CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. ——Jurors heard the words of George Huguely V for the first time during his murder trial Friday morning, when prosecutors played a harrowing video of his police interrogation, recorded hours after his former University of Virginia girlfriend, Yeardley Love, was found dead in her off-campus apartment.
The recording was taped the morning of May 3, 2010, just weeks before Huguely and Love were to graduate. Huguely, a popular lacrosse player from Chevy Chase, says he believes he's been brought in for assaulting Love the night before. He says he went to the police station willingly.
He admits restraining her, though he repeatedly claims he never hit her. "I might have grabbed her a little bit by the neck, but I never, like, strangled her," he says at one point.
The tape continues this way for an hour, with Huguely describing how he manhandled Love to settle her down. He was in her apartment for less than 10 minutes, he says, and speaks as if he believed she were fine.
He breaks down late in the recording — as he did Friday in the courtroom, his first display of emotion after a week in court — when detectives tell him she is dead.
Huguely is accused of fatally beating Love, a Cockeysville native. He's charged with murder and grand larceny, among other crimes; he's accused of stealing Love's laptop computer as he left her apartment, to hide a threatening email he had sent her days before.
His attorneys contend that Huguely had no intention of harming Love and blame her death on a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol, in conjunction with the altercation. In an opening statement, they urged jurors to consider a lesser verdict of involuntary manslaughter.
The recording suggests Huguely didn't think his actions were wrong.
Police showed up at his door about 7 a.m. that Monday morning, after one of Love's roommates told them about Huguely's email trail. "The words 'I should have killed you' [were] in the email," Detective Lisa Reeves testified.
She asked Huguely to come to the police station with her, and he complied. They got into her unmarked police car, with Huguely in the front passenger seat, and headed out on the two-mile drive.
Reeves testified that she initially considered him "a person of interest" in the crime, but her impression changed as she walked him toward the interview room at the station.
There were bruises on his knuckles, as if he had punched something, and fresh cuts on his arms. He would later tell her the injuries were lacrosse-related, but by then Reeves had developed a "reasonable suspicion that he may have committed this crime," she said, and considered him "no longer free to leave."
The rest of the interview at the station was videotaped and shown to the jury Friday. Most of those watching the proceedings could not see the recording — the television faces away from the gallery — but the audio was relatively clear.
"I don't have any arrest warrants for you, but I am investigating a case," Reeves tells Huguely. "And you are being detained." She reads him his Miranda rights, and he agrees to talk. It's 7:53 a.m.
Reeves begins by chatting with Huguely about lacrosse and asking him which U.Va. class he is in. She then asks Huguely to tell her about the previous day — Sunday, May 2.
He played golf at a father/son tournament, then went to the bars for a while, he says, and had some beers at home. Then went out to dinner, where he had wine, and then the bars again, and then home.
"Then I went over to Yeardley's," he says. "Yeardley is my former girlfriend."
He adds that he knows that's why he's at the station. He recounts the scene at her apartment.
"When I went over to talk to Yeardley, she was already like totally freaked out," Huguely says. "'You can't come in here! You can't come in here!'" she said to him. "I'm just trying to talk to you," Huguely says he told her, but she "started being like, really like defensive."
She was standing with her back against the wall and "started like getting all, like, aggressive," he says. "I said 'Yeardley, chill out,' and shook her a little bit. … She started freaking out. I said, 'I'm not going to do anything, I just wanted to talk to you about everything that's ensued the past week.' She was like, 'No, no,'" he says.
"It was not at all a good conversation, because she was already, like, freaking out just even seeing me, even seeing me there," he says.
"She kept hitting her head against the wall," so he "grabbed her and shook her" to make her stop. "I never struck her," he says. "She's like, 'Ahhhhhhhh! Get away from me!'"
They were on her bed at that point, and Love ran over to her desk, he says, telling him, "You have to leave," again and again.
"I was, like, a little bit persistent because of the situation," Huguely says. "I was holding her, but I never struck her or anything." He adds: "I think that's when her nose started to bleed actually."
Reeves asks him about their relationship and an altercation he had with Love a week earlier.
