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tv   Dateline Extra  MSNBC  November 25, 2021 1:00pm-3:00pm PST

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>> very bubble lee personality, huge smile a. child's worst nightmare, to lose a mom. every day, i wanted answers. every day, i was told it was unknown. people don't just die. >> she was a loving mother. he was a crime fighting prosecutor. >> you are a pillar of that community. >> i did what i thought was right. >> then one day the law was at
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his door. his wife was dead in bed. >> her eyes were open. she was pale. >> i just remember crying and not believing it. >> sudden, suspicious, but no evidence of a crime. >> any signs of a struggle? >> no. it was case closed. >> years passed, new lives, two new wives. >> he's extremely charming. >> we just had the most amazing time. >> then, a new detective just off the old case. >> what jumped out at you? >> most definitely, her arms were in an unnaturally raised position. >> we missed something. >> the manner of death would be homicide. >> what happened in that bedroom? >> i wanted to answer all of their questions. >> we didn't know a whole lot about that day. >> a mother was dead. was it a murder? >> tell me what happened, to my face. don't give me excuses.
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>> it runs through the heart of america, a long, meandering life line, beading industries, towns, and man nations. the mississippi river gave us tom sawyer and huckleberry finn, samuel columnens, new york twain grew up in handover, missouri, just across the river lived curtis lovelace, a smalltown kid who wanted to be a star. for a time, he was, the football champion for university of illinois. >> he's an all-american. >> all-american. >> this is what kids dream about. >> right. >> he was living that life. >> absolutely. it was looking like he would go to the nfl. that was kind of a dream of his. >> then he realized grander ambitions, fighting crime as a prosecutor, serving his country in the national guard, and his community in politics. >> i'm someone who wants meaningful work. and it's going to make a difference in the lives of
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people. >> but it was what happened in this little house in quincy, to one person in particular, that made curtis really stand out to for all the world to see. >> now to continuing coverage in the curtis lovelace murder case. >> it was a heated day at the stand. >> right now the defense is presenting its closing arguments in the case. >> big greems on a mighty kifr can carry youer if a, or they can drag you under. this is the strange story of curtis lovelace. all-american, to criminal defendant. let's roll back the years to high school, and to the woman who would become the focus of so much speculation, cory didrickson. >> cory and i went to high school. we really didn't run in the same crowd. we had some mutual friends. and we didn't date in high school. >> back then, curtis was more focused on football than dating. it wasn't until he went off to the university of illinois, roughly 200 miles away, and
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became a star athlete that he truly noticed the girl from back home for the first time. it was during a college break. the former classmates bumped into each other in quincy and quickly became an item. cory wasted no time spreading her good news. >> i will never forget the day. i was playing tennis with a friend of mine. and cory came over and met us. and that was when she told us that curt -- curt was it. >> beth went to high school with the new couple surprised? >> not really. no. they seemed a great fit together. and she was -- she was very, very much smitten. >> it wasn't long before cory was also telling her mother marty she'd found the one. >> she comes home, and we are sitting there, and she said, i met the man i'm going to marry. whoa! >> back up. >> and she kept her programs n. 1991, just after college, cory and curt igs married. he studied law.
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she worked a job to support them both. after graduation, they decided to buy a home in convince snooe they wanted to be in the neighborhood and close by. that made it all the better. we found them a house and they moved back. >> virtually over the fence. >> two houses up and one over. yep. >> curtis's ambitions drove the nudge couple. he became a prosecutor in the state attorney's office and dabbled in school board politics, winning a seat, and serving as president. he even found time to teach a business law class at quincy university. in between the profession milestones, the lovelace's started a family. first, a girl, lindsey. then three boys. cory juggled that part of their lives. how was cory as a mother? she was a young mom. >> fantastic. she is a great mom. there wasn't saying she didn't do for those kids. >> cory's days were filled with
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diapers, play dates, and tantrums. but even then she never forgot how to be a good daughter. in 2006, her dad john was dying of cancer: it was a major event. >> a major event. >> john's decline. >> well, four years he fought it. last six months of his life, she came every night at 5:00 and sat for like a half an hour to visit. that was her time with him. >> reporter: worn down with the stress of care giving and raising four kids, was it any wonder when cory herself fell ill. it was the weekend before valentine's day, 2006. >> she was feely poorly and -- >> feeling poorly how, curt? what was she ailing from? >> flu-like symptoms. throwing up. we thought she had the flu. >> on monday, the night before valentine's day, cory still managed to get the kids' valentine's cards ready for
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school the next day. her daughterers are cuddling with her mom and watching the olympics, and snowboarder shaun white. >> i remember saying he was so cute. >> she was not bedridden. >> no. she was feeling sick. even for my mom that was not uncommon. even if she was sick she did what was expected of her and took care of us and made dinner and laundry and everything because that was her role. >> reporter: when tuesday, valentine's day dawned curtis said he told her to take it easy. i decided to cancel my morning class at quincy university, in order to get the kids to school. >> so dead dad is going to be on deck. it is going to be dad's time to get everybody up and running here? >> right. >> so -- so i canceled my class, helped the kids get ready for school. she did come downstairs to help out with that.
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>> he says cory was so ill, he had to help her back to bed before driving the three eldest kids off to school, their backpacks stuffed with valentines cards. within minutes he was book, only the home, still cluttered with clothes and toys, was now filled with something else. silence. quiet enough to break a family's heart. coming up -- what had happened in that house? >> as i got closer, i immediately knew that something was really really wrong. >> so wrong, it would tear apart a family and puzzle police for years to come. >> every detective needs to keep in mind that there could be a bigger picture. >> when mystery on the mississippi continues. on the mississippi continues.
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>> reporter: the routine of the house was in a tizzy. with cory sick in bed, it had
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been up to curtis to get the three oldest kids off to school. now he was back. >> when i arrived home, everything was quiet. i assumed that cory was sleeping, resting. she hadn't slept most of the night. i was just going to leave her alone in order to sleep. >> reporter: before looking-in on her, he said, he went over his emails in the kitchen. then he headed upstairs. >> i needed to take a shower. and as i walked up the steps, i looked to the left. the door to our bedroom was as i left it, open. i could see her lying in bed and i could see something from the distance didn't seem right. so i -- i approached her. >> what made you say that, looking back? >> just -- i'm really not sure. as i got closer, i could see that she was pale. she was motionless. and i immediately knew that something was really, really wrong. >> did you think, she's dead?
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>> i shook her. i called out her -- her name. and at that point, i knew that she was dead. >> reporter: in that moment, he said, his thoughts turned to his 4-year-old boy, larson, who was still in the house. >> and i needed to get larson out of the house. >> and what did you do? >> i grabbed larson. i believe he was in bed. and i took him immediately over to -- to his grandparents' house. >> reporter: cory's mom, marty, answered the door. she remembers her son-in-law standing there with the young boy and saying something nonsensical about her daughter being dead. >> it was just kind of mid-morning. and -- >> and there he is, your son-in-law. >> and there he is. i open the door and he hands me larson. and then he said something about people are coming. or something. i often regretted not just putting larson down and running over there. >> reporter: stunned, she called
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her son, cory's brother pedar, at his dental practice. >> and i get a phone call from my mom. it was just kind of out of the blue. i didn't think anything -- >> cory's dead. that can't be. >> yeah. exactly. >> 38 years old, right? >> she's 38 years old. there's no way. just saw her a couple weeks ago. >> reporter: jeff baird, then a detective with the quincy police department, was assigned to head the death investigation. when he arrived at the scene, he went straight upstairs. who all has been in the bedroom at that point. the emts, firefighters, they have all been there. >> yes. >> reporter: the detective was in the bedroom when the # coroner examined cory's body. >> he tested her body temperature by placing his hand against her abdomen, i followed suit. >> was the body warm or cold to the touch? >> the abdomen was warm to the touch. >> it was warm. what did that tell the coroner? >> he knew that the time of death was narrowed then for the body to still be warm. >> reporter: it seemed clear that cory's death had been recent, within the past hour or so.
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not at all certain why or how the woman died. the detective couldn't rule out any possibility, including foul play. >> around the room itself, any overturned glasses or any signs of a struggle? >> no. >> so as i hear you, you're telling me you're seeing a woman who has apparently died in her bed and not that long before authorities arrive. >> that's right. if i can stress that there wasn't a single mark on her other than what appeared to be a skin blemish under her nose, not a mark. >> reporter: and yet there was something about the position of cory's body that did strike him as odd. he thought death and gravity would have caused her arms to drop. instead, they were both fixed in mid-air, hovering above her chest. >> i was looking for an explanation for that, and i even addressed it to curtis lovelace. i asked him if there was a possibility that blankets had been under her arms when he discovered her.
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>> and what did he say? >> no. >> he said no. so he said the scene that you were seeing was the way he saw it when he came and found his wife, by his account. >> yes. >> reporter: but then, the detective was careful to not get hung up on one, strange detail. not this early in a case. >> every detective needs to keep in mind that there -- there could be a bigger picture. >> reporter: and, oh yes, there was. a portrait of a woman, a portrait of a marriage, filled with details painted in a most unflattering light. coming up -- a peek behind closed doors. >> you were drinking too much? >> i drank too much. >> cory was drinking too much? >> cory was drinking too much. >> and a daughter mourns her mom. >> i just remember crying and not believing it. >> when "dateline" continues. an. it's not magic that makes more holiday deliveries to homes in the us than anyone else, it's the hardworking people
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[upbeat music]
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♪♪ >> reporter: the quincy, illinois detective was trying to understand why a 38-year-old woman had suddenly died. as he looked for clues inside cory lovelace's home, filled with the clutter of young family life, jeff baird noticed one item in particular, a white cup by her bedside. >> i collected an unknown liquid that smelled faintly of alcohol from a styrofoam cup. >> reporter: the detective asked her husband curtis what it was. >> did he tell you that she liked to have a vodka tonic? >> yes. >> and that's likely what was in the styrofoam? >> yes. >> the big 24-ounce glass.
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>> yes. >> reporter: as curtis told it, alcohol had been a constant in the home. >> there was alcoholism in our family, and -- and so there was the -- the ugly side of -- of that. >> you were drinking too much? >> i -- looking back, yes, i -- i drank too much. >> cory was drinking too much? >> cory was drinking too much. it was -- it was impacting her ability to take care of things at home. >> reporter: he also told the detective that cory had been taking falls, sometimes out of bed. what's more, the detective later found out cory had been battling bulimia. (. >> it was something -- you know, we wanted her to get help for it, but she never did. >> the picture quickly emerging, cory had not been a healthy woman. >> i know you guys are listening to the words that a subject is telling you, but you're also looking at them. why is he telling me this, or how does he phrase it. what were you seeing on that score? >> it's very important, and i saw a man who was answering my questions.
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>> not being evasive? not being -- >> he appeared to be cooperative, solemn, upset. >> reporter: did you see any bruising on him? any scratching on his fingers or bruising on his hands. >> no. >> he is not manifesting any sort of a struggle with his wife. >> no. >> reporter: curtis also retraced the family's steps that morning. >> he last saw his wife around 8:15, he took the kids to school, he returned, and found her deceased. >> reporter: with that, the detective finished the interview and left, but curtis knew his awful day was about to get worse. not least, he had four children, ranging in ages from four to 12, to look after. >> how do you tell the children? >> that was -- i -- i think to this day, that is the most difficult thing i have ever had to do. i believe i called the schools, and let them know that i would be on my way. >> reporter: lyndsay, the only
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girl, was the eldest of the lovelace kids. >> i remember being at school. i remember getting a call from the office that i was getting picked up, and i was like -- and in my mind, i thought, oh, maybe my mom went to the hospital. she didn't feel good, the days prior. maybe she just -- >> yeah? >> had to go to the hospital. like, it's fine. >> reporter: but once inside the principal's office, her father broke the news. >> and told me that my mom had died, and i just remember, then on, my world crashing down. >> did you say, what had happened? what's going on? >> i'm sure i asked what had happened. i just remember crying and not believing it, and so we went -- we left and we went to my grandma's house, and i was like, i wanna go back to school, and i went back to school. >> and you did, on the day you lost your mom? >> cause that was normal for me. it was a normalcy thing. >> reporter: and, in hindsight, she says, the best thing she could have done. her favorite teacher had something for her. >> and she actually had wolf pups. she had a friend who was caring for wolf pups.
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so i remember holding these wolf pups. i'm pretty sure they had just lost their mom. like, they were orphaned. >> what a jumble of things going on for you that day. >> and that was the most comforting thing i could've done was hold those wolves. >> reporter: by then, news of cory lovelace's untimely death was rippling across town. students from curtis' business law class that morning were the first outside of the family, and authorities to suspect that something had happened. >> his class was all outside of his classroom waiting for him to come. >> reporter: one of curtis' students, erika, was surprised to learn professor lovelace's class had been cancelled. later, she learned why. >> everyone was just in shock because she was a very young 38-year-old, and she seemed healthy from what everybody understood. so it was a huge shock that -- >> so that's very sad your professor's wife has died. >> i -- >> you didn't know her. >> i didn't know her, and i really didn't know him at that time either. >> reporter: soon, everyone in town was wondering what had caused cory's death?
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the pathologist who performed the autopsy a day later noted some trauma: a small abrasion on cory's upper lip and another mark inside. it appeared to be a cut. curtis mentioned that cory had fallen in the days before her death. >> those falls, as they described them, could account for that injury to the lip, right? presumably? >> i wish i knew, but yes, a fall could account for an injury. >> reporter: the pathologist also noted cory had what's called fatty liver, often caused by heavy drinking. still, the doctor labeled the cause of death undetermined. >> she doesn't know what killed this woman? >> that was frustrating. she does find a disease of the liver, which can be associated with sudden death. >> reporter: it looked as though this sickly woman went upstairs and just died.
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>> that's what we discuss. that's what we went with. >> reporter: unusual for a young woman to die of unknown causes, but it does happen. without more to go on, the detective closed the case. >> reporter: cory's mother, marty, still in shock, could barely bring herself to read the autopsy report. >> cory was drinking. we don't deny that. she was bulimic and -- and i did try to talk to curtis about that at one time. told it was all okay, and it was going to be fine. >> reporter: now, as she mourned cory, marty knew her suffering would only deepen. her husband, john, was dying. >> we had a visitation for cory, and john sat next to me, and it was like he was saying goodbye to friends, too. >> he didn't come home from the hospital after that. >> uh-uh. >> both those losses, one right on top of the other. >> yes. >> reporter: within the span of a month, marty lost a daughter and a husband. she purchased two burial plots at the local cemetery, even though cory's remains were cremated. that was a choice curtis says the entire family made together,
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but the decision to cremate would be one that would haunt this river town for years to come. coming up -- >> she was different than -- than anyone i had ever dated before. maybe in some ways the difference intrigued me. >> curtis moves on, much too fast for some. >> she arrived as the girlfriend. did i think it was too quickly? yes. >> when mystery on the mississippi continues. like ge appliances up to 40% off rugs up to 80% off and lighting up to 65% off. plus get bonus savings with a wayfair credit card and free shipping on thousands of products. don't miss our black friday happening now through november 27th. only at wondering what actually goes into your multi-vitamin. at new chapter. its innovation
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the biggest question now, what's next? what will covid bring in six months, a year? if you're feeling anxious about the future, you're not alone. calhope offers free covid-19 emotional support. call 833-317-4673, or live chat at today. happy thanksgiving to you. i'm richard lui with the hour's top stories a. judge in georgia has yet to cess a sentencing daltd for the three men convicted of killing ahmaud arbery. they face 30 years to life in prison. a hearing will be held tomorrow on donald trump's request to prevent documents being released to the january 6th select committee.
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for now, back to "dateline" extra. ♪♪ >> reporter: for so many years he'd been the guy in town people looked up to and admired. curtis lovelace, football star, school board president, suddenly a pitiable widower who needed help. >> it was overwhelming. people did come forward -- friends and family, helping get the kids to school in the morning, so i could also go to work. and then picking them up from school. >> it's a lot. >> it's a lot. but we came together as a family and did what we needed to do. >> reporter: to long-time friend beth dobrzynski, curtis was stoic in the weeks after cory's death. but one time, she noticed the mask slip just a little. it was at a high school reunion later that summer. >> they were doing a video montage, and cory's picture came up. and he turned around and he looked, and he goes, "hey, that's my wife." and it was just -- times like that that
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made -- you know, made me really think that, you know -- just, you know, grieving husband. >> reporter: that's why, a few months later, she and other friends were surprised to hear that curtis had met someone new. that was fast. >> she was different than anyone i had ever dated before. maybe in some ways, that difference intrigued me. >> reporter: she was erika, as in the former student who showed up to professor lovelace's cancelled class that fateful valentine's day morning. >> he's extremely charming. anything that i needed or wanted, he could take care of and he did. >> reporter: at the time this interview took place, erika asked us to alter her appearance some to protect her privacy. she began her story by recounting how she'd, as a 33-year-old single woman, bumped into her 37-year-old professor at a nightclub not long after cory's death. a fish out of water, she thought. >> and i felt really bad for
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him. so i gave him my number and i told him that there's places that he could go in town that there's people more his age. because i thought he was a lot, lot older than what he was. he just seemed -- >> just stood out at that club, huh? >> he did. quite a bit. >> reporter: but not long after, pity blossomed into friendship, and then love. they started dating about six months after cory's death. erika and her daughter from a previous relationship eventually moved in with curtis and his four children. >> it was nice that my child kinda just tucked in there with the rest of 'em. all of us just fell into place. >> reporter: that's not the way curtis's daughter, lyndsay, saw it. >> what'd you think of her, erika? >> we did not get along. >> from the get-go. >> from the get-go. she arrived as the girlfriend, and that's just how it was. and did i think it was too quickly? yes, but adults make their own decisions. >> reporter: in fact, lyndsay was so unhappy with her dad's girlfriend she picked up and
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moved in with her grandmother, cory's mom, just a few doors down. after nearly two years living together, curtis and erika married. she had admired how he coached local kids in sports and devoted spare time to his community. eventually, they both served together in the national guard. >> and he had an outstanding resume. >> he did. he looked -- >> this is the all-american boy. >> i loved the fact that he was on the school board. that was where my profession was leaning. and i loved that he worked with children. he was great. he seemed to be great with the children. >> reporter: they even bought a new place in town and moved from the house where cory had died. there was domestic tranquility, at first, but eventually erika says she saw a change in her husband. >> he'd detach once in a while, just from the whole family. and i was kinda left all to myself. and he would just hide in the basement and blame it on work. >> he would bail from the
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household and go down into the basement. >> the basement was his hidesing place. he would stay there sometimes days on end. >> did you think that was odd? >> i accepted it. >> she says their mutual silence separated them. then, resentment exploded in loud confrontations. it just wasn't working. >> it was two people that met and started dating and developed a relationship and decided to get married. looking back, those were all bad decisions, and that was a rebound relationship. and a relationship that i -- i should've not done, not only for me, but, more importantly, for my children. >> reporter: in 2013, after five years of marriage, curtis filed for divorce. now, you might think that he would have been gun-shy about jumping into love again, but not curtis. >> it was just surreal and lovely. >> reporter: this is christine.
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she'd known curtis since high school. he even took her to their homecoming dance. marriages and careers separated them, for a time. >> it was odd because i wasn't prepared for any kind of a relationship and i wasn't looking for anything like that. >> and where were you in your life christine? were you single? >> i was -- i was single. >> reporter: after reconnecting on facebook, the former classmates decided to catch up face-to-face for the first time in nearly three decades. >> there he is at the door. >> there he is at the door. >> who do you see? >> i see curt lovelace, my senior high school homecoming date standing there. and then we spent that evening with friends. and before we knew it, everyone else had gone. and we just had the most amazing time. >> i was meeting, in many ways, the same person who i took to homecoming, just more beautiful, more interesting, and more -- more kind than i had ever remembered. >> it just worked. >> the reunion sparked romance.
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then a union neither one of them expected. how did he propose. >> we sat together near a place that we called our date place near the river and we started talking about marriage. and -- and i said to him, let's get married. and he said, let's do it. we need to do this. so i guess in hindsight it was more me that proposed than -- than him. >> reporter: more than six-months later, on the day after christmas 2013, curtis was once again standing at the altar. only this time, the new mrs. lovelace seemed to have approval from everyone. even 20-year-old daughter, lyndsay, who'd packed up at the arrival of her father's last flame. >> she seemed very genuine. i liked that she cared a lot about the boys. >> did you think maybe this could be the restoration of the family? >> yeah, i did. >> after the nightmare, as you see it, of erika? now, here's christine who seems okay to you? >> i felt -- >> she's certainly making an effort to reach out to you, right? >> yeah. and i felt like our family deserved happiness at that
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point, after everything we had been through. so i was hoping that it would all pan out okay. >> reporter: and it did go okay. christine kept all the lovelaces running like a swiss train schedule. kids off to school, while curtis worked at his own law practice in downtown quincy. christine, meanwhile, put on her baker's apron. >> i opened an actual pie shop. i was making a hundred pies a week and i was selling out of pies before 9:00 in the morning. by all accounts, it was -- >> so this wasn't just a little hobby to keep you busy. >> no. >> this was a going concern, huh? >> yes. absolutely. >> what's your go-to pie? >> i love blueberry. >> i'm with you. >> but i make a mean gooseberry. you name it, i can probably do it. >> reporter: after years of turmoil, it seemed, the lovelaces were reborn. lyndsay was back in the family fold. christine had even adopted curtis' sons as her own. everything was working. but darker souls wait for the train wreck just when things are looking all hunky-dory. turned out, that train was hurtling down the track at them.
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coming up -- a new detective leads to new suspicion. >> what jumped out at you? >> most definitely, that her arms were in an unnaturally raised position. >> and the start of a new investigation. >> in this particular autopsy, there were things listed as suspicious or traumatic findings. >> my first thought, we missed something here. >> when mystery on the mississippi continues. when it comes to autism, finding the right words can be tough. finding understanding doesn't have to be. together, we can create a kinder, more inclusive world for the millions of people on the autism spectrum.
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>> reporter: the river rolled. the barges slid by. and cory lovelace's death slipped further into the past. her mom marty. >> i'll go sit in the cemetery by myself for a little while. and of course valentine's day now is nothing. i-- i don't do valentine's day. >> reporter: cory's husband, meanwhile, had remarried, divorced, and married again. and in all that time, no one really questioned the why or how of cory's death. but all that changed one day when a man in a windowless room, a few blocks off the mississippi, found himself with spare time on his hands. >> i was sittin' in my office. and all of our files were on computer. >> reporter: it was late 2013, almost eight years after cory's death. adam gibson, a newly-minted detective with the quincy police department, began idly pulling up old files. >> not looking for anything in particular, just reading old
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cases. cory lovelace popped into my head. and i read the report. >> reporter: the name mean anything to you? >> yeah. i knew-- i knew curtis lovelace. 'cause he was-- had been at one time one of our assistant state's attorneys. >> reporter: there wasn't much to read in the file, truth be told. a statement from curtis the husband, police interviews with the three older children. and the pathologist's summary of her autopsy findings with some photos. so you knew what had happened in 2006, sort of, or -- >> yeah. i knew that she had passed away on valentine's day of 2006. >> reporter: what was the medical examiner's finding about the death of that woman? >> that was an "undetermined," was the original autopsy. >> reporter: what did that mean to you? i don't know whether you'd encountered that before. >> "undetermined" could mean a lot of things. but in this particular autopsy, there were things listed as suspicious or traumatic findings. >> reporter: for instance, the report mentioned that abrasion on cory's face - just under her nose -- something the arriving officer had observed that day. the pathologist also noted the
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cut -- what she called 'a laceration' on the inside of cory's upper lip. the detective kept scrolling. and then saw something that just stopped him cold, an electrifying image, the police photos of the dead wife and mother as she lay in her bed. what jumped out at you? >> most definitely that her arms were in an unnaturally raised position. >> her hands in an unnatural kind of way? >> her hands defy gravity. >> reporter: not supported on anything? >> no. >> reporter: just kind of out there like a statue? >> yes. >> reporter: using police photos from the scene, we created this graphic representation of cory's bedroom. you can see cory's arms frozen in death above her body. that final pose had caught detective jeff baird's attention years before, a curiosity but he didn't assign it any real significance. now, adam gibson did. >> reporter: rigor mortis? >> in my opinion. >> reporter: the mechanics of rigor mortis go like this. upon death, a human's muscles start to stiffen.
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but to the detective, it looked as though cory's arms and hands were in an advanced state of rigor, meaning she likely died many hours before this photo was taken. remember, curtis said he tucked his sickly wife into bed only an hour before finding her dead. it didn't make sense to the officer. detective gibson went straight to his bosses with the old lovelace file. >> my first thought was, "we missed something here." >> reporter: chief robert copley had been in charge in 2006, when everyone assumed cory had died a natural death. but he says he never saw the photos the detective was now holding before him. >> and that's when i saw the pictures for the first time. >> reporter: what'd you think? >> i thought this -- this is odd. this is not natural -- >> reporter: the posture of the arms? >> the posture of the arms definitely, appeared to me that rigor mortis had set in. i look at those pictures and i can't believe that we accepted an undetermined cause of death and a natural death. >> reporter: detective gibson agreed. but they had a problem. very thin, what you're working.
