QUINCY — Christine Lovelace was hopeful her husband would be coming home on Friday. For more than 600 days, Curtis Lovelace has been jailed, charged with first-degree murder in the death of his first wife on Feb. 14, 2006.
The Lovelace family had made arrangements with a family friend who had agreed to put up enough money to free him if Lovelace's bond could be lowered from its initial $5 million to $1 million. All the family needed was for Judge Bob Hardwick to agree to lower his bond. After listening to arguments from Lovelace's new legal team with the Exoneration Project and from the prosecution, Hardwick decided to keep Lovelace's $5 million bond in place. Unless the family can raise $500,000, Lovelace will remain in jail.
“It's a terrible thing,” Christine Lovelace said Friday, minutes after the hearing's conclusion as she stood in the large second-floor courtroom at the Adams County Courthouse where the motion hearing was held. “We don't understand (the decision). It's the equivalent to no bond.”
Hardwick said the case was a “high-stakes trial” after running down a list of factors that favored a bond reduction and those items that went against a reduction. In the end, he found that the $5 million bond set by retired Judge Scott Walden was appropriate. That bond was set at an Aug. 27, 2014, grand jury hearing at which Lovelace was indicted on the first-degree murder charge.
Hardwick's ruling set off an emotional reaction from Lovelace's family and friends who attended the hearing. Many of them wept after realizing Lovelace would not be coming home.
Jon Loevy, Lovelace's new lead attorney who is the leader of the Exoneration Project, tried to lobby Hardwick for a lower bond. Loevy told Hardwick, “There is no doubt he is going to appear” for trial. He talked about Lovelace's roots in the community, and said Lovelace was not a risk to leave the area if he were to post bond.
“He is broke,” Loevy said. “He has served 20 months for a crime we don't believe he committed.”
Special prosecutor Ed Parkinson said Lovelace was not being treated differently than anyone who has been charged with first-degree murder in Adams County. He noted two other first-degree murder cases in the county; in each case bond was set at $5 million.
“He is not being singled out on bond,” Parkinson said.
Loevy was disappointed that Lovelace's bond was not lowered.
“We felt like we made a convincing case that justice should allow Curt to come home to his family while awaiting trial,” Loevy told the assembled media outside the courthouse. “The judge disagreed with us. He's a fair judge and considered it very carefully. He had a different view.”
Loevy said the defense would look into the possibility of filing a motion for a change of venue for the trial, which is scheduled to start July 25. Loevy said he hoped to know within the next 30 days if they would file that motion. A change of venue motion filed in Lovelace's first trial was denied by Hardwick. The sides are scheduled to have a pretrial hearing on June 17.
Parkinson said there was “zero” chance that the trial would take place in July. At the end of the hearing, Hardwick blocked out a two-week timeframe from Oct. 24 through Nov. 4 as an alternative should the sides not be ready for the July trial date.
Until the bond ruling, the 90-minute hearing had been mostly positive for the defense. After hearing testimony from Christine Lovelace about the family's finances, Hardwick ruled that Curtis Lovelace was indigent. That ruling helped lead to an order made by Hardwick that transcripts from the first trial must be completed at no cost to the defense. Hardwick hoped the state would pick up the cost of the transcripts, which he estimated at between $4,000 and $5,000. If the state did not pick up the bill, then the costs would fall to Adams County.
The defense did take a loss on a motion made by Lovelace's former attorneys, James Elmore and Jeff Page. Elmore and Page had made a motion for payments of expert witnesses from Lovelace's first trial, which ended in early February with a mistrial after the jury was hung on their decision. According to the motion, neither Dr. Shaku Teas nor Dr. George Nichols had been paid for their services. According to court documents, Teas was owed $3,466.40 and Nichols was owed $8,642.07.
The prosecution argued that funds raised by an online fundraiser through generosity.com should be used to pay fees from the first trial. Loevy said that Teas had been paid in full with money used from the generosity.com fundraiser, which had $10,440 in its account. Hardwick ruled the remaining funds from that account be used to pay Nichols, who will still be owed some money after that account is drained.
Lovelace, wearing a jail-issued jumpsuit from the Hancock County Jail, had little reaction to Hardwick's bond ruling. He smiled at his wife as she took the stand and left after her testimony. Instead of being bonded out and rejoining his family and friends, Lovelace returned to the Carthage jail facility.
“We will continue on and make sure he comes home,” Christine Lovelace said. “He is an innocent man. There was no crime committed.”