Pathologist who did Lovelace autopsy has history of discredited work in central Illinois counties

Posted: Sep. 21, 2014 12:01 am Updated: Dec. 1, 2014 8:51 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

A central Illinois newspaper is reporting that the pathologist who is believed to have performed the autopsy on Cory Lovelace after she died on Valentine's Day in 2006 is so discredited in Sangamon County that the state's attorney there and coroners in three neighboring counties refused to use her as a witness before the embattled Sangamon County coroner decided to remove her as a pathologist in 2011.

Quincy attorney Curtis Lovelace was indicted by an Adams County grand jury last month in connection with the death of his 38-year-old wife on Feb. 14, 2006. The bill of indictment indicates that Curtis Lovelace, now 45, suffocated his wife. He was arrested Aug. 27 outside the offices of his private practice in downtown Quincy and is being held on $5 million bail in the Hancock County Jail in Carthage.

A month after Cory Lovelace was found dead inside the couple's home at 1869 Kentucky, a coroner's jury ruled that the cause of death was undetermined. An autopsy reached the same conclusion. Cory Lovelace's body was cremated.

Adams County Coroner Jim Keller has refused to release records in the case. However, reporter Bruce Rushton with the Illinois Times, a free weekly newspaper in Springfield, reported that Ed Parkinson, the special prosecutor who has been assigned the case, confirmed that Dr. Jessica Bowman conducted the autopsy on Cory Lovelace and failed to establish a cause of death.

"That's why it's been an open case for eight years," Parkinson told Rushton.

Parkinson said Curtis Lovelace told investigators in 2006 that his wife, whom he claims he found dead in bed, had not been feeling well. Prosecutors are basing murder charges on the work of other pathologists who determined that Cory Lovelace had been suffocated.

The Illinois Times reported that Parkinson was assigned in 2010 to a murder case involving Mason Weems, who ultimately pleaded guilty in the 2008 death of Anakin Credit. Bowman's autopsy for the Sangamon County coroner's office originally concluded that the 2-year-old Springfield boy died of natural causes because of a rare, previously undiagnosed form of cancer, and the Illinois Times said police closed the case.

However, the case eventually was reopened by the inspector general for the state Department of Children and Family Services. Weems was charged after two forensic pathologists retained by the state determined that Credit, who had a lacerated liver, was either strangled or died from a blow to his abdomen.

Initially charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery of a child, Weems pleaded guilty to the latter charge and received a 20-year sentence.

Parkinson recently told Jim Suhr with the Associated Press that the condition of Cory Lovelace's body should have told investigators something was wrong.

"I don't know if (Bowman's work is) going to be a hurdle," Parkinson told the Illinois Times. "We're going to lay it all out there. I feel all right about the evidence. We have our opinions now from our experts. We wouldn't have proceeded without experts. This is probably going to be another battle of the experts."

The Illinois Times reported that Bowman is now a pathologist in Keokuk, Iowa, where she obtained a medical license in 2012. She was informed in March 2011 that she would no longer be employed to perform autopsies in Sangamon County.

When contacted by the Illinois Times this week, Bowman declined to comment.

"No, I've already talked to reporters," the newspaper quoted her as saying. "You have a nice day. Bye-bye."

Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone, who the Illinois Times said had stood by Bowman and resisted calls to use a different pathologist, was forced to resign in 2011 when the sheriff, state's attorney and County Board chairman threatened to abolish the coroner's office if she didn't leave on her own. State's Attorney John Milhiser said he would not call Bowman as a witness in murder cases and had her work in pending cases reviewed by a different pathologist.

The Springfield State Journal-Register reported in May 2010 that Morgan County Coroner Jeff Lair, Macon County Coroner Michael Day and Cass County Coroner Wyatt Sager all refused to employ Bowman for autopsies, noting that she was not certified at that time in forensic pathology by the American Board of Pathology.

Bowman's work in two other high-profile cases has been disputed.

The Illinois Times reported that an autopsy by Bowman concluded that A. Paul Carlock, who died after a 2007 struggle with Sangamon County jailers, had succumbed to a heart attack. However, physicians hired by Carlock's family disputed that conclusion, and the county this year settled a lawsuit brought by Carlock's widow for $2.6 million.

The Illinois Times also reported that Bowman said in 2010 that Patrick Burns, who died after sheriff's deputies deployed Tasers more than 20 times while subduing him, had died from a "textbook case" of excited delirium. However, an inquest jury ruled that the cause was undetermined, and a pathologist hired by Burns' family concluded he had died from lack of oxygen. The Illinois Times said a wrongful-death lawsuit is pending against the county in federal court.

Bowman had conducted autopsies for several central Illinois counties in addition to Sangamon, the newspaper reported.

Keller told the Illinois Times he did not know how many autopsies Bowman performed for his office.

"I guess I'm really not going to comment on anything at this point, until the trial," he told the newspaper.