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01-28-07, 10:35 AM #1
Girl's rape claim drove stepdad to kill: prosecutors
Teen said he raped her -- then she was killed
January 28, 2007
BY DAN ROZEK Staff Reporter
When 16-year-old Erin Justice reported that her new stepfather had raped her, Valerie Justice said she believed her daughter.
But once authorities opted to wait for forensic lab tests before deciding whether to file criminal charges, the Aurora woman found herself torn between her only child and her new husband, Laurence Lovejoy.
While Valerie Justice insisted she didn't doubt her daughter's claim, she acknowledged she wanted to give her husband of four months -- who vowed he had done nothing wrong -- a chance to prove his innocence.
"I was waiting on the results of the DNA testing," Valerie Justice testified. "I believed her, but I just needed the proof."
That proof, DuPage County prosecutors contend, didn't arrive soon enough to save Erin, a friendly, outgoing sophomore track star at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora.
Barely three weeks after reporting Lovejoy had raped her, Erin was found slain in her bathtub. She had been beaten, stabbed, poisoned with medications and then drowned, authorities said. Her hands and arms were slashed with wounds that showed she fought back, prosecutors said.
Girl 'didn't have a chance'
Lovejoy, now 40, was charged a few months later with Erin's March 27, 2004, slaying.
His emotionally charged murder trial opened last week in DuPage County, with prosecutors contending Lovejoy methodically planned and carried out the brutal killing to prevent Erin from pursuing the rape allegation.
"Erin Justice didn't have a chance," said DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett. "The defendant came into that home ready to kill."
Forensic testing begun March 3, 2004, after Erin accused her stepfather of sexually assaulting her, showed traces of Lovejoy's saliva on her cheek and breast, backing up her claims, Birkett told jurors as Lovejoy's trial opened.
Lovejoy killed Erin because he knew the forensic tests -- which weren't completed until after Erin's death -- would confirm he had raped his stepdaughter, Birkett contended.
"He killed a witness, Erin Justice, because he didn't want to spend time in prison," said Birkett, who is expected to seek a death sentence if Lovejoy is convicted of the teen's slaying.
The murder case against Lovejoy rests largely on forensic evidence.
He was charged after tests showed a footprint in Erin's blood was Lovejoy's, prosecutors said. His palm print also was found on a roll of garbage bags that authorities say Lovejoy used to partially clean up the home after the killing.
And his DNA also was found on a piece of plastic that Birkett contended came from the handle of a knife used in the killing -- although the knife itself was never found.
Focus on mom's reaction
But defense attorneys deny that Lovejoy killed Erin, with DuPage County Public Defender Robert Miller noting there are no witnesses and little direct evidence linking Lovejoy to the teen's slaying.
"The evidence doesn't incriminate Laurence Lovejoy," said Miller.
Lovejoy's attorneys initially have focused on Valerie Justice's reaction to Erin's allegations that she had been attacked by Lovejoy while the two were home alone. They also questioned Erin's rocky relationship with Lovejoy before the alleged rape.
Erin wasn't happy her mother had married Lovejoy in November 2003, Valerie Justice said, recalling her daughter asked her to wait two more years before marrying.
After Erin reported being raped by Lovejoy, Justice told police that when Erin was 8 years old, she had concocted a story about being attacked on the street by a stranger.
After the rape allegation, Valerie Justice testified that while she immediately cut off all contact between Erin and Lovejoy, she continued to talk to Lovejoy and allowed him to visit the Aurora town house they had purchased together.
"I kind of felt sorry for him -- he worked nights, and he didn't have anywhere to go," she said.
But there were conditions, Justice said -- she barred him from visiting the house while Erin was present and took away his key. He used her key, then returned it to her before he left the home, Justice said.
'I screwed up'
Questioned by Miller, she acknowledged at one point having difficulty believing that her husband would have sexually assaulted her daughter.
"It's hard to believe a man I had married could do that," Justice testified, her voice shaking. "Admittedly, I screwed up."
Still, she said she repeatedly told her daughter that if the DNA tests indicated Lovejoy had assaulted her, she would divorce Lovejoy and make sure he went to jail. Justice divorced Lovejoy after his arrest.
The jury likely won't begin deliberating Lovejoy's fate until mid-February.
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01-28-07, 12:05 PM #2
She shouldn't have been dating and getting married in the first place. She put her own selfish desires above her child's welfare."I'm not a coward,
I've just never been tested
I'd like to think that if I was,
I would pass"
~Mighty Mighty Bosstones~
01-28-07, 12:29 PM #3
I will never understand why mothers choose not to listen to their children. I have no sympathy.
01-28-07, 01:33 PM #4
My god. I tell with this every day at work and to hear parentsa that would rather believe their child just hurts. Once those allegations were amde, he should not have even still been in the house!!!
01-28-07, 03:14 PM #5After the rape allegation, Valerie Justice testified that while she immediately cut off all contact between Erin and Lovejoy, she continued to talk to Lovejoy and allowed him to visit the Aurora town house they had purchased together.
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