After failing to persuade Dr. Jessica Bowman to establish a cause of death for Cory Lovelace, Quincy police detective Adam Gibson went searching for other pathologists. He found several.
Dr. Jane Turner was the third pathologist to testify in the murder trial of Curtis Lovelace, who stands accused of suffocating his wife Cory, who was found dead in bed on Valentine’s Day in 2006. Bowman, who is also on the witness list, couldn’t establish a cause of death. Gibson reopened the case four years ago, and Curtis Lovelace was charged with murder in 2014. A trial last year ended in a hung jury, with jurors reportedly evenly split on Lovelace’s guilt. Proceedings have been moved from Adams County to Sangamon County due to extensive pretrial publicity. Network television shows, including 48 Hours and Dateline, have shown interest in the case.
On Tuesday, defense attorney Jon Loevy called Gibson’s investigative techniques into question while also challenging Turner’s assertion that Cory Lovelace was suffocated. Gibson contacted Turner at the suggestion of Dr. Scott Denton, a pathologist who testified last week that he believed this was a homicide case.
Gibson contacted Denton after failing to persuade Bowman, who conducted the initial autopsy and failed to find a cause of death, to amend her findings. Bowman work has been suspect enough that Sangamon State’s Attorney John Milhiser in 2011 announced that he would no longer call her as a witness in murder cases. She once concluded a Springfield toddler died of a rare, undiagnosed cancer. The state reopened the investigation and a man who had been caring for the child pleaded guilty to aggravated battery of a child and received a 20-year prison sentence. At last report, Bowman was practicing in Iowa.
Like Denton and Dr. Werner Spitz, a pathologist who testified last week, Turner told the jury that Cory Lovelace had been killed, with bruises on her face, lip and neck indicating injuries sustained while being smothered. She was in full rigor mortis, Turner testified, which cast doubt on Curtis Lovelace’s statement to a detective that he’d seen his wife alive just 30 minutes before her body was found. The statement, Turner testified, suggests guilt.
“That is a red flag,” the doctor testified.
The defense contends that Cory Lovelace died from heavy drinking complicated by bulimia, and Loevy on Tuesday ticked down a list of possible causes of death other than homicide. Sepsis. Bulimia. Alcohol withdrawal. Cardiomyopathy. Electrocution. Turner rejected each one.
Lovelace’s children told police that they’d seen their mother alive the morning that her body was found, which would render impossible the conclusion that she’d died hours earlier. The doctor testified that she believed the children had been “misinformed,” but Gibson stopped short of saying that Lovelace children, who were interviewed two days after their mother was found dead, had been coached or told to lie by their father.
“You came to believe the children were wrong,” Loevy told the detective on the stand.
“I didn’t say that,” the detective responded. “I don’t know what they saw.”
Gibson was a newly promoted detective when he took up the cold case in 2013. Loevy suggested that the detective was trying to impress supervisors and that Gibson had embarked on a “wild goose chase.” The defense attorney also pointed out that Gibson contacted a half-dozen pathologists who would not establish that Cory Lovelace was a homicide victim. Loevy also pointed out that Det. Jeff Baird, who had originally investigated the case, found nothing suspicious.
“He said that he had talked to the children to determine if they had been coached, and he determined that the defendant was honest and cooperative with the investigation,” Loevy said.
Why didn’t you talk to Baird when you reopened the case, Loevy asked.
“I don’t believe it would’ve made sense,” Gibson answered. “I read his reports.”
Contact Alex Camp at firstname.lastname@example.org.