Lacrosse players planned alcohol intervention too late for George Huguely

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.

He is accused of beating to death Cockeysville native Yeardley Love, his on-and-off girlfriend of two years, in a drunken fury. And though some of his friends say they knew he had problems with alcohol and even violence — he had attacked Love at a party earlier that year, according to court testimony — it appears no one took action to help him gain control.

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.

Blackwell said he performed CPR on Love for about 30 seconds before emergency workers took over.

According to court testimony, one man performed chest compressions on Love. A woman used a ventilator to push air into Love's lungs. And another worker tried to shock her heart back to life.

But she never came to, and after a half-hour or more of effort, a group leader contacted medical command and asked for permission to stop.

Chapman showed the jury photos Thursday of the resuscitation efforts. They were not visible to those watching in the gallery. Love's mother, who was sitting in the front row on the right, dabbed her eyes with a tissue as the images were described, and her sister, Lexie, bowed her head.

Huguely looked down at his hands while the pictures were on display.

The resuscitation efforts had drawn blood from Love's body, spraying it onto her face, neck and shoulders.

Defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana asked one of the rescuers testifying if some of the bruising to Love's body could have been created by their efforts. "CPR can actually make a wound bleed," the attorney said, and a bruise blacken. The medic responded that it was possible.

During opening statements Wednesday, Quagliana's co-counsel, Francis McQ. Lawrence, said he expected to show that much of the damage done to Love's body, which prosecutors attributed to Huguely, was the likely result of life-saving techniques.

He also claimed that a combination of alcohol and the drug Adderall, an amphetamine that is prescribed for attention deficit disorder, contributed to Love's death after her confrontation with Huguely. But a former U.Va. sports team doctor testified Thursday that there was no medical reason that should have stopped her heart.

"She was in pretty good shape," Dr. Danny Mistry said. He explained that university physicians had tested Love's heart three times since 2006, as was their practice until recently with athletes on Adderall. They have since stopped such testing, after a study showed in late 2011 that the drug did not increase the risks for adverse cardiovascular events, Mistry said.

The trial, expected to last two weeks, will continue Friday.

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