Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Ayana Evans
Testimony began today in the murder trial of Chad Cutler. Cutler is accused of murdering his wife Lisa, by drowning her three years ago in their Mt. Zion home.
Cutler testified that Lisa got home at 3:15pm on the day of her death and they talked about their day. After that, they read books to their kids before they slept. Lisa was complaining of an aching back, so she went to take a bath.
Cutler then testified that he was reading a book in bed around 1:00 a.m. when he went to use the restroom and found Lisa Cutler dead in the bathtub with a bible floating in the water. He says he tried CPR for about 3 minutes, then called the ambulance telling them “ My wife is dying”, The paramedics describe Cutler’s voice as calm.
A 911 call was played in court, where Cutler asked the ambulance to come quietly because he had two children and didn’t want them to see their mother dead. The paramedics noticed his clothes were not wet and his bed was perfectly made and didn’t show signs of being used recently.
“ There is no book on how to react when your wife is dead in the bathtub”, Cutler says.
A funeral home employee later testified that Cutler came to arrange for his wife’s funeral, and brought her unwashed clothes, which she found very inappropriate. As he left the funeral home the employee locked the door behind her due to her odd feeling. Minutes after that, she gets a call from Cutler telling her she’s she is beautiful and her husband is very lucky.
Investigators at the scene say they found three fingernail scratches on Cutler’s back and then found DNA of Cutler’s cheek swatch in Lisa’s fingernails.
A Walmart employees testified April Cutler came to Wal-Mart on April 23rd 2012 and told an employee she wanted a track phone that couldn’t be tracked. . Two hours before her death she had her track phone, now it is no longer can be found.
Investigators testified that Cutler told another woman to leave her husband and be with him. They also say he told the woman they can live off Lisa’s life insurance which when questioned by the police, Cutler did not know about. Cutler allegedly created a Yahoo account in Lisa’s name contacting insurance companies without Lisa’s knowledge.
Lisa and Cutler both had $500,00 accidental death insurance but Lisa had a$200,000 Omaha policy of accidental death. Cutler obtained a total of $700,000 of life insurance after 5 days of Lisa’s death. After one week of Lisa’s death Cutler had $1,550,000. On the other hand, Defendant Chad Cutler states he told the paramedics “ My wife is having a near death experience not “ My wife is dying”. Cutler also claims that when questioned by the police he does state that she has life insurance. Cutler defends Lisa had suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
“She always felt doom and gloom as if there was doom coming”, Cutler says.
Cutler told the court that the medication Lisa was on for her anxiety and depression ( that can cause seizures is you overdose) caused her to have a seizure and this is how he believes she died. . In fact, their doctor, Posley said one of the medications she was on called Klonopin (Which is used to treat seizure disorders or panic disorders.) may have caused the seizure.
But homicidal drowning investigator, Andrea Zaferes says the evidence is not consistent with someone having a seizure or a fall in the bathtub.
“ In certain accident or seizure cases in a bathtub, there is usually a bruise in one place, it is unusual to see an abrasion in bathtub faults. In all 50 cases of pulling people out of bathtubs I have ever had an abrasion until now”, Zaferes says.
Cutler has been held in the Macon County Jail on $5 million dollar bond since his arrest on August 8, 2013. He is charged with three counts of first-degree murder. If convicted, he could face up to 60 years in prison.