Nearly two years after Cockeysville native Yeardley Love was found dead, bruised and lying in a pool of blood in an off-campus apartment near the University of Virginia, her former boyfriend and fellow lacrosse player is scheduled to stand trial for her murder.
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)."
To most outsiders, however, all appeared fine in the Huguelys' world. Few knew about the older man's money troubles or the younger man's alcohol arrests. In hindsight, some wonder if they could have spotted a pattern had they known.
"When it came to light after Yeardley's death that George Huguely [V] had that arrest in Lexington ... we spent some time thinking hard that summer," said Groves, the dean of students. "A number of people, not just students ... did a lot of personal reflection: 'Did I miss something? Did I fail to see something?'"
A week before Love's death, she confronted Huguely at his apartment over rumors he was seeing other women, according to court testimony; she threw her purse at Huguely and left. It's unclear whether they had any interaction between that night and May 2, 2010.
Huguely spent that Saturday on a father-son golf outing with his dad and other lacrosse players, and was "heavily intoxicated" by the time it ended, witnesses said. He continued to drink into the night with his buddies, before confronting Love around 11 p.m.
Love had gone out drinking with her roommate, Caitlin Whitely, who testified that Love returned to their apartment early in the night. She changed for bed and settled in, while Whitely stayed out.
Huguely was in his own apartment until 11 p.m. or so, according to the testimony of his roommate, Kevin Carroll, who went on a beer run at that time. When Carroll returned, Huguely was gone. He didn't come home until after midnight, claiming he had been visiting a neighbor, who later denied Huguely was there.
Hours later, Huguely would tell police where he really was.
'Pool of blood'
Whitely got home about 2 a.m. Sunday, May 3, 2010, she said in court testimony. She noticed a fresh hole in Love's bedroom door, then saw Love lying facedown on her bed. She called police.
A report from the scene is chilling.
"There was a pool of blood on her pillow. Love had a large bruise on the right side of her face which appears to have been caused by blunt force trauma. Love's right eye was swollen shut and there were bruises and scrapes to her chin. The door to Love's bedroom had been forced open and had a hole in it that appeared to have been made by a fist," states an affidavit signed by Charlottesville Detective Lisa T. Reeves.
Her investigation led her to Huguely, who initially waived his right to a lawyer and agreed to talk at the Charlottesville Police Department.
He said he was "involved in an altercation" with Love and "shook" her so that her "head repeatedly hit the wall," a police report states. He admitted kicking in Love's door and seeing blood drip from her nose. He also said he and Love had exchanged emails and that he stole her computer on his way out of her apartment that night after pushing Love onto her bed, according to police records.
The laptop was later recovered from a dumpster.
Huguely was charged with murder and held in jail. He appeared in court a day later via videoconferencing for a bail review hearing, which was ultimately postponed. He has not participated in any hearings since.
A grand jury indicted him on six counts in April: first-degree murder, robbery, burglary, breaking and entering, grand larceny, and murder in the commission of a robbery — a felony. He faces life in prison if convicted of the murder charges.
His attorneys have characterized Love's death as "an accident with a tragic outcome" and suggested that alcohol mixed with Adderall, a drug commonly prescribed for attention deficit disorder and for which Love had a prescription, may have been contributing factors.
Neither the prosecution nor defense attorneys could be reached for this story.
"Nobody is really talking about the case on either side," said David L. Heilberg, the immediate past president of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. That leaves room for a lot of speculation, he said — a risky game. "There's a lot that we don't know ... everybody prejudging guilt in some way may have it all wrong."
The attention on this trial is unprecedented for the region. Reporters from Dateline, 20/20 and 48 Hours have registered to attend, along with dozens of others. The city has spent months planning for the event, developing strategies for both safety and media.
"We are doing our best to make sure that the court system is not overwhelmed," Charlottesville city government spokesman Ric Barrick said in an email. "We have few murders here but plenty of positive reasons for attention to be brought to our town. It is sad for us to be hosts under these circumstances."
UVa officials and others wrestle with the notoriety, trying to balance Love's devastating death and Huguely's shocking arrest with the good that has been done since.
Love's family, who did not respond to interview requests, created the One Love Foundation in her honor, raising $1 million for a scholarship and new turf field at Notre Dame.
Virginia lawmakers have extended protective order rights to those in abusive dating and work relationships, in addition to family members and stalking victims.
And the university has strengthened its crime reporting requirements, to help ensure arrests don't go unnoticed. It also implemented several training programs to encourage bystanders to intervene if they suspect someone's hurting themselves or others, and administrators have reached out to students and staff in preparation for the trial, to let them know help is available if needed, regardless of the outcome.
"I am cautiously optimistic [about the future] in the sense that I think many of these changes will be long lasting," Dean Groves said. "The challenge for us will be probably three or four years out from Yeardley's death, can you sustain that sense of care and concern. ... That's the challenge that I hope we are up to."
Summer 2007: Florida police arrest George Huguely V for possessing alcohol as a minor.
November 2008: Lexington, Va. police Taser Huguely, who unleashes a profane tirade on officers. He's arrested for public intoxication.
May 2, 2010: Huguely and lacrosse teammates spend Sunday on a golf course with their fathers, drinking and playing.
May 3, 2010: Love's bruised body is discovered about 2 a.m. Huguely admits getting into an altercation and is charged with murder.
September 2010: Love's family establishes the nonprofit One Love Foundation to raise funds in her memory.
April 18, 2011: A grand jury indicts Huguely on six charges, including first-degree murder.
Feb. 6, 2011: Huguely's trial is set to begin with jury selection.
Source: Court records and Baltimore Sun researchCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun