CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. ——George Huguely V was getting drunk four nights a week in his final month of college, and his lacrosse teammates at the University of Virginia were considering some kind of intervention at the close of the 2010 season, a friend testified Thursday in Charlottesville Circuit Court.
But the intervention never happened. Huguely was arrested on murder charges May 3 that year, more than three weeks before the Cavaliers would play their final game in the NCAA semifinals.
At least three young people testified over the past two days in his murder trial that they were aware of the first physical incident with Love, yet never said a word about it to Huguely, seeming to find the topic uncomfortably personal.
They described a college world where relationships are loosely defined and alcohol ever-present. One witness to take the stand Thursday admitted to being a casual "hook-up" of Love's, while another — one of Love's sorority sisters — said she was something similar to Huguely.
Each would also be a source of jealousy, leading the tempestuous couple to lash out at one other, until Huguely took it too far, according to prosecutors.
Michael Burns, who played lacrosse for the University of North Carolina when Love and Huguely were at U.Va., said he met Love at the 2008 Preakness in Baltimore. They fooled around that night, he said, but maintained a relaxed — and platonic — friendship for the next two years, until 2010.
He and some lacrosse buddies were visiting the Virginia campus on Feb. 27 of that year. They were hanging out alternately in Huguely's apartment and at a neighbor's place across the hall, celebrating a Cavaliers win, when Burns said he heard a woman's voice yelling "Help me, help me!"
It was coming from Huguely's bedroom. Burns opened the door, and "saw George with his arm around Yeardley's neck," he said. They were both on the bed, and it appeared Huguely had pulled Love down, onto him, caught in a chokehold. She grasped at his arm, trying to "pull him off," Burns said.
When Huguely noticed the audience, Burns said, he "let go of her and rolled off to face his wall. She got up and ran out of the room."
Love was "extremely upset," a friend, Elizabeth McLean, testified. "She was crying heavily and was holding her chest … her neck."
Burns said he hooked up with Love that night, after two years apart, staying with her in her apartment. She would later tell him that "everything is OK" with Huguely, he "was just acting crazy."
Burns last saw her in April, shortly before things between Love and Huguely exploded.
Love learned that Huguely was talking to a former fling, a sorority sister named Stephanie Aladj, who testified Thursday that Huguely would tell her he was unattached when he wasn't. The rekindled romance infuriated Love, who burst into Huguely's apartment one Tuesday night in late April, drunk and demanding answers, according to testimony.
She threw her purse at Huguely, one witness said, and he called her "a crazy bitch," according to another. Within the week, Huguely would send Love a threatening message, saying he should have "killed her" when he found out about Burns.
"I love how you don't think you did anything wrong," he wrote, according to testimony.
Love was dead within days, her body discovered by a roommate and friend, who called 911, reporting what they thought must be an alcohol overdose. But when Charlottesville police officer K.W. Blackwell arrived at 2:24 a.m. on May 3 and got a closer look at Love, he knew that assumption was wrong.
"Her right eye was swollen shut and bruised. … Her nose and mouth both had dried blood, she appeared to have some kind of abrasion underneath her chin," Blackwell testified Thursday. "I realized it was nowhere near the report I was given; it was something totally different."
Prosecutors say Love was beaten about two hours before she was found, and likely died minutes before help arrived. A hole had been punched through her bedroom door.