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Friday, April 15, 2011

Slaying of Virginia Lacrosse Star Yeardley Love Going to Grand Jury

Yeardley Love, a University of Virginia women's lacrosse player, was found dead in her apartment on May 3.

Slaying of Virginia Lacrosse Star Yeardley Love Going to Grand Jury

By David Lohr

Enough probable cause exists for the murder case against former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely to move it forward to a grand jury, General District Judge Robert Downer has ruled after an emotional nine-hour hearing attended by many friends and family members of the victim and her former boyfriend.

Huguely, 23, is accused of felony murder, assault, robbery and burglary in the 2010 death of his former girlfriend, UVA student Yeardley Love, 22, and the theft of her computer. She was a star on the school's women's lacrosse team.

Defense attorney Fran Lawrence continued to maintain during Monday's hearing that the death was an accident and that Huguely was not even aware Love was dead when he left her apartment that night. It was only after police began to question him and Huguely repeatedly inquired about her well-being that an officer reportedly said, "She's dead. You killed her, George," Lawrence recounted.

"She's not dead. I didn't, I didn't, I didn't," Huguely said in response, according to Lawrence, The Cavalier Daily reported. "I never did anything that could do that to her."

Today, Love's family released a statement to ABC's "Good Morning America":

We miss Yeardley so very much and will work tirelessly to make her proud of us. It is truly devastating to wake up each day and realize she is no longer here. Her bright, bright future was stolen from us all. Yeardley's contagious smile, kind spirit and gentle touch have left this world, but we know heaven now has an angel like no other. ... We have faith in the justice system and trust that the truth will prevail.
Charlottesville police officers were called to Love's off-campus apartment nearly a year ago -- on May 3 -- to investigate a possible alcohol overdose. When officers arrived on the scene, they found Love dead in a bedroom. She had "obvious physical trauma," police said. One of Love's eyes was swollen shut, her face was bruised and there was a pool of blood on her pillow.

"It was quickly apparent ... that this young lady was the victim of something far worse," Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo told reporters shortly after Love's body was discovered.

Investigators and forensic personnel from the Charlottesville Police Department spent most of the first day on the case examining the crime scene. Meanwhile, detectives learned that Huguely and Love had been involved in a relationship at some point.

George Huguely
Charlottsville Police Department / AP
A grand jury is expected to convene next week to decide whether to indict George Huguely in Love's death.
Love, a resident of Cockeysville, Md., graduated in 2006 from Notre Dame Prep, where she had been a member of the lacrosse and field hockey teams. Like Huguely, she was a senior at the university at the time of her death and was expected to graduate in two weeks.

According to an affidavit requesting a search warrant, Huguely told police that he kicked his foot through the door to Love's bedroom and got into an argument with her, during which he "shook" her and her head "repeatedly hit the wall."

The search warrant affidavit also states that Huguely told police he removed Love's computer from the apartment. That laptop was later retrieved by the police and is considered evidence in the case.

During Monday's court proceeding, more than 20 witnesses were called to testify. They included friends of Love and Huguely, police investigators, the medical examiner who conducted Love's autopsy and a biomechanical engineer, Charlottesville's The Hook reported.

Love's roommate, Caity Whiteley, was the first witness called. Testifying for prosecutor Dave Chapman, Whiteley described how she walked into their apartment and discovered her best friend's lifeless body.

"I saw Yeardley in bed face down with a comforter over her," Whiteley said. "I shook her shoulder. I moved her hair to the side and touched her shoulder." When Love did not respond, Whiteley said she took a closer look at her face, saw blood and called 911.

Love died from blunt force trauma and sustained injuries to her brain, neck and mouth, according to medical examiner Dr. William Gormley.

Former roommate Kevin Carroll said Huguely had been drinking most of the day and was "definitely drunk" at the time of Love's death.

The defense has contended that Huguely had no motive for killing Love, whom friends have described as an "on-again, off-again" girlfriend with whom he was trying to get back together. He has been incarcerated in Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail for the past 11 months.

Downer decided to send the case to the grand jury, which is expected to convene next Monday, when it will decide whether to formally indict Huguely on the six counts.

Following Monday's court hearing, Huguely's attorneys read a statement on his behalf outside the courthouse, calling Love's death a "tragedy but not an intentional criminal act."

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