Dangerous rage? What compelled Huguely to attack?
Papa loved mama
Mama loved men
Mama's in the graveyard
Papa's in the pen
Why would a college athlete, a young man from a prominent family with everything going for him, attack and possibly–- as police allege– brutally murder his former girlfriend? As shock gives way to grief, questions about drugs and sanity invariably arise over UVA student George Wesley Huguely V’s fatal altercation with 22-year-old Yeardley Love . Although Huguely has several alcohol-fueled incidents in his past, two doctors say in recent interviews that it’s unlikely that intoxicants alone could drive someone to kill.
“If intoxicated, the risk will increase,” says Dr. Bankole Johnson, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia Medical School, who also happens to be a forensic psychiatrist, “but in general it is unusual for people to go from nothing to all. Usually there are gradations toward this kind of violence, and there will be clues, even when the person is not under the influence. There’s usually a pattern.”
Some of Huguely's detractors say the pattern exists, with a Washington Post-reported attack on a sleeping teammate who allegedly showed affection for Love and a now well-known 2008 drunken altercation with a police officer in Lexington.
Johnson says there are rare occasions when brain abnormalities can cause violence such as temporal lobe seizures which occur in the part of the brain that processes emotions, fight-or-flight reactions, and short-term memory. Recent advances in neuroscience have, Johnson says, allowed a new kind of forensic evidence into mediation proceedings but not as much in murder trials. But that could change.
“Perfect defenses are things like sleep-walking or epileptic seizures if you can prove it,” says Johnson. “This new science is an enlargement of this concept.”
“Drugs and alcohol certainly can compel this,” says Dr. Matthew Lee, a Richmond-based pharmacological researcher, pointing out that drugs at colleges, like alcohol and Xanax, particularly when used together, can lower inhibitions. And while the use of the two drugs causes drowsiness, cocaine–- another popular college drug–- can offset the effect. “Mixing cocaine with alcohol and Xanax prolongs the high,” Johnson adds.
Like Johnson, Lee points out that while drugs can certainly contribute to violent behavior, there has to be some predisposition.
“Typically, we see a pattern of behavior over time, especial with domestic violence,” says Lee. “I would be shocked if there was no pattern, and no substance involved.”
Johnson names another possible drug that concerns him: Methamphetamine. Known on the street as "meth" or "crystal meth," it can cause compulsive sexual behavior and increased aggression. Indeed, the drug was widely used during World War II, perhaps the most violent period in human history ( when 60 million people lost their lives), and was even distributed by the German army under the name Pervitin.
“Methamphetamine causes the most aggression,” says Johnson.
And Lee adds one more: steroids.
“Steroids already make you aggressive,” says Lee, “but combining this with Xanax, alcohol, and cocaine could be explosive.”
There has been talk that lacrosse players, like many professional athletes, have turned to steroids, with a recent statement by former NLL Ted Jenner saying that there "was no room for steriods" in lacrosse prompting some sports fans to call that "na¯ve or blindly optimistic"; and, as was first uncovered on crime blog blinkoncrime.com, one of Hugueley's teammates was arrested five years ago while he was still a high school student, accused of smuggling steroids into America. UVA athletes are subject to occasional, random drug tests, which, according to Athletics Director Craig Littlepage, can cause their suspension from the team for an undefined period of time.
Yet there are products to help athletes deposit another’s urine, even under the watchful eyes of a clinician. Although its seller was just sentenced to six months in prison, the Whizzinator, a fake penis and bladder kit, still appears offered online for $279.
However, as Lee and other experts suggests, what may have motivated Huguely to attack his ex-girl friend may have been something more potent than any drug: male sexual jealousy.
“If Love threatened his manhood in some way,” says Lee, either by losing interest in him or showing interest in another man, “that plus a past history of aggression and alcohol and drug use”Š that’s a time bomb.”
“Jealously is not only inbred in human nature, but it is the most basic, all-pervasive emotion which touches man in all aspects of every human relationship,” ––Boris Sokoloff, 1947, Jealous: A Psychological Study.
“In my studies of homicidal fantasies, we found that it was not at all uncommon for men who get dumped by their mates to have homicidal thoughts,” says David Buss, professor of psychology at The University of Texas at Austin, and author of The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind is Designed to Kill.
“The vast majority of men, of course, do not act on their homicidal fantasies," says Buss. But according to his research, more than half of the adult murdered women were slain by their mates or ex-mates.
“The rage that men feel toward an ex who has spurned them seems to get exacerbated under two conditions, says Buss: when the woman gets romantically or sexually involved with another man or when he realizes that the breakup is permanent and she's not coming back.
Of the 429,729 homicide FBI files that Buss studied, 13,670 were cases in which a husband killed his wife, with the husband discovering his wife was having an affair the leading cause. Break-ups come in second. Buss says that 88 percent of the women were stalked before being killed, and that most slayings occurred after the first few months of the break-up, when the men were convinced the woman wasn’t coming back.
“I don't know if either of these conditions were the case in this case, but that would be important to find out,” says Buss. “Among other things, men are very concerned about their status and reputation, and these tend to suffer as a consequence of getting rejected.”
However, according to Buss, given that most men do not murder their ex-mates, it's extremely difficult to predict which men will or won't. More perplexing, Buss learned, is that most murders are not committed by hardened criminals or pathological misfits, but by people previously perceived as perfectly normal.
According to Buss’s research, 91 percent of men and 84 percent of women have had at least one intense, vivid fantasy about murdering someone and that while most people reason away such notions, over half of men and women have entertained the idea of killing a domestic partner.
The big difference says Buss, is that men are more likely to act on these feelings, whereas women typically won't commit murder unless they've been repeatedly abused or threatened.
But why kill the one you profess to love?
Buss, an evolutionary psychologist, explains that male sexual jealousy evolved as a powerfully adaptive way to preserve status and reputation and to keep a male's lineage pure. In milder forms, it can keep women from straying by compelling men to be attentive to a woman’s needs, but it can also have a darker, more violent side.
In Buss's book The Dangerous Passion, which explores the nature of jealousy, he cites a confession made by a 31-year old man to police after stabbing his 21-year old wife to death. They had been reunited after a six month separation, and the wife confessed that she had sex with another man repeatedly since she had returned.
“I was really mad. I went into the kitchen and got a knife," the man told police. " I went back to our room and asked: were you serious when you told me that. She said yes. We fought on the bed, I was stabbing her. Her grandfather came up and tried to take the knife out of my hand. I told him to go and call the cops for me. I don’t know why I killed the woman, I loved her.”
Pharmacology expert Lee says he finds Huguely’s 2008 arrest in Lexington telling, as it involved threatening a female arresting officer by shouting “I’ll kill all you b*tches.” The officer had to Taser an allegedly enraged Huguely to subdue him. At his court hearing, the officer learned that Huguely was so intoxicated that he didn’t remember a female officer had arrested him, or that he’d been Tasered.
“The fact that he behaved that way to a police officer,” says Lee, “should have been a sure sign he had a drinking problem.”
In addition, Lee says, the fact that the officer was female suggests he may have had issