Brutal force? Love's injuries conjure visions of strangulation, smothering
From a hemorrhage in her neck suggestive of strangulation to facial injuries consistent with smothering to signs of blunt force trauma on nearly every part of her body, the injuries apparent on the body of Yeardley Love conjure an image of a terrifyingly violent encounter.
In painstaking– and for many courtroom observers, pain-causing– detail, Virginia Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Bill Gormley described his observations from the May 4, 2010 autopsy he performed including, in particular, bruising to an area of the neck called the "carotid body," which, among other things, regulates heart rate. When pressure is applied, as in strangulation, Gormley explained to jurors, the body's effort to reduce blood pressure in the brain can cause the heart rate to plummet. Enough pressure to the neck can, in just 15 to 30 seconds, cause a loss of consciousness; if the heart slows or stops, Gormley testified, it may not restart.
Equally chilling was that Love's frenulum– the thread-like structure connecting the top lip to the gum inside the mouth– was torn. Such an injury would be consistent with an effort to smother a person, Gormley said.
And the litany of bruises, contusions, and abrasions covering her body– on her legs, buttock, arms, chest, face and head– could reflect a severe and sustained beating. Strangely absent from this plethora of damage was the one injury George Huguely had mentioned: a bloody nose. Gormley said there was no injury to Love's nose.
If such testimony damaged her client in the eyes of the jury, Huguely defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana fired back during a sustained cross-examination, that the injuries might have resulted from a fall onto the carpeted floor of Love's bedroom. She pressed Gormley to admit that determining the age of bruises is tricky business and that some of Love's injuries may have been sustained long before Huguely came to her room that night– on the lacrosse field or elsewhere.
Gormley acknowledged that multiple injuries can result from a "single impact event" rather than from sustained, separate blows. And according to Gormley, while Love had a hemorrhage between her scalp and skull suggesting a blunt force injury, she did not suffer a fractured skull, nor did any walls in her apartment show signs of impact. Her brain, Gormley testified, appeared normal.
Morning testimony tomorrow is expected from neuropathologists who performed the brain dissection as the prosecution continues building its case against Huguely.Read more on: huguely