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>> yes. >> reporter: some-- some notes from a medical examiner from eight years before. >> right, right. >> reporter: and a few photos, very few. >> yeah. and only two-- two slides-- were-- were taken by the pathologist. and-- and-- and passed on in evidence. so yeah, very thin file. >> reporter: so, police went back to the doctor who did that autopsy and asked her to review the case. she did. but she would not alter her original findings. the next step might have been to order a new autopsy. but that wasn't possible, since cory's family had her remains cremated. the only option was to work with what they had. detective gibson had a suggestion. >> he wanted to have the autopsy reviewed by someone else. have basically a review of the original autopsy done. couldn't do a new autopsy, because the body'd been cremated. >> reporter: the chief okayed the request to hire a new pathologist to review old autopsy notes. the detective also had something else in mind to beef up his case, talk to anyone and
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everyone who'd known cory. his first call was to her mom, marty. he told her he wanted to meet, but not why. >> he said, well, you know, can we set up a time, maybe tomorrow or what. you know whatever. and then i said, "scratch what i'm doing this afternoon. you just come now." because i was so nervous about what it was. >> reporter: everything old was about to be new again, new and very unsettling. coming up -- >> the thing that struck me first was the position of mrs. lovelace's arms. >> reporter: a different medical examiner reaches a different conclusion. >> the manner of death would be homicide. >> reporter: and a detective has a question for curtis' daughter. >> tuesday morning, before you went to school, what do you remember? >> what did you think was happening? >> i didn't know. >> when mystery on the mississippi continues.
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>> reporter: cory lovelace's mom had tried hard to move on after her daughter's sudden death in 2006. but after a phone call and visit from detective adam gibson in early 2014, she started to wonder. >> a lot of things i shoved away. away. really shoved away. and one of them was really why cory had died. >> did you ever suspect that there might be foul play involved in her death? >> no. >> reporter: friends of both curtis and cory also started getting calls from the detective. beth dobrzynski remembers his message asking her to call asap. >> so then when i called detective gibson and he said, "we're reopening the case of cory didriksen lovelace," i was shocked. i was shaking. >> so the detective seemed to be interested in what you could tell him about the marriage? >> correct. >> which, she admitted, wasn't much. beth and other close friends said cory didn't really talk about her marriage. so the detective did something no one else had done on this case. he started knocking on doors
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talking to cory's former neighbors. >> all the neighbors talked about all the -- the constant arguing and fighting. >> so you were getting a picture of what was going on in that marriage that wasn't in focus in 2006. >> right. >> the detective went a step further. he got in his car and drove more than a hundred miles to the university of iowa to talk with someone who would have been an eyewitness to the lovelace marriage. >> i'm adam gibson. >> nice to meet you. >> i'm a detective with quincy. >> ok. ok. >> reporter: lyndsay lovelace, curtis and cory's oldest, was in college at her mom's alma mater when she was summoned to the campus police department to talk with detective gibson. >> i was very confused why someone from quincy had driven there. >> reporter: the questions that followed didn't clear things up, at least not at first. the detective started talking about her late mom and asking about her parents' marriage. >> how was your parents' relationship, do you remember? >> they would fight. it was an interesting relationship. there were times we were like
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the perfect family, we'd do like fun family stuff. and then there were times i do remember being woken up at night by my parents' fighting. >> reporter: for the first time, someone inside the lovelace family was revealing the turmoil before cory's death. but then the detective asked lyndsay to describe that tuesday in 2006 when her mother's body was found. >> tuesday morning, before you went to school, what do you remember? >> reporter: the answer seemed to take the air out of his theory of the case. >> she was up and walking around. she had made breakfast. i don't remember what we had for breakfast. but she had like made us breakfast and she was helping us get ready for school because we all had our little valentines day boxes. >> reporter: the young woman, candid about her parents' troubled marriage, was nonetheless supportive of her father's account. cory had died minutes after seeing her children off to school -- not hours earlier, as the detective suspected. if he'd been disappointed in lyndsay's answer, he didn't show it. but he did make a request that caught her off guard.
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>> if you do talk to your dad, only thing that i would ask is that you not discuss the fact that i came and talked to you yet. >> what did you think was happening? >> i didn't know, especially when he said, "don't tell your father i was here." >> what's that mean? >> and i went back to where i was living and just sat there and thought, "what is going on?" and then it slowly hit me. >> reporter: she realized the detective, for whatever reason, suspected her father had something to do with her mother's sudden death. even so, she kept her promise and did not tell her father about the visit. in the meantime, detective gibson was waiting to hear from dr. jane turner, then assistant medical examiner for the city of st. louis. he had hired her to review that old autopsy report. >> the thing that struck me first just looking at the scene photographs was the position of mrs. lovelace's arms. >> reporter: she says the photos show cory's body in full rig or
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mortis. like the detective, the m.e. believed the picture and curtis' story were out of sync. >> i estimate that the time of death was somewhere 10 to 12 hours prior to her photograph being taken that morning. so somewhere around 9:00 or 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. the night before. >> in other words, the night of february 13th -- not the morning of february 14th as curtis claimed. something else bothered her. turner thought the scene appeared altered as though something under cory's arms was removed. >> why were her hands not resting on a surface and that surface, whatever that object was that her hands had been resting on, why wasn't it there anymore? >> reporter: turner noted the abrasion on cory's face and the cut inside her upper lip. to her, that suggested something had been pressed against the woman's mouth. >> and then seeing the marks around the mouth and inside the mouth all suggest that suffocation occurred.
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>> reporter: suffocation. an abrasion. an accepted timeline that no longer fit. turner was convinced cory had not died a natural death. she concluded someone had used an object, likely a pillow, to suffocate the woman. left it under her arms and removed it many hours later. >> the manner of death would be homicide. >> reporter: for the detective cory lovelace's death came down to two competing narratives from two compelling women. one relied on science to explain a murder, the other relied on memory to describe an ailing mother just before she passed away. in the end, the detective believed the science. he believed that a crime had, indeed, been committed. but now chief copley had a little problem back at the quincy police department. there were two officers who had conducted very different investigations of the same case. >> detective gibson, you believe that this was a homicide. >> i do believe that. >> officer baird, do you believe that this was a death of natural causes?
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are you divided on that fundamental issue? >> i'm now uncertain. from what i've heard and been told, under the -- under the new investigation. much more uncertain than i was in 2006. >> reporter: their boss, chief copley, still backs both men. he says if there's blame to be had in this case, he'll take it. >> you hate to admit that mistakes were made. and i want to say that i take full responsibility. i was chief in 2006. you know, i had detectives and their supervisors working on this case. >> did he get a pass because he was a pillar of the community? he was a big shot guy. >> i don't know that he got a pass, i think he may have got -- the benefit of the doubt. >> reporter: on a warm august morning that benefit would evaporate along with the summer feelings the day. curtis was meant to stop by with lunch. >> i just knew he was going to
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be there and i had a notion he was going to bring me fried chicken that day. and lunch came and went. >> and no curt? >> and no curt. >> reporter: a few blocks away, curt had just stepped out of his law office. he was, in fact, on his way to the pie shop. >> and as i was walking to my car, there was a gentleman in a suit waiting for me. >> reporter: it was detective gibson. and he was armed with an indictment from the grand jury. he was there to arrest curtis for the murder of cory lovelace. >> i got out of the car, i called his name. he walked over and put his hand out to shake my hand. i told him he was under arrest for first-degree murder. >> and he said what? >> he said my wife died in 2006. >> what did you think of that? >> that wasn't the reaction i was expecting at all. >> reporter: curtis lovelace never saw it coming. >> told me to put my hands behind my back and put me in
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handcuffs. >> what did you think was going on? >> i don't know. i remember hearing murder, i remember hearing him use the word wife. i was not aware that there was an investigation. >> you were totally blientsided. >> totally blindsided. >> reporter: no one had really questions cory's death before. even the police concluded she had died of natural causes. back at the pie shop, an increasingly anxious christine got a phone call. it was someone from a local tv station. >> he said, "i'm holding a piece of paper in my hand. it's an indictment for the first degree murder of cory love lace. and i immediately said what? cory wasn't murdered. >> give me a word, that day in your life. >> horrifying. >> i was placed in an interrogation room immediately. >> reporter: curtis lovelace had a crucial choice to make. either talk to the detective and try to clear this up right then and there, or would the attorney
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lawyer up. coming up -- >> i don't remember anything significant about the night before. >> you said the two of you went to bed together? yeah. i believe we did. >> i have a problem with you not remembering all these things. >> when "mystery on the mississippi" continues. n the mississi ppi" continues ♪ there are beautiful ideas that remain in the dark. but with our new multi-cloud experience, you have the flexibility you need to unveil them to the world. ♪ is struggling to manage your type 2 diabetes knocking you out of your zone? to unveil them to the world. lowering your a1c with once-weekly ozempic® can help you get back in it. oh, oh, oh, ozempic®! my zone... lowering my a1c, cv risk,
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>> reporter: seven years after the mysterious death of cory lovelace. >> i just remember crying and not believing it. >> reporter: police have reopened the case. >> we missed something here. >> reporter: her husband, curtis, who had remarried twice is the prime suspect. >> what jumped out at you? >> most definitely that her arms were in an unnaturally raised position. >> reporter: had the mystery finally been solved? >> the manner of death would be homicide. >> reporter: then the suspect and his wife got some very bad news. >> i said what? cory wasn't murdered. >> reporter: now the hometown hero was headed to jail. could his children help set him free? >> they saw their mother alive that day. >> she couldn't have been dead upstairs? >> right. >> reporter: curtis love lace
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had seen plenty of interrogation videos, but for the first time in his life, he was the one in the hot seat. >> you have the right to remain silent. you understand that? >> yes. >> anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. you're a lawyer. you know the number one rule is you do not talk to the police without having a lawyer presenting, but you talk. >> but i talk. i wanted to answer all their questions. i thought that they wanted to know the truth. >> she indicated she didn't feel well. >> reporter: on that valentine's morning, curtis said cory was still nursing that bad cold or flu. >> i walked upstairs with her, she went to bed. >> reporter: he described leaving the house, only to come home and finding his wife dead in their bedroom. >> she was cold and stiff. i just recall her hands being out or something like that. >> reporter: and yet many other details surrounding his wife's death seemed to elude curtis.
