencies and National Guard units in hopes of getting the upper hand during their divorce proceedings. The defense questioned Gomez about the night of Sept. 13, 2013, when she learned that Lovelace was having dinner at a Quincy restaurant with his high school sweetheart, Christine Lovelace, who became his wife in December of that year. The defense produced copies of text messages that Gomez sent to Lovelace's daughter, Lyndsay, that night claiming Lovelace had killed her mother. In January 2014, Gomez went to the Quincy Police Department with her allegation that Curtis Lovelace had killed Cory. That's when Detective Adam Gibson reopened the case, which led to murder charges being filed against Lovelace later that year. But Gomez admitted on the stand she had no evidence to prove Curtis Lovelace killed his first wife.

Dr. Jane Turner, forensic pathologist, at left | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson

Dr. Jane Turner, forensic pathologist: Turner testified that she had no doubt that Cory Lovelace's death was a homicide and that she was suffocated with a pillow. She said she became "concerned" when she saw photos of Cory Lovelace's arms bent at the elbows and raised, "not resting at her side," and she said the scene appeared to be altered. Turner testified that Cory Lovelace had a fresh wound in her mouth and that rigor mortis had already apparently set in. She said Cory's death had occurred as long as 12 hours before her body was discovered. During more than three hours of cross-examination later in the trial, Turner didn't budge from her conclusion that Cory Lovelace died from suffocation, that there were signs of a struggle in the bedroom, and that the Lovelace children might not be remembering things correctly from the morning Cory's body was found.

Detective Adam Gibson | H-W Photo/Michael Kipley

Adam Gibson of the Quincy Police Department, who reopened death investigation: Gibson testifed that when became a detective in December 2013, he said he started reviewing old cases and became intrigued with the Lovelace file. Gibson said he saw photos of Cory Lovelace's body in bed with her arms raised in a peculiar fashion and noticed she had a cut inside her upper lip. He also noticed "differences in statements" given by Curtis Lovelace and his four children, most of whom claimed they saw their mother alive the morning her body was found. After conferring with his QPD supervisors, Gibson testified, he was given permission to take a fresh look at the case. His investigation ultimately led to a grand jury indictment of Lovelace on a charge of first-degree murder, based on the contention that Lovelace smothered his wife with a pillow. Gibson said he approached Bowman to see whether she would consider changing the autopsy report to indicate Cory Lovelace died from homicide based on the suffocation theory, but "she said she could not." The detective said he kept looking for a pathologist who would say that Cory Lovelace had been suffocated and found that person in Dr. Turner. The defense noted that Gibson had first contacted six pathologists who saw no reason to proceed with criminal charges. Gibson admited that he should have put a report in the Lovelace file from pathologist Dr. Denton suggesting that a cut found inside Cory Lovelace's mouth was an "older, healing cut" that wasn't caused at the time of her death. Gibson admitted that he deleted all of his emails in January 2015, including those in connection with the Lovelace case. The emails were later retrieved by the city's IT department, but none had been turned over as part of the trial's discovery phase. Gibson also testified that he secured a sample of Gomez's hair to test for poison and the results proved negative. The detective said he sought to continue reviewing the case based on differing statements from three of the Lovelace children. Gibson denied defense accusation's that he had shopped the case around.

Christine Lovelace, Curtis Lovelace's current wife: Lovelace testified that she had no contact with her current husband while he was married to his second wife and took offense when special prosecutor Ed Parkinson asked whether she sleeps with her eyes open. She laid out how she had known Curtis Lovelace in high school and once dated him, but testified that she did not resume talking to Lovelace again until May 2013, five months after Lovelace filed for divorce against Gomez. The divorce judgment was finalized on Sept. 27, 2013, and Curtis and Christina were married on Dec. 26, 2013. Christine Lovelace testified that she did not talk with her husband about how his first wife died until the couple were on the path to marriage. She also admitted that the three Lovelace boys have not seen their grandmother Marty Didriksen, Cory's mother, because of the "collateral damage" brought on by the case.

Eight people testified for the defense:

Carolina Casanova, former friend of Erika Gomez's: Casanova testified that Curtis Lovelace was a good husband to Gomez and that Gomez sought to ruin his life after the couple separated. She said Gomez was "very bitter" and had said she would ruin Curtis Lovelace's life and his military career and that "he would never be a lawyer again." Casanova said Gomez told her via text message that Curtis Lovelace abused her and sent her a photo of a ripped T-shirt. However, Casanova said Gomez said nothing about Curtis Lovelace grabbing her neck as Gomez had testified earlier.

Richard Herr, family friend: Herr testified that Curtis Lovelace was "very upset" when he called to let Herr know Cory Lovelace had died. Herr also described Curtis Lovelace as "very distraught" at funeral services. Herr said his impression of Gomez was that she wasn't Curtis Lovelace's type.

Maj. Lary Fuler of the Army National Guard: Fuler testified that he investigated Gomez's claims that she was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of Curtis Lovelace. Fuler said Gomez claimed Curtis Lovelace "accidently" hit her on the chin in May 2012, when she fell. The incident wasn't reported until May 2013, and Fuler said Gomez told him she wasn't injured in the incident. Fuler said his investigation concluded that Gomez's claims were not credible. Fuler denied claims that the report was altered.

