- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) - An Illinois state prosecutor trying to win a first-degree murder conviction against a former local prosecutor in his wife’s 2006 death told jurors Quincy police wrongly “gave deference” to their colleague during an initial investigation.

Jurors in the trial of Curtis Lovelace, a former assistant Adams County state’s attorney, Quincy school board president and University of Illinois football captain, heard closing arguments before beginning deliberations Thursday.

Lovelace has pleaded not guilty in the killing of his wife Cory on Valentine’s Day in 2006.

Special prosecutor Ed Parkinson questioned the role of Quincy police detective Jeff Baird, The (Quincy) Herald-Whig (https://bit.ly/1Sw0dIw ) reported.

An initial autopsy on the 38-year-old woman’s body was inconclusive. The investigation was reopened after another Quincy detective took a fresh look, leading to Lovelace’s 2014 arrest. Parkinson argued that subsequent forensic tests and photographic evidence determined the mother of four died from suffocation, theorizing that her husband used a pillow to kill the woman while she slept.

“I don’t think Baird was trying to purposely skew anything,” Parkinson told jurors during closing arguments. “He unwittingly gave deference to a fellow worker.

“Why did he take at face value what the assistant state’s attorney told him? What kind of an investigation was it if he cleared it in a month?” the special prosecutor added. “He wrote in his report that Mr. Lovelace ‘seemed forthright and honest.’”

Defense attorney James Elmore pointed to a 2006 police interview in which the couple’s three oldest children said they saw their mother alive before leaving for school on the morning her body was found.

“We are asking you to believe the three children and find him not guilty,” Elmore said.

Jurors said Thursday evening that they would not reach a verdict immediately. Prosecutors and defense attorneys were excused, and the panel was scheduled to deliberate until 9 p.m. It was to resume at 9 a.m. Friday.

Lovelace, who had previously said he found his wife dead in bed after dropping off three of their children at school, did not testify in his own defense during the trial. He faces between 20 and 60 years in prison if convicted.

Lovelace also graduated from the University of Illinois’ law school. He was a three-year starting center and two-time All-Big Ten standout for the Illini.

The three-sport prep star and Quincy High School Hall of Fame member returned to his western Illinois hometown after college and married Cory, a former high school classmate. He was elected to the local school board in 1999 and was its president for eight of his 12 years in office.

Lovelace married twice more after his first wife’s death. His second wife - the two divorced in 2013 - was a potential witness for prosecutors but a judge last month rejected their request to have her testify.

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