The ex-wife of a former Adams County prosecutor charged with murdering his wife in 2006 testified Monday that the defendant was physically abusive and suggested strongly that he was a killer.
"I don't want to hurt him, I just want people to know who he really is," Erika Gomez-Steinkamp testified Monday.
Curtis Lovelace, a former Adams County prosecutor and University of Illinois football star, was charged with first-degree murder in 2014, eight years after his wife Cory was found dead in bed on Valentine's Day. Prosecutors say that she was suffocated; the defense says she died from heavy drinking and bulimia. A murder trial last year ended in a hung jury. Proceedings have been moved to Sangamon County due to extensive pretrial publicity.
Gomez-Steinkamp didn't testify in the first trial. She met Lovelace in January, 2006, one month before his wife died. She was a student in a business law class that Curtis Lovelace taught at Quincy University. After Cory Lovelace died, Gomez-Steinkamp said that she often saw Curtis Lovelace around town.
“I saw him everywhere,” she testified. “He seemed to be everywhere where I was at, which is very unique because I had never seen him before.” And she became the pursuer, giving him her phone number after spotting him at a dance club while she was out with friends, six months after Cory Lovelace died.
“He was all alone, and I felt bad for him,” Gomez-Steinkamp said.
Romance ensued, and before the year was out, the two held a dinner party as a coming-out of sorts to mark the new relationship. After guests had departed, Gomez-Steinkamp says that a drunken Lovelace made a remarkable confession as they went to bed.
“He was upset about something and I thought it was something about the party, and I asked him what the matter was, and he stated something like ‘She was writhing underneath me,’” Gomez-Steinkamp testified. She said that Lovelace told her that he was talking about a “black cat.”
Lovelace and Gomez-Steinkamp married in July, 2008. Gomez testified the first few years of matrimony were great, but a change began in 2012. That same year, she testified, Lovelace spotted a woman who would become his third and current wife on Facebook and became “extremely excited.”
“He always said this was his first girlfriend, his first love,” Gomez-Steinkamp stated.
At one point, Gomez-Steinkamp said, Lovelace physically abused her at the couple’s home after drinking.
“He was drinking a lot that morning, he had started probably drinking at 9 a.m.,” Gomez-Steinkamp said during testimony in which she appeared to fight back tears. “We were talking about the kids and what was going on with them and he had told me several lies that day and we were arguing about that. He came rushing at me as I was in the middle of the kitchen, and there was a doorway that led in the other room, and it looked like he was going to hurt me, so I crouched down in a position that I could protect myself and he came after me and he grabbed me and tried to hurt me.”
As Gomez-Steinkamp’s voice quivered, Lovelace gazed directly at his ex-wife. “He went for my throat but he couldn’t get it because my chin was tucked down from my body,” she said.
“In the course of your relationship, did Curtis call you by a different name?” prosecutor Ed Parkinson asked at one point.
“Yes,” Gomez-Steinkamp answered. “He shook me very hard, and said ‘Cory you can't have everything that you want.’” The couple divorced the following year.
During cross-examination, defense attornery Jon Loevy asked why Gomez-Steinkamp didn’t say that Lovelace had assaulted her during divorce proceedings. Gomez-Steinkamp answered that her lawyer wouldn’t allow her to say that she’d been assaulted because Lovelace was the one who filed for divorce.
“He had stated that since I hadn’t filed, I didn’t have those grounds,”
Gomez-Steinkamp said. When Lovelace began a relationship with the woman who became his third wife, Gomez-Steinkamp testified that she accepted the situation. But, after spotting the couple at dinner one night in late 2013, Gomez-Steinkamp sent a text to Lovelace’s daughter Lyndsay, telling her that her father had killed her mother. Gomez-Steinkamp at first denied sending the text when Loevy brought it up.
“You sent a text to his daughter saying that he killed your mom,” Loevy said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Gomez-Steinkamp responded.
When Loevy directly asked Gomez-Steinkamp if she’d sent the text, the witness admitted it, saying that the defendant’s daughter had suspected foul play.
“I sent Lyndsay a text because I wanted her to know that what she was saying was true,” Gomez-Steinkamp said. “She used to scream at him that he was a murderer.”
Contact Alex Camp at email@example.com.