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>> i don't remember anything significant about the night before. >> you said the two of you went to bed together? >> yeah, i -- i believe we did. you know, it's been a long time so i guess it's possible that i would have slept on the couch or something. >> you said you took the kids to school? >> again, i believe i did. it's been so long. >> ironically he didn't remember a whole lot about that day. >> couldn't even remember whether he in fact took the kids to school that day? >> right. i just would have thought that finding your wife dead in bed would have left more of an impression on you. >> reporter: to the detective, curtis was trying to look helpful without really being so. gibson cut to the chase. >> did you smother cory with a pillow? >> no, i did not. >> did you and cory have a bad argument, curt? did it get out of hand? did you snap and then put a pillow over her nose and mouth
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and suffocate her? >> no. no, i -- there -- there were no bad arguments the night before. um, it's -- it's exactly what -- what i've told detective baird in 2006 and what i told detective gibson in 2014 and what i'm telling you now. that -- that is what happened. she was sick and i came home and i found her that morning. and she was dead in bed. >> reporter: it was clear the detective's strategy hadn't yielded what he wanted, a confession. >> i have a problem with you not remembering all of these things. >> reporter: the lawyer's goal of talking his way out of trouble hadn't exactly worked, either. even after he agreed, curtis says, to take a lie detector test. in a short time, he was swapping out his buttoned-down shirt and leather loafer for a very different courthouse look. jailhouse black and white stripes. coming up -- are his kids
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the key to a father's freedom? >> so you went into your mom's room. >> yeah. >> and she was in bed? >> yeah. we make up every morning, go in her room and watch a show. >> do you know what time that was? >> no. >> when "mystery on the mississippi" continues. "mys tery mississippi" continues ing sounds] [gaming sounds] [gaming sounds] just think, he'll be driving for real soon. every new chevy equinox comes standard with chevy safety assist, including automatic emergency braking. find new peace of mind. find new roads. chevrolet. you've been taking mental health meds, and your mind is finally in a better place. except now you have uncontrollable body movements called tardive dyskinesia td. and it can seem like that's all people see. ♪ some meds for mental health can cause abnormal dopamine signaling in the brain.
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curtis love lace could not believe how his world had fallen apart. one minute he was quincy's fair- haired boy, the next, he was being interrogated by police for killing his first wife, cory. >> on my side of the bed when i found her dead. >> reporter: meanwhile, christine was in a panic for two reasons. her husband had just been arrested and now she was looking for her sons. >> i found out that all three boys were at the police station. >> the boys were down there? >> they had been taken out of school and held in isolation earlier in the day. >> reporter: they were just 17,
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15 and 12 years old at the time. all alone at the police headquarters. once christine found out they were there, she rushed to the station. >> what were the kids told? what'd they think was going on? >> they actually thought that something had happened to me. i walked into the room and they got up and they all were very scared and they hugged me and i told them everything would be okay. we'll figure this out. then adam gibson walked into this room. >> who's the police detective? >> yes, yes. he walked in and i had no idea who he was. then he looked at the boys and said your father has been charged with the first-degree murder of your mother. >> just as bluntly as that? >> yes. >> and i asked him, did you need to tell them like that? and he said yes. >> reporter: detective gibson had rounded up the boys because he was looking for more information. >> i'm looking into the death of
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your mom from 2006. okay? >> uh-mm. >> reporter: the detective started to question them about the last days of their mother's life. >> so you went into your mom's room. >> yeah. >> and she was in bed. >> yeah. we would wake up every morning and then i go into her room and watch our show. >> do you know what time that was? >> no. >> reporter: larson the youngest son was not interviewed by police back in 2006 because he was only 4 years old. now, he was telling detective gibson he wasn't sure if his mother was alive that morning. he said he only remembered getting out of bed and going to his mom's room. but she didn't answer him. >> i just remember like going into the room and then she wouldn't wake up and i think it was valentine's day. >> uh huh. >> yeah, dad was gone, came back and i told him, yeah, that she was not waking up. >> reporter: but the two older boys said they did remember seeing their mom that morning. this is lincoln, the middle boy. >> i just remember like waking
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up and like -- i remember her not feeling good and i was sitting on the stairs and then i went to school. i think i remember saying "i love you" before we left, but that's pretty much it. >> reporter: logan, the eldest son, said he knew for certain that his mom was alive that february 14th. >> she was sitting on the steps, like, ready for us to leave the house. >> reporter: christine was still trying to find her husband. she didn't know he had been transferred to a different jail. eventually, he called. >> he told me everything would be okay. and that we were gonna have to -- to fight some things. >> reporter: christine was a wreck. her husband was in jail and she was dumbfounded as to why the police had taken the boys out of school and then interviewed them without parental permission. she felt better about this though -- the two oldest boys backed their dad's story. they had seen their mom, cory,
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alive valentine's day morning, just as curtis said. >> they saw their mother alive that day. >> and that's -- that's the gist of their story. yes, i saw her alive that morning -- >> yes. >> -- dad took us to school. >> uh-huh. >> so there-- >> it was valentine's day. >> so therefore she couldn't have been dead upstairs and -- >> right. >> dire because they saw her alive. >> yes. >> reporter: the boys' sister lyndsay, had also told police two separate times her mom was alive that morning, had seen her off to school on valentine's day. >> she was standing in the front hall like marching us out the door like she always did. >> reporter: on the day of her father's arrest, lyndsay was away at college when she had an emotional talk with her brothers. >> talked to them on the phone the day he got arrested. and they passed the phone around and they were sobbing 'cause they were scared. hold on. hold on. and they asked me to come home, and that was the last thing i ever said to them, like ever talked to them. >> reporter: that's when another tragedy unfolded within the lovelace family. around the time of curtis'
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arrest, his relationship with his daughter once again deteriorated. the family doesn't want to get into details but soon lyndsay found herself cut off from her brothers, too. >> i had been shut out, completely shut out. >> well, you knew the charge against your father and the theory of the crime, that he had put a pillow over your mother's nose and smothered her. that's a stark image to deal with. >> it's something i didn't ponder, and i chose not to ponder. >> reporter: though a jury would soon be pondering curtis' guilt or innocence. in august, 2014, the 45-year-old former assistant state's attorney found himself standing in a courtroom. this time as a defendant at his own arraignment. >> having to appear in a courtroom that i had served as a prosecutor, and dressed in -- in stripes and -- and having my -- my hands and my feet shackled.
