Murder trial of UVA lacrosse player set to begin
George Huguely V accused of beating former girlfriend Yeardley Love to death
George Huguely V has been convicted of second-degree murder and grand larceny in the death of his former girlfriend Yeardley Love. (August 30, 2012)
Jury selection in the case against George W. Huguely V, now 24, is set to begin Monday in Charlottesville Circuit Court, with opening statements likely Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday.
The death of the promising young college student and arrest of her popular one-time boyfriend after a night of drinking in May 2010 shocked the nation — and has led to sweeping expansions in Virginia's protective order laws and the university's safety policies. School officials fear that the trial will further traumatize students and faculty.
"We're very concerned for our community," said Allen Groves, UVa's dean of students. It "brings up something that was unthinkable that happened here, and it is still a deep wound."
The case revealed issues of alcohol abuse and alleged domestic violence within the prestigious ranks of a respected university and a seemingly privileged upper class. It's the subject of a paperback published in August, entitled "All American Murder," and the two-week trial is expected to draw nearly 200 journalists to Charlottesville, a quaint college town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Monday will be the first time Huguely, who was raised in Chevy Chase, has appeared in court on the charges, which include first-degree murder, burglary and grand larceny. He waived his right to appear at earlier hearings, instead remaining at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.
He's been there ever since his arrest the morning of May 3, 2010 — just hours after Love's body was discovered and weeks before the couple, who had been dating on-and-off for about two years, were set to graduate.
Huguely's lawyers are expected to argue that Love's death was a tragic accident, the result of a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol, and not homicide by "blunt force trauma" as determined by the Virginia medical examiner's office. Love's right eye was blackened and swollen shut when a roommate found her. And Huguely, who stood 6-foot-2 and topped 200 pounds, admitted getting into a physical "altercation" with Love, according to police accounts, but said he didn't kill her.
Both Huguely and Love attended private schools — she in the Towson area at Notre Dame Preparatory School, and he in Bethesda at Landon School — and both were comfortable in the elite world of competitive lacrosse.
But their fortunate circumstances obscured a more complicated reality. Love's father had had a long battle with cancer and died when she and her older sister were teenagers, leaving her mother to raise the girls. And Huguely's family was living beyond its means for years, according to records from his parents' contentious divorce.
The case also put a spotlight on alcohol problems within Huguely's family. In 2007, Huguely was charged with being a minor in possession of alcohol in Florida, according to online court records, and he was arrested in 2008 in Lexington, Va., for public intoxication. In that instance, police Tasered him after he drunkenly stumbled into traffic and told a female officer "I'll kill all you bitches," authorities said.
His father, George Huguely IV, was charged with drunk driving in Montgomery County in September, and is himself set for trial in April.
For UVa fourth years, as the seniors are called, early May is usually a time of celebration. Graduation is imminent, and the stress of finals is tempered by the promise of the future. Huguely and Love had full social calendars that spring weekend. They were both well-liked athletes.
Love had grown up a kind-hearted, fun-loving young woman to whom others turned for encouragement. At Notre Dame, where she attended sixth through 12th grades, lacrosse coach Mary Bartel said she brought laughter to the team and represented its "core personality." The sentiment was echoed later by UVa women's coach, Julie Myers, who said in a statement that Love "made everyone feel better."
She and her sister, Alexis, learned early on to put others first, caring for their ailing father, family members have said.
As a teen, Huguely was a lacrosse All American at Landon, where he was also a football quarterback with plenty of friends. His parents split when he was nine, and they shared custody of Huguely and a younger sister, according to divorce records filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
Huguely's father is a real estate developer from a prominent family that made its fortune in lumber. But he struggled with finances through the years. He settled a foreclosure case against his Potomac home in December, according to online court records.
And his divorce attorney acknowledged in a 1998 court filing that Huguely IV lived "an unrealistic lifestyle that included a $600,000 home in Chevy Chase (with over $600,000 of debt), a boat, luxury automobiles (BMW and Range Rover), and the most costly of private Catholic schools for their two children (Mater Dei and Stone Ridge)."