"We broke up because she wasn't really sure," he begins, trailing off. Love had plans to go to New York after graduation that spring, and he was thinking about San Francisco.
"So we sort of, like, broke up … but we're still hanging out and everything," he says. Then Love took a trip to the University of North Carolina with her roommates, where a young man she was occasionally involved with lived.
"She sends me a text message" saying she slept with man, Huguely says. Then she burst into his apartment when she got back, he says, loudly accusing him of infidelity and swinging her purse at him.
"She just starts hitting me in the face," Huguely says, adding that he never touched her. "I'm like, 'Listen, you have to like stop hitting me.'" His roommate's girlfriend eventually dragged Love out, he says.
He went to Love's on May 2 to talk it all out, he says.
Reeves asks him how he got through Love's bedroom door. He pauses for a moment.
"Actually," he says, "it might have been locked. It was, actually, it was locked. I think I [broke in]," he says. "Because I wanted to talk to her."
Prosecutors entered the door into evidence Friday, revealing a hole about 6 inches in diameter next to the knob, where Huguely had kicked it. "Then I just stuck my hand through and unlocked it," he says on the tape, adding that he knocked first.
He had sent Love a half-dozen emails saying he wanted to talk, but she was ignoring them.
When he entered her room, Love was wearing a T-shirt and underpants, he says, though roommates have testified that she was naked from the waist up when they left her in bed for the night, and when they found her later.
Her bedroom lights were off. "She was, like, either asleep or doing something," Huguely says.
"So I went in there to talk to her, and she was very, like, on edge," he says. "'I don't want to talk,'" he says she told him. But eventually they did, "about so many things," he says, including "what she did last week, how she attacked me."
Love had backed herself into a bedroom corner, Huguely says. "I'm pretty sure that she was very defensive because she knew how upset I was about what she did."
He says he was "more like emotional" than angry. But she kept minimizing "everything that she had done," he says, "like it wasn't important."
He told her she had to "figure out what's going on," he says, and she yelled out, "'Go!'" But he refused. "I was like, 'No, we have to talk,'" he says.
Huguely, who is over 6 feet tall and weighed 200 pounds at the time, says he held her by her arms and shoulders, and wrestled with her. Then "we stood up, and I tossed her, I, like, pushed her on the bed," he says.
Reeves asks if he choked her, and he says he may have grabbed her by the neck but never "strangled her."
There's a pause in the video, while Reeves leaves the room for a moment. When she returns, she asks Huguely if he took Love's laptop. He says no, at first, then is silent. "Uhhhhhhh, yeah, I did actually," he admits, "because I was so [angry] that she wouldn't talk to me. I took it almost as collateral, I guess."
He tells Reeves later that he tossed the laptop in an out-of-the-way trash bin after he left Love's. "I don't know why I took the computer. That was irrational," he says.
Reeves asks him how much he had to drink that Sunday, and he starts ticking off a list. Five beers on the golf course. Beer at the bars later. Two glasses of wine with dinner, then more beer out and at home. He loses count.
"I should not have gone over there when I was drinking," he says.
Huguely sounds worked up and defensive in the recording, but he was calm in court as he listened to it Friday — until the end. That's when he broke down — on the tape and in person.
"George, I have to tell you something," Reeves says to Huguely in the recording. "She's dead. You killed her."
Huguely: "She's dead?"
Reeves: "I think you know."
Huguely: "No, I didn't."
Reeves: "She's dead."
Huguely: "How the [expletive] is she dead?"
Reeves: "Because you killed her, George."
"She's dead? She's dead? She's dead? How? How?" Huguely demands, his voice growing louder and more urgent. "I didn't even [expletive] hit her. I don't believe it."
He asks to see her and says he never hurt her. "I never did anything that she could be dead," he says.
On the video, Huguely repeats again and again that she can't be dead, growing more frantic until his voice seems to break into sobs. Huguely broke down in court then as well. He quietly wiped his eyes and blew his nose, as Love's relatives stared at him from across the room.
"I never did anything that could do that to her," he continues on the tape. "I refuse to believe that she's dead. Tell me she's not dead."
Said Reeves: "I wish I could tell you that, George. [She was] 22."
The trial, expected to continue through Feb. 17, will resume Monday.