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Court hears details of U.Va. lacrosse player Love's death

Justice SystemHomicideColleges and UniversitiesUniversity of Virginia

A procession of former University of Virginia lacrosse players and students, police officers and medical experts on Monday gave the most detailed account to date of the May 3 incident that left Yeardley Love dead at her off-campus apartment.

According to testimony at a preliminary hearing, George Huguely, who is accused of murder, was badly intoxicated in the hours leading up to the death of his ex-girlfriend, a 22-year-old from Cockeysville. Much of the drinking had been done at a nearby resort, where members of the lacrosse team and their fathers competed in a golf tournament, teammate Kevin Carroll said.

Prosecutor Dave Chapman presented his case in precise and often agonizingly graphic detail in a hearing that lasted more than eight hours in the city's Circuit Court. After hearing testimony from more than 20 witnesses, Judge Robert Downer ruled that there was enough evidence to send the case to the grand jury, which is scheduled to meet here Monday.

None of the witnesses showed much emotion, but dry forensic evidence sometimes gave way to colorful excerpts from conversations.

An hour after police began interrogating Huguely, a detective told him that Love was dead. "She's dead, George, you killed her," the detective said, according to Huguely's attorney, Fran Lawrence.

Lawrence said his client, who had waived his right to avoid police questioning, was surprised.

"She's dead?" Huguely said. "She's not dead, she's not dead."

Huguely, now 23, was not present at the hearing, having waived his rights to appear. He is being held on first-degree homicide and felony murder charges, as well as other counts related to the incident, which came less than two weeks before Huguely and Love were scheduled to graduate.

Huguely has not entered a formal plea, but his attorney has called Love's death "an accident." After the hearing, defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana said, "From the beginning we said this case was a tragedy but not an intentional criminal act."

In the crowded courtroom, Huguely's relatives and friends sat across the aisle from Love's family and friends. At one point, as Caitey Whiteley, in almost a monotone, described seeing the door to Love's bedroom with a hole in it and her longtime friend laying face down on her bed, Love's mother, Sharon, walked out of the courtroom and did not return for a while.

Whiteley was a college teammate and roommate who had known Love since they played club lacrosse together in Baltimore. Whiteley, along with a male friend, discovered Love's body in the off-campus apartment they shared.

Whiteley, the first to testify, spoke of the "on and off" relationship Love and Huguely had since they arrived in Charlottesville as freshman. She said Love became angry earlier that week after learning that Huguely had been seeing other women.

"She was obviously confused, how other people knew about it but she didn't," Whiteley said.

That revelation led to a confrontation between Love and Huguely at Huguely's apartment six days before she died.

Elizabeth McLean, a sorority sister of Love's, said she heard the two arguing while she was in the bedroom with her boyfriend, Carroll. The argument stemmed from the presence of two high school girls who, McLean learned, were at the apartment.

"It was pretty loud," McLean recalled. "She asked [Huguely] who the girls were."

McLean said she also heard a noise, as if something had been thrown. It turned out that Love had thrown her purse at Huguely, scattering its contents.

McLean said that she later escorted Love back to her apartment, located just yards from where Huguely lived. "I thought it would be better if they were separated," McLean said.

A few days later, McLean testified, Love called her to ask her to retrieve a camera and cell phone that had fallen out of the purse.

Carroll recalled that Huguely was in their apartment around 10:30 on the night of May 3, but later left. When Huguely told him that he had been in the same apartment complex drinking with two other teammates, Carroll called one of them to check. It turned out, he said, that Chris Clements was pulling an all-nighter for a project and had locked his apartment door when he hear Huguely coming down the stairs.

Neither Clements nor Carroll knew where Huguely had gone, but a man fitting his description was later seen leaving the building where Love lived.

One of Love's downstairs neighbors, Anna Leahman, said that she had heard arguments emanating from the upstairs apartment before. On the night Love died, Leahman said she only heard a loud noise that was "out of the ordinary." But the pre-med student went back to her studying and didn't think much of it until she heard about the death the next morning.

By that point, Huguely was under arrest and in police custody. He is being held without bail.

At Monday's hearing, Lawrence got one of the investigators to acknowledge that no marks or blood spatterings were found on the walls. The testimony contradicts what police had asserted in one of the original affadavits: that Huguely had banged Love's head against the wall repeatedly.

In December, a judge rejected a request by Huguely's attorneys to see Love's medical records, saying they were not relevant to the case. Defense attorneys had sought the records in an attempt to prove Love died of cardiac arrhythmia causing insufficient blood flow to the head rather than blunt force trauma inflicted by Huguely.

But one of the last witnesses, Virginia chief medical examiner William Gormley, said that the cause of death was "blunt force trauma" and that injuries to Love's brain stem contributed to her death.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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