QUINCY -- A nonprofit group from Springfield, Ill., called Investigating Innocence has taken on Curtis Lovelace's first-degree murder case.
Investigating Innocence provides investigative support to indigent inmates, lawyers and innocence projects throughout the U.S. Bill Clutter, a private investigator who is one of the group's founding members, said the group is trying to find a lawyer who will take on Lovelace's case for free. The group also has set up a fundraising web page to raise money for expert witnesses and other things needed for the retrial slated to start May 31.
Lovelace, 47, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the Feb. 14, 2006, death of his wife, Cory D. Lovelace, 38. Prosecutors allege Lovelace used a pillow to suffocate his wife. A two-week trial earlier this month ended with Judge Bob Hardwick declaring a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a verdict.
"I was disappointed in the jury split," Clutter said. "A week after the jury's verdict, I reached out to Christine (Lovelace, Curtis Lovelace's current wife) and offered to assist her in raising money so additional experts can be retained and testify in the retrial."
Lovelace is being held in the Hancock County Jail on $5 million bail and would need to post at least $500,000 bond to be released. Clutter said money raised through a page on generosity.com will be earmarked for trial expenses. The group has set a goal of $15,000. As of Wednesday evening, it had raised $2,550 in 48 hours.
"The focus is defending him against the accusation of first-degree murder," Clutter said.
Clutter was involved in Lovelace's case early on, he said. His Springfield office is near those of James Elmore and Jeff Page, who represented Lovelace in his first trial. Clutter said he has worked with Elmore and Page on many cases.
"But the family ran out of money, and my role was limited," Clutter said.
Clutter said he has interest in the case because of the presence of special prosecutor Ed Parkinson, who is handling the case for the state since the Adams County state's attorney's office cannot prosecute because of a conflict of interests. Lovelace was an assistant in the state's attorney's office at the time of his wife's death.
Clutter worked on a case involving Julie Rea Harper of Lawrenceville, Ill. Harper was convicted of killing her 10-year-old son, who was killed in the family's home in 1997, a case Parkinson prosecuted. Harper's conviction eventually was dismissed on appeal, but she was prosecuted again by Parkinson. In 2006, she was found not guilty after an investigation by Clutter found that a man on death row in Texas admitted to committing the crime.
Clutter believes Lovelace is innocent.
"I was really surprised that it wound up in a hung jury," he said. "I had every expectation it would be a not guilty (verdict)."
Clutter said lawyers for Lovelace could be lined up as early as Friday.