Curtis Lovelace Arrested in Connection with His Wife's 2006 Murder

Curtis Lovelace Arrested in Connection with His Wife's 2006 Murder
Curtis Lovelace
Steve Bohnstedt/The Quincy Herald-Whig/AP

10/15/2014 AT 03:15 PM EDT

In the small, tight-knit community of Quincy, Illinois, Curtis Lovelace was legend. A former longtime prosecutor and school board president, Lovelace was a University of Illinois football star and a local high school sports legend who married his teen sweetheart.

Now authorities claim the 45-year-old father of four is a murderer, who suffocated his first wife on Valentine's Day in 2006. Lovelace was arrested in August while walking to lunch from his law office after a local police detective re-opened the case into Cory Lovelace's mysterious death, which a local pathologist and coroner's jury were never able to resolve. He appeared in court for the first time this week.

The former pillar of the community now sits in a cell on $5 million bond while locals in this town of 40,000 – where Abraham Lincoln debated Stephen Douglas in their famous 1858 U.S. Senate race – try to make sense of the recent news.

"At the time it happened, we just considered it a tragedy," local barber Mike Caldwell, 64, told the Associated Press. "I knew there was speculation, questions. But he never seemed to be at the center of it."

The first-degree murder charges were filed after Quincy police enlisted the help of two new pathologists who reviewed the 2006 autopsy report, along with photographs of Cory's body at the crime scene.

Lovelace told police at the time that he discovered his wife, who had been ill for several days, dead in bed after he returned home from taking three of the couple's children to school. He later admitted that he never telephoned emergency personnel or attempted to resuscitate her because he didn't believe CPR would do any good, according to transcripts from the 2006 coroner's inquest.

At the time, the former county pathologist – whose controversial work has reportedly been discredited in several other investigations – found "unexplained trauma to the mouth [of Lovelace] and a sign of death inconsistent with [the] time frame given" to police by her husband. An autopsy also revealed that the 38-year-old mother had a cut under her lip and a fatty liver, which the local coroner testified could be "associated with sudden demise."

Ed Parkinson, the special prosecutor with the Illinois State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor assigned to the case, insists that the evidence at the crime scene should have tipped off the original investigators that Cory had been murdered. "The condition of the body should have told [initial investigators] that something was amiss," Parkinson told the AP.

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