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those were some really some low times. >> reporter: married just eight months, wife number three's commitment "for better or for worse" was immediately put to the test. >> my husband, who is kind and caring and compassionate is charged with something so heinous that it makes no sense. >> when this all started unrolling for you, it had to be a nightmare. did you ask him the flat question, did you kill her, curt? >> no. i know he didn't kill her. there's no anger in that man. >> reporter: if convicted, curt lovelace could spend the rest of his life in prison for the murder of his wife cory. as if that weren't enough stress, his daughter lyndsay was about to drop a bombshell. coming up -- a daughter's difficult decision. >> i don't know what's in lyndsay's head and in her heart. one day she was happy, and then everything changed. >> reporter: and a mother
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recounts what she says was curtis' bizarre behavior the day her daughter died. >> i open the door and he hands me larson. >> and says? >> "oh, and by the way, cory's dead." >> when "mystery on the mississippi" continues. on the miss issippi" continues . a mountain of toys to fulfill many wishes. must be carried across all roads and all bridges. and when everyone is smiling and having their fun i can turn my sleigh north because my job here is done. it's not magic that makes more holiday deliveries to homes in the us than anyone else, it's the hardworking people of the united states postal service.
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♪ i had a dream that someday ♪ ♪ i would just fly, fly away ♪ i'm richard lui with the hour's top stories. president biden wished a happy holiday in a taped message. he said he was grateful for the vaccine and things look brighter this season.
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five people were arrested in the deaths of 27 migrants. they drowned trying to cross the english channel from france. the dead included three children and a pregnant woman. for now, back to "dateline extra." curtis lovelace was the hometown hero. now his face was plastered on the front pages of quincy's newspaper as an accused murderer. >> we're relying on scientific -- >> reporter: the media, including nbc's quincy affiliate were all over the story, covering nearly every moment of his fall from grace. >> he's accused of killing his first wife -- >> reporter: this former prosecutor would himself be prosecuted by ed parkinson. >> you can't get around rigor mortis in my opinion, and make sense of this case. and the timeline doesn't make sense with curtis lovelace. >> reporter: in january 2016, nearly a decade after cory lovelace's death, curtis arrived for the first day of his
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trial. he faced 20 to 60 years in prison upon conviction for first-degree murder. he pleaded not guilty. cameras were not allowed in the courtroom. >> it's clear to me, it didn't matter what i did as far as the prosecution was concerned. their only concern was that they needed to create a crime and they needed for me to look bad in order to do that. >> reporter: curtis didn't necessarily need prosecutors help to "look bad." some of his own actions the day cory died were at the very least unusual, including never calling 911. >> he called who? >> his boss. >> his wife is dead in the bed and he calls his boss? >> yeah. and -- said, "my wife is dead." so his boss, said, "well, would you like me to call the ambulance people?" "yes. would you do that?" >> reporter: cory's mom, marty didriksen, who lived just a few houses away, testified that curtis broke the news of her daughter's death in what she thought was the most callous way. there was a knock at her door
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and curtis was standing there with 4-year-old larson. >> i open the door and he hands me larson. >> and says? >> "oh, and by the way, cory's dead." and leaves. >> marty, i've got to say, i think that's very strange. take your grandson, and by the way, your daughter's dead. >> he was emotionless, let's put it that way. people who saw him that day claimed that he was without emotion. >> reporter: curtis also knew cpr, and yet he never tried to revive his wife. >> on the day, why didn't you do cpr? >> i don't know. i don't know why i didn't do cpr. i don't know why i -- i didn't call 911. in looking back, i saw my wife, cory, dead. and i didn't know how to react. >> reporter: prosecutor parkinson next went after the first police investigation. pushing hard against detective baird who handled the case. he questioned if baird gave
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curtis who was then an assistant state's attorney, preferential treatment. >> he was a prosecutor. they were the police. he gave 'em a story that he -- how it happened. they bought into it. after all, he's one of us. >> so maybe tougher questions didn't get asked? >> i think so. >> reporter: neighbors testified the lovelace household was sometimes a stormy one. and that, parkinson suggested to jurors, is the backdrop of cory's death. >> they fought all the time. it was a rocky marriage with lots of arguments going both ways, and it got out of control. maybe the evidence indicates that placing a pillow over one's face to make them stop yelling at me. maybe in her weakened state, if she was -- had flu-like symptoms, maybe it went too far. >> reporter: the state's theory, remember, is the force of the pillow caused that cut and abrasion on the outside and inside of cory's lip. the prosecutor then implied the pillow was placed under her arms after she died and later
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removed. >> if you leave it there through the night, and while rigor mortis is setting in, and then if a person is thinking, "oh, my god. what did i do?" and, "oh, there's that pillow in her -- i'm going to get rid of that pillow," then the arms are already up. >> and you think that's what happened? >> yes. >> reporter: but then came, perhaps, the most anticipated testimony for the prosecution. lyndsay, curtis' own daughter, took the stand. two times, over a span of eight years, she told police her mother was alive that morning. >> she said she had felt better. >> reporter: but on the stand, with her dad's life on the line, she changed her story. telling jurors she was no longer sure her mom was alive that day. >> don't remember any of it. >> but it doesn't stick in your memory? >> nope. >> and yet, detective baird's notes, you do tell him the story about seeing your mother. and then with the videotaped interview with -- detective
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gibson, you seem quite clear about that morning, and yes, you saw her and went off to school. what had happened in the interim between your statement and going into trial, on the stand, and then kind of stepping back from all of that? >> it was the fact of no one had honestly asked me, sincerely, what had happened that day. and i had never taken time to actually think about it. i -- >> well, detective gibson did a couple of years before when he took your statement, right? >> but it -- again, i didn't know why he was askin' me. i didn't know what was going on. and i gave the story i always gave. so when i had to sit there and think about it, i had to be honest with myself. and it wasn't the answer i wanted. i wish i could say -- i really do wish i could say, yes, i remember her, or, no, i know i didn't see her. >> but you cannot say that? >> but i cannot say that. >> and this is not you getting back at your dad who you're very sideways with at this point? >> no, because it hurts my -- >> he needs that story and you're not gonna give it to him? >> no, because it hurts my brothers, too -- for me not to honestly say, yes, i saw her. but i'm gonna say what i can remember, which is nothing. it's a black hole. it's a traumatizing event. and when kids go through traumatizing events, they block
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things out. and losing my mother was the worst day of my life. >> how are we to understand what's going on with lyndsay, christine, because she has told the story that she, like her brothers, remembers seeing her mom alive, but then she backs away from it and says i can't remember really. >> i don't know what's in lyndsay's head and in her heart. one day she was happy and then everything changed. >> reporter: the prosecution still had to explain why the two oldest boys were adamant their mom was alive that morning. parkinson told jurors there was a two-day gap between cory's death and the first police interviews with the kids. ample time he suggested, for the boys to be influenced by their dad. >> i think the children were confused as to which day. after all -- >> how about coached? do you think that he told him a story? >> he had custody of the children from the moment of her discovery until thursday afternoon. so from tuesday till thursday afternoon, i don't know what was said. >> reporter: dr. jane turner, the pathologist detective gibson hired to review the case, took
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the stand and said science is where the truth lies. she concluded the most reasonable explanation for cory's arms appearing to levitate is that cory was dead up to 12 hours before police arrived on the scene. >> i viewed this material and reviewed it with the eye of a scientist and what we know about the development of rigor mortis. >> reporter: what would a jury believe, science, or the words from two of cory's own sons? cory's brother, a dentist, found himself struggling over the conflicting facts. >> science is my living, you know. i have to believe in that but i also have to, you know, believe in the family at the same time. so i'm completely torn. >> i've never seen a more difficult case more closely argued. and there doesn't team to be middle ground. >> there's none. >> reporter: parkinson urged the jury to focus on the science and one image. cory in her bed, her body in rigor mortis. he said it proved she'd died
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hours before curtis claimed. it proved he was lying. it proved, he argued, that curtis killed her. coming up -- the defense gets its turn and christine is feeling optimistic. >> i knew in my heart he was coming home. >> until -- >> christine came in. and they explained to her what was about to happen. >> when "mystery on the mississippi" continues. mississip i s okay, t's do a ticket check. paper tickets. we're off to a horrible start. ...but we can overcome it. we're not gonna point out our houses, landmarks, or major highways during takeoff. don't buy anything. i packed so many delicious snacks. -they're -- -nope. would you say, ballpark, when group two is gonna get boarded? 2 hours and 58 minutes. progressive can't protect you from becoming your parents, but we can protect your home and auto when you bundle with us. someone should've left home earlier. ♪
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the defense had a simple message for jurors. curtis should not be on trial. that's because there was no crime and this was not a murder. it said the state's case was built on faulty science. >> i've stated repeatedly in this matter that there's no physical evidence to prove that he murdered his wife. >> reporter: veteran pathologist dr. george nichols created the office of medical examiner for the state of kentucky back in the 1970s. now, as a defense expert, he
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told jurors rigor mortis is not an accurate indicator of time of death. and, he added, where's the evidence that cory fought for her life? there were no signs of struggle and only the cut and abrasion on her lip. >> you will fight until you no longer can. the thought that somehow you could suffocate someone with a pillow and there would be only one dental mark is ludicrous. >> reporter: detective baird testified that when he first arrived on the scene cory's stomach area was still warm. how is that possible, the defense asked, if she had died up to 12 hours earlier? >> if the body is warm to the touch, my common sense tells me, not science, that this is someone recently deceased. >> absolutely. >> is there an error in that assumption? >> no. >> reporter: as far as the prosecution's contention that curtis killed cory after a heated argument, the couple's oldest son testified he didn't hear anything like that the night before. and he should know, because his room was right next to his parents.
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it was even connected by an extra door that was usually left slightly opened. >> she was all sick and i was like, "i'll stay home with you" and she wouldn't let me stay home. >> reporter: the two older boys, unlike their sister, stuck to the story they told police. >> did she ever get out of bed? >> yes, i think she did. >> reporter: if jurors believed them, it blew apart the prosecution's timeline that cory was murdered the night before. >> they said the same thing that they had told baird in 2006 and detective gibson in 2014. >> reporter: and the defense had its sights on detective gibson. they claimed in 2013, he was an over-eager, newly promoted detective, primarily assigned to work crimes against seniors. this was his first murder case. >> he transferred from k9 officer to elder service officer. and around the same time he went to a one-week course on being a lead detective in a homicide case. and he embarked on this
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investigation that led to my indictment. >> reporter: finally, the defense's medical expert concluded there was only one plausible explanation for cory's death. she had a history of drinking and falling and that caused that abrasion and cut. the bottom line, she was an alcoholic and bulimic suffering from a liver disease, someone who unfortunately died of natural causes. >> she's not a normal 38-year-old woman. she has a significant disease of a major organ that is associated with sudden death and with liver failure. >> reporter: in the end, curtis decided not to take the stand. ten women and two men would decide lovelace's fate. the deliberations went on for two full days. then, christine got the call to come back to the courthouse. >> i knew in my heart he was coming home. >> that was it. you were gonna prevail. >> he's coming home. yes. >> reporter: but once she arrived, bailiffs led her to a
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small law library. >> christine came in. and they explained to her for the first time what was about to happen, that the judge would declare a mistrial. >> curt was sitting across. he said, "i'm not gonna be able to come home tonight," and -- and i lost all my air. it was terrible. >> reporter: the jury was hopelessly deadlocked. the vote, six guilty, six not. curtis would face another trial. since he couldn't make bail, he'd remain in jail, unless -- >> a deal? a plea deal? >> they had offered a second-degree murder plea. but i knew it was a decision not only that i had to make, but we had to make as a family.
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and i didn't know whether i could put them through another year of what we had already gone through. >> reporter: that's when one of curtis' lawyers turned to christine. >> and he said that this can all end right now if curt agrees to take this deal. he said it would keep him from dying in prison. >> but he'd have to admit his culpability, responsibility in cory's death. that's the condition, right? >> correct. and that he wouldn't have to spend probably any more than 13 years in prison. >> reporter: the two said "no thanks" to the state's offer and geared up for a second trial. but that forced them to face another dire reality. they were totally broke, unable to afford another lawyer. >> what are we going to do? i mean, at that point, it -- there didn't appear to be any option. >> this could be a moment for christine to say, i'm out of here. i didn't sign on to be some tammy wynette for this guy,
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standin' by her man. i'm gone. >> yeah. and who -- who could -- who could blame her if she would have done that? but that's not who she is. >> reporter: it looked as though curtis would have to use a public defender. but christine wouldn't accept that option. she worked her connections and eventually ended up here in chicago. >> she came to our office and told us her story and i remember finding it compelling and certainly worth exploring further. >> reporter: jon loevy is not a criminal lawyer. he's a civil rights attorney by practice who also does pro bono work with the exoneration project. it's aim, overturn wrongful convictions. but curtis hadn't been convicted, at least not yet. still, loevy and co-counsel tara thompson decided to take the case. their services would be free. >> the main concern that i had in this case from the outset was really the lack of evidence. this didn't feel like a murder case from the beginning. >> reporter: with a new defense
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team in place, christine got working on her next goal, making bail to get her husband out of jail. friends eventually put up the cash. almost two years after his arrest, curtis was released to his wife and sons. >> they greeted me at the hancock county jail. and i came home to a dog that i had never met. and for the first time, got to be back in my house and back in my home. >> reporter: but it wouldn't be home sweet home for long. while curtis and mrs. lovelace number three waited for the next trial in the alleged murder of mrs. lovelace number one, the judge ruled that mrs. lovelace number two could testify against her former husband. and what a story she had to tell. coming up -- erika, out of disguise, and on the stand.
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recounting what she says was a marriage from hell. >> he ripped my shirt. and then he let me go and he tried to grab me again and i kept on trying to fight him off. >> when "mystery on the mississippi" continues. tinues
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don't take if allergic to nurtec. the most common side effects were nausea, stomach pain, and indigestion. with nurtec odt, i treat migraine my way. what's your way? ask your doctor about nurtec to find out! curtis lovelace was a local celebrity. or at least so infamous, according to his new defense team, that he couldn't get a fair trial in his hometown. a judge agreed. so trial number two was moved from quincy to springfield, illinois -- >> all rise. >> reporter: -- about two hours away. >> the defense is going to come up here and try to portray the defendant as a pillar of the community. that's a facade. >> reporter: david robinson would join ed parkinson for the prosecution. this time cameras were allowed in the courtroom when the trial started in march, 2017.
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>> our houses were about 15 feet apart from each other. >> reporter: as in the first trial, neighbors testified they often heard arguing from the lovelace home. this woman lived next door and says she heard shouting almost every day. >> essentially for the entire time that we lived there. so six years. >> as i walked by the house i heard an argument, a loud argument. >> reporter: another neighbor testified she heard cory and curtis really going at it and on a specific date, the night before valentine's day 2006. she happened to be out for a stroll. >> it actually -- it did cause me to pause. i guess i was listening to see if somebody was in distress. >> reporter: the prosecution's theory this go-round on how cory died remained the same. after a heated argument, the night before valentine's day, curtis suffocated his wife with a pillow in a fit of rage. he then waited up to twelve hours before police were called. >> come over here and have a
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seat, please. >> reporter: and once again science would play a leading role in the prosecution's case. but prosecutors had a new witness. a star forensic expert. >> i have also testified before the house of representatives. >> reporter: in a 64-year career, dr. werner spitz has consulted on the jfk and martin luther king assassinations, as well as in other high-profile cases including those of phil specter and casey anthony. >> the appearance of the injury leaves no doubt that this is not a healing wound. >> reporter: in a darkened courtroom, spitz showed photos and talked about that cut inside cory's mouth. curtis had told police his wife had fallen in the days before she died, his explanation for that injury. but this expert said he saw no signs the cut was an old one. >> there's no evidence of healing. so this looks like at the time that it was incurred. >> reporter: the abrasion on the
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outside of the lip and the cut inside indicated to spitz that an object, like a pillow, had been placed on cory's face shortly before she died. >> this is not an accident, this is not a natural death, this is not a suicide, this is a homicide. >> reporter: then came testimony the first jury never got to hear, and it was explosive. for this trial, the judge allowed erika gomez, wife number two, to testify. remember when we interviewed her, she wanted to protect her identity. but now on the witness stand, she could no longer be shielded by a disguise. >> he violently attacked me. >> reporter: prosecutors called the ex-wife to the stand to try to show that curtis had a history of violence. she recounted one incident she says happened at home during their marriage. >> he had started probably drinking at about 9:00 a.m. and we had been arguing about kids. he came rushing at me and tried to grab me. tried to hurt me.
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and grabbed my shirt, and he yanked it up really hard, hard enough to injure my knee. he ripped my shirt. and then he let me go, and he tried to grab me again and i kept on trying to fight him off. >> reporter: then erika told the jury another shocking story. she said curtis had been drinking at a party. and later that night, he blurted out something she found disturbing. >> he's rarely honest except for when he's been drinking. and he was upset about something, and i asked him what he was upset about and he stated something about she was writhing underneath me. and then he said, oh, the black cat. >> reporter: as strange as that story sounded, the prosecutor took it to mean this. curtis wasn't talking about a cat, but about cory's last minutes of life, as she struggled while curtis smothered her. >> erika had a story to tell. there's one particular quote that came out and he says, "i
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could hear her writhing beneath me." >> yes. that was evidence. she gave -- >> and it sounds as though he's talking about killing his wife at that moment. >> that's what we thought it sounded like, and she testified to that under oath on the stand that "i could feel her writhing beneath me." and that's pretty much what would have happened if suffocation was occurring. >> reporter: the prosecution believed its evidence against curtis was overwhelming. "not so fast," said the defense. that's because it had some things up its sleeve. a new piece of last-minute evidence. and what an interesting nugget they had found. coming up -- tough questions for erika. >> someone made that up. someone put those words in there. my signature should be there, anybody can redo this. >> and bombshell testimony. >> did you know when you decided to pursue this investigation that the arms had been moved? >> i did not.
