CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. — — George Huguely V sits in the corner of a narrow, white room, at the end of a long wooden table, looking every bit the college athlete who just rolled out of bed after a normal night out — but for the bloody scratches ringing his right ankle.
Hours earlier, he had used that leg to drunkenly kick in his girlfriend's bedroom door, he tells Charlottesville detectives, during a 64-minute recorded interrogation into the fatal beating of Cockeysville native Yeardley Love.
The public got its first look at the video Tuesday, two years after it was made, on the morning of May 3, 2010, and nearly three months after Huguely was convicted of second-degree murder in Love's death at her University of Virginia off-campus apartment. Since then, Huguely, now 24, has been sued by Love's mother and held in jail, awaiting his sentencing Aug. 30.
The recording was shown to a small group of people — mostly, if not all, members of the news media — in a quiet, darkened courtroom. It was accompanied by an hourlong slide show of electronic exchanges between the couple and others, forensic reports, and roughly 200 photos from the crime scene.
The images showed a mix of Love's personal items — including snapshots of her smiling broadly next to big sister Lexie — with police pictures of blood spilled throughout her room, making for a macabre memorial.
News outlets complained during Huguely's trial in February that much of the evidence was shown only to jurors and lobbied for public access, which was granted on a limited basis Tuesday. Photos were shown for five seconds, diagrams for 10, and a single minute was allotted for document pages, whether they held hundreds of words or just a couple of dozen. "Sensitive" materials, such as autopsy photos, were withheld.
Unlike the trial, where TV cameras lined the streets and reporters fought for seats in a packed courtroom, Tuesday's turnout was relatively sparse. While Huguely's case and Love's death received national coverage, raising awareness about domestic violence and alcohol abuse in college, the incident is, for some, yesterday's news.
About two dozen people came Tuesday to quietly view the evidence, which was shown on a television screen. It was the first time onlookers could see, rather than just hear, Huguely's interaction with police, which was played during his trial.
Wearing flips flops, shorts and a concert T-shirt, he
comes across as boyish, indignant and forthright, animatedly recounting the volatile relationship between himself and Love, his girlfriend of more than two years.
He doesn't appear to know that Love, 22, is dead.
Huguely, who's from Chevy Chase, talks with his hands in the video, waving his fists to demonstrate Love hitting him a week earlier. He shakes his whole body to show her fear when he broke into her room the night before, and he throws his head on the table after detectives tell him she didn't survive the confrontation.
Love and Huguely would have graduated later that month had he not gone to her apartment "to talk" about their mutual infidelities and aggressive tantrums. Instead, her life is over and his is forever changed.
Huguely tells police he spent May 2, 2010, drinking with his dad and other lacrosse players and their fathers on a golf course. He drank some more at dinner, at home and out at a bar. Then, he says, "I went over to talk to Yeardley," explaining that they recently broke up, but are still hanging out.
He slips into story mode as he talks, like he's telling friends about the whole crazy scene. Love doesn't want to talk to him, and backs herself into a corner, banging her head against the wall, he says. Huguely does the same in the interview room, throwing his own head toward the cinder blocks, but stopping short of impact.
"She was already like freaked out just even seeing me, even seeing me there," Huguely says.
He clenches his fists to show how he clutched her arms to calm her down. He holds his hands to his throat, to illustrate how he may have "grabbed her a little bit by the neck," and he drags a finger down from his left nostril, demonstrating where Love's nose began to bleed.
He speaks in her voice, saying over and over — as she did — "You have to leave." And he says repeatedly that he never hit her, looking the two detectives in the eye as he speaks the words.
Love was sleeping, naked but for a pair of panties, when he broke into her room, according to trial testimony. But Huguely tells police she was in a T-shirt, pausing after he says it and looking toward the wall on his left. It's a sort of telltale move he repeats several times, before correcting a statement.
He does a version of it after he claims that Love's bedroom door was unlocked, then admits it "might have been locked" and that he thinks he "put a hole" in it. He does it again, after being asked if he took anything from Love's apartment, like her laptop.
"Yeah, I did actually," he says, as if his memory has just been jogged.
He threw her on her bed and stormed out after a 10-minute altercation, he says, admitting he shouldn't have "gone over there" when he was drunk. "That made me emotional and that's why I wanted to go talk to her," he says.
Detectives leave him alone in the room twice, for several minutes at a time. He looks at the floor, picks his nose, strokes his chin, flexes his bruised knuckles — a lacrosse injury, he tells police — and stares at the ground or a spot on the wall. He doesn't look particularly distressed or concerned.
That changes about 50 minutes into the interview.
"George," one detective says "I have something to tell you: She's dead. You killed her."
Huguely freezes in place, one hand under his chin, as seconds pass. "She's dead?" he finally says, beginning a long exchange with the officers, one side disbelieving and the other matter-of-factly driving home the reality.
Huguely stomps his feet, shakes his head and clenches his teeth. He scrunches up his eyes and denies the possibility. "She's not dead, she's not dead, she's not dead," he says. His words comes faster, he stutters.
"She has to be alive, she has to be," he says.
The video ended after 15 minutes of Huguely's fitful rationalizing, and a court clerk shifted into the slide show.
There's a shot of the posters — Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and vintage French scenes — on the walls in Love's apartment, which she shared with two roommates. Vodka bottles line the top of their kitchen cabinets.
Pieces of Love's bedroom door lie on the floor. Photos of her friends hang above the bed. A "just the girls" photo album rests on a desk. There are gum wrappers and lip gloss, magazines and jewelry — the normal stuff of a young woman. And the blood, which stains the comforter, the sheets, a pillow and the bed skirt.
Police photos of Huguely show bruises on his arms and legs, and those bloody scrapes around his right ankle.
There are images of the red dumpster he tossed Love's laptop into, where it landed between a beer bottle and a pizza box, and of Huguely's shared apartment. Natural Light beer cans line the coffee table along with a half-dozen bottles. Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd posters fill his bedroom walls, and clothes cover the floor.
And there's a text conversation between him and a female neighbor on May 2, 2010, after all that drinking on the golf course and before he confronted Love.
He flirts with the woman, and she tries to put him off. "Ur so hot" he writes. "I'm going to try to hook up with you." "I want you tiooo[sic] much."
Later that night, about 11 p.m., he tries with another girl, telling her to "come ova," but she blows him off to study.
Shortly after, he would go to Love's apartment.
Among the final things shown Tuesday was a heated email exchange between Love and Huguely that spanned three days in late April 2010. Their words flew by on the television screen, too fast for reporters to fully capture, though some phrases stood out.
It starts out on April 28, with Love apologizing for causing a scene at Huguely's apartment. She "had a lot of built up anger," she explains. Later, it turns ugly. She calls him the "team joke," "pathetic," a "fat piece of [expletive.]"
He calls her "stupid," "dumb" and "spoiled." "You have no grasp of reality," he writes.
"I'm so over your drama," she says, adding that he's "always too drunk to remember" his actions.
"I love how you don't think you did anything wrong," he counters. "I should have killed you" for cheating.
He ends the exchange on Friday, April 30.
"We should talk," the last email says.
Huguely's lawyer has said he will ask for a new trial, though he has not yet done so. The deadline is May 25. Jurors have recommended the former college student serve 26 years in prison.