Dr. Shaku Teas, pathologist | H-W Photo/Michael Kipley

Dr. Shaku Teas, forensic pathologist: Teas testified that Cory Lovelace's death was from natural causes brought on by fatty liver as the result of chronic alcoholism -- not suffocation. She noted that in many cases of smothering, petechiae or small blood vessel hemorrhages appear, but none appeared on Cory's face. Teas also said there were no signs of a struggle on Cory Lovelace's body and marks that Spitz had earlier testified were scratches made by fingernails were moles. She also testified that her review of the case shows that Cory's death occurred after 8:15 a.m. the morning it was reported. Teas said she originally was contacted about the case by Detective Gibson. In a March 2014 email, Teas told Gibson that she found no evidence to support suffocation as a cause of death and that Cory Lovelace's liver shows "fatty change consistent with chronic alcoholism." Teas noted the abrasion on the nostril and the upper lip could have been caused by an upper respiratory infection, and the laceration inside Cory's lip could have been caused by a bump on her head. Teas also wrote in the email that Cory had evidence of dehydration and that chronic alcoholism can cause sudden death due to hyperglycemia or a metabolic abnormality. Teas said she accepted the findings in reports from Detective Baird and former Adams County Coroner Hamilton, who reported that Cory Lovelace was "warm to the touch" and that her arms were still pliable when they investigated her death. Teas also accepted statements made to police by Lovelace children Lyndsay, Logan and Lincoln, who told investigators they saw their mother alive that morning. The position of Cory's arms, which has been noted by the prosecution's three forensic pathologists, didn't cause Teas alarm and were not "defying gravity," she testified.

Dr. William Oliver, forensic pathologist: Oliver testified that Cory Lovelace died from complications of alcohol withdrawal from fatty liver disease and that in 30 years he has never seen a "relatively healthy adult" smothered with a pillow because they can resist. It appeared, Oliver said, that a suffocation theory was developed early in the case, which caused others to conclude evidence pointed to suffocation. But if suffocation was the cause of death, Oliver, said lacerations on the lips and bruises would be present. Spitz had testified that a cut inside of Cory Lovelace's mouth was caused by the pressure being exerted on her face, but Oliver said blood would have been present in the mouth if the wound was caused at the time of death. Regarding the position of Cory's arms when her body was discovered, Oliver testified that they could have been resting on something, such as a comforter or they could have moved when she was assessed by paramedics.

Logan Lovelace, the Lovelaces' oldest son: Logan, who was 8 when his mother died, testified that he clearly remembers Cory Lovelace sitting on the staircase the day she was reported dead. He said he asked his mother whether he could stay home and help take care of her, but that she said no. A few hours later, he said, his father came to school to tell him that Cory Lovelace was dead. Logan testified that the day he was interviewed by Gibson, he had no idea his father had been arrested earlier that day. He said he told Baird the truth in 2006 about seeing his mother alive on the morning of Feb. 14, 2006.

Curtis Lovelace: Lovelace took the stand, as he hadn't in the first trial, to describe the day of his arrest in the death of his first wife -- Aug. 27, 2014. He said Detective Gibson was standing by his car and he went to shake his hand when Gibson placed him under arrest. Lovelace testified that he didn't know that he had been indicted on a murder charge in the death of Cory Lovelace until he arrived at the Quincy police station. He said he told police he had nothing to do with his first wife's death. Lovelace spent much of his time on the stand discussing his relationship with Cory, how they had met and married, and how she had been a stay-at-home mom. He also admitted that the marriage had "good times and bad" but that Cory was "a good mother." Lovelace also said that he knew his first wife was an alcoholic and that her alcohol abuse cast a shadow over the family. Lovelace said talking with Cory about her drinking became difficult because he also was an alcoholic. He testified that Cory would become defensive whenever he would try to talk about her bulimia. In relating what happened the morning of Feb. 14, 2006, Lovelace testified that Cory "was absolutely alive that morning." When he saw Cory in bed later that morning, Lovelace said, he knew she was dead. He said her eyes were open and she was very pale. While he didn't remember the exact positioning of Cory Lovelace's hands, he agreed that the positioning was "unusual." Lovelace testified that he called Barnard, his boss, after discovering his wife and could not explain why he didn't call 911. He said his first concern was getting then-4-year-old son Larson out of the house. Lovelace said he took his youngest son to his mother-in-law's home, immediately north of his home in the 1800 block of Kentucky. Lovelace also said that he tried to stay out of the way of first responders who arrived at the couple's home that morning and that he was cooperative when asked questions. He said he accepted what then-Coroner Hamilton told him, which Lovelace said was that Cory Lovelace had died from liver damage. He said there was never a discussion about a follow-up autopsy. In testimony about what he called "a rebound marriage" to Gomez in 2008, Lovelace said the relationship was strained because of how he said Gomez treated his children. Ultimately, he testifed that the two were moving in different directions and he decided to file for divorce, which was finalized in fall 2013. Lovelace called the divorce "acrimonious." It was after the divorce, Lovelace said, that he became romantically involved with his third wife, Christine, with whom he once went on a date in high school. Lovelace also agreed with the prosecution that he often drank to excess and was an alcoholic, though he said that in 2006 he probably wouldn't have thought that. The realization of his alcoholism led him to stop drinking in December 2012, he testified.

Lincoln Lovelace, the Lovelaces' middle son: Lincoln, who was 7 when Cory Lovelace died, said there was no doubt he saw his mother alive the morning her body was found. He recalled his father coming to his school to break the news of his mother's death. Lincoln testified that he would never forget being told she was dead when he had seen her alive "a few hours earlier."

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