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we told the judge we weren't going to talk. >> reporter: curtis lovelace was putting his hands in the life of his new attorney who took on the defense for me. he had more than 20 years of experience, just none in criminal law. >> was this your first murder trial? >> it was. i did a battery criminal defense case right out of law case. other than that, this is basically my first criminal defense case. >> reporter: curtis was taking a huge gamble. on the other hand, since he was broke, he didn't have a lot of options. >> cory died of massive liver disease. >> reporter: in his opening remarks, he said the state hadn't presented any evidence of murder for one reason, there was no murder. >> all of the evidence in this case will prove to you that she died as a result of an acute sudden onset condition brought on by her alcohol.
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>> one of the defense's key goals was to debunk the damaging testimony of curtis's ex, erika, he had violently attacked her and ripped her shirt. >> once we finished talking and i'd taken by notes. >> reporter: one of the first defense witnesses was major larry fuller with the illinois national guard. >> i asked her if she wanted to make a sworn statement, a formal >> erica filed a domestic violence charge with the guard since curtis at the time was still active. the major was appointed to look into the charges. he testified as to what erika told him. >> she started backing up while backing up she fell. he went down to pick her up. she said he accidentally struck her in the chin as he was reaching for her in the shoulder. >> you say the word accidentally. >> that was her words. >> she reported curtis accidentally hit her. the major the adage she didn't mention anything about curtis ripping her shirt. after conducting an investigation, he concluded her charges were unfounded. >> there was nothing there to actually lead to a domestic violence finding. >> armed with that information, the defense confronted her with
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her own statement, but she said the document used in court was a fake. >> someone made that up. someone put those words in there. my signature should be there. my signature is not there. this is typed. this isn't written. anybody can redo this. >> then the defense did something unusual. it asked erika about other accusations she made about curtis and she had a laundry list of complaints. >> he knows how to forge paper work. he used my social security number to try and steal money out of my account. he knows how to get rid of evidence. he stole my daughter's bicycle out of the garage. >> at one point, an overwhelmed erika asked for a time-out. >> can i get a break, please. >> but erika wasn't folding. she blurted out another allegation in court against her ex. >> he was poisoning me. there was -- my hair was falling out. there were white lines on my fingers. i was extremely sick. >> erika claimed curtis tried to poison her and her daughter.
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she told police he likely put something in their orange juice, but according to the defense, there was a problem with that charge. erika never sought medical care. >> isn't it true, ma'am, you never went to a doctor and said, i think i'm being poisoned. >> it wouldn't have mattered. >> when erika left the stand what do you think the jury made of her? >> i think they were shocked the state called her. when she was subjected to cross examination, she wasn't a credible person. >> there was one other theme he wanted to drill into this jury, and it concerned the lead detective. adam gibson he argued had gone path olsen -- pathologist shopping, that is, he consulted a series of pathologists before find him one to give him the answer he was looking for, that, yes, cory's death was, in fact a murder. >> if my opinion is not what he wants, he's going to be going looking for somebody else. >> this doctor was one of the pathologists gibson approached. her opinion, detective gibson wanted her to call this a homicide.
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when that was not her conclusion -- >> he had a theory and he was looking somehow to substantiate that theory. >> original pathologist, the original coroner said there was insufficient evidence to find the homicide. he got other pathologists said there's nothing unusual here, you're barking up the wrong tree. >> then came even more damaging accusations against gibson. the defense said it obtained at the last minute documents that was supposed to have received from the police but never did. potentially exculpatory evidence. >> you understood this e-mail, didn't you? >> it was not something that i thought of, no. >> one e-mail was from a medical expert. he warned detective gibson that if the first pathologist left the cause of death undetermined that opinion would trump anyone else's and that would give plenty of reasonable doubt to a jury. >> this e-mail should have been turned over. >> i believe so it should, yes. >> you didn't turn it over. >> i did not. >> the prosecution's case appeared to be teetering.
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then came another blow. william ballard was one of the first emt's on the scene. he wanted to place ekg stickers on cory's body to check for a heart beat so he moved her arms. >> her arms were down against her chest. i had to pull them up to check for a pulse, check for any rigger mortis and to also move her arms up to place the stickers where i'm supposed to place them. >> he moved cory's arms before the police photos were taken. that means her arms were not in the same position as seen in the photographs, the ones that started this entire second investigation. the defense seized on that fact. >> did you know when you decided to pursue this investigation that the arms had been moved? >> i did not. >> is this the first time you're hearing that today? >> the arms had been moved prior to the pictures, yes. >> because basically your
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investigation took off because you believed that the arms were in a position that was suspicious, right? >> yes. >> come up and be sworn. >> a final surprise. for the first time, the defendant, curtis lovelace took the stand. he insisted he wasn't a violent man. he never harmed his second wife erika and certainly did not kill cory. >> i did love cory. and i know the kids loved her. it's been difficult. >> the defense wrapped up its questioning with an emotional curtis telling jurors of the enormous toll the two trials had taken on him and his family. >> how long have you been dealing with this? >> it's been two and a half years. >> when ever you're ready. >> on cross-examination, the prosecution pointed out that a whole bunch of witnesses and facts in this trial would have
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be to wrong for curtis to be innocent. >> sounds to me like you're saying erika is lying, the detective gibson is lying, marty is lying and the science is lying. do you agree? >> it's up to them to decide who is lying. >> after seven days of testimony, curtis lovelace's trial had come to an end. the jury began deliberations. remember, the first panel was deadlocked 6-6. >> let me ask you this, have you reached an unanimous verdict? >> but this go around the jury was out about two hours before it came back with a decision. >> we the jury find the defendant curtis t. lovelace not guilty. >> 11 years after cory's death, two and a half years after curtis's arrest and two jury trials later not guilty. >> two-hour verdict, murder trial, what does that tell you? >> that tells me that they were
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absolutely convinced that curt was innocent. >> that's not how prosecutor ed parkenson sees it. >> so does the system work or does a guy get away with murder here? >> sometimes it works. i think my partner in the prosecution said you're looking at a guy who you think might have got away with murder. i feel bad because i think we're right. >> how do you feel right now. >> i don't know what his motivation is, i just know what he did and what we had discovered was that his investigation had turned over a lot of evidence as to my innocence, that he had made his mind up early, that i was guilty of a crime and he wasn't going to stop until he found someone to agree with him. >> how do you feel right now. >> the legal consequences for curtis are over the fallout from cory's death continues to paralyze the extended family. >> i don't know what to believe anymore.
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>> now a teacher, the daughter remains estranged from her father, but she hopes to salvage something despite all that's happened. a relationship with her brothers. >> i just pray everyday and hope that one day i'll get a call, a text, a message, an e-mail, something from one of them. >> cory's mom, marty. >> did you come to an opinion about what role, if any, he had in cory's death, curtis? >> those are tucked here. i have kept my mouth shut for a long time. i'm going to keep it that way. >> curtis says the state offered increasingly attractive plea deals before the start of the second trial. but he turned them all down. he has since filed an 11-count lawsuit against the police and the city of quincy. the suit alleges malicious prosecution and argues curtis's kids were falsely imprisoned
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during those police interviews. representatives for the police in quincy said they had no comment. the family has moved out of quincy and curtis has opened a new law office in champaign, illinois. >> couple requests that we go ahead -- >> both he and christine are starting exoneration-type organization. they said they wanted to help others wrongfully accused or convicted. >> christine, what happened you to in this organization? >> i don't know what happened to us, dennis. these kinds of things happen across our country everyday and now i think we have an obligation to share this story and to help other people. >> your goal was to leave that courthouse an innocent man? >> yes. i believe looking in the eyes of that jury, seeing, you know, tears from some of them how quickly that they came back that they were declaring to me and to the world that i'm innocent.
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>> curtis lovelace, a life interrupted. that's all for this edition of "dateline." paige, this is carol, i saw something on tv about you being gone since thursday night. i hope you're all right. oh, my god, oh, my god. >> paige, if you get this, please, please call somebody. everybody's worried about you. everybody's looking for you. please let us know you're okay. >> paige was a woman with a premonition. >> she said she knew something bad was going to happen. a couple days later, she was missing. >> we found out she had this second life.


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