SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Former Illinois prosecutor and University of Illinois football captain Curtis Lovelace was found not guilty Friday in his second murder trial for the Valentine's Day 2006 death of his first wife.
The jury deliberated for a little over two hours before acquitting Lovelace in wife Cory's death.
Prosecutors said Cory Lovelace was suffocated by her husband. The defense said she died of natural causes.
In closing arguments, special prosecutor David Robinson told the jury of six men and six women they should use their best judgment.
"I think the evidence has shown he's the guy who almost got away with murder," Robinson said.
Defense attorney Jon Loevy cited an email from forensic pathologist Dr. Scott Denton to Quincy police Detective Adam Gibson, who reopened the investigation into Cory Lovelace's death.
"It's beyond a reasonable doubt she wasn't suffocated," Loevy told jurors.
Lovelace took the witness stand Thursday and was asked if he killed his wife. "No," he answered.
Lovelace, who didn't testify in his first trial, also gave details about his relationship with his wife. He said their marriage wasn't a perfect one. He noted alcohol was a part of their lives, adding she also suffered from bulimia.
He said his wife was alive the morning he took his children to school. He said when he got back and looked into their bedroom, he saw his wife on the bed and noticed something "wasn't right," adding her eyes were open and she was very pale.
"There was nothing there," Lovelace testified.
The trial, which was moved from Adams County to Sangamon County on a change of venue request, got underway this week and included testimony from government and law enforcement officials who went to the home where the 38-year-old woman was found dead.
Lovelace's defense team said Cory Lovelace died of natural causes tied to liver disease.
Gibson had his testimony challenged by Loevy, who insinuated Gibson went "doctor shopping" to find a pathologist willing to sign an opinion Cory Lovelace had been suffocated, noting he found that person in forensic pathologist Dr. Jane Turner.
Turner, testifying for the prosecution, said she had no doubt the woman was a homicide victim. She said she based her assessment on several things she noticed while reviewing the original autopsy report, photographs and other data associated with the case against Lovelace.
Turner said the probable time of death was not within a half-hour or so suggested by reports that the Lovelaces' children had seen their mother alive that morning before going to school.
"It was hours longer than that. Perhaps up to 12 hours," she testified.
Former Adams County State's Attorney Jon Barnard testified he remembers Lovelace calling him and saying his wife was dead in bed. Barnard said he called 911.
Deputy Police Chief Doug VanderMaiden testified he felt it was odd Lovelace did not get off the telephone to speak with him when he arrived at the scene.
"Typically a person would stop on their phone and speak with me," VanderMaiden testified, adding his first call would be to 911 if he found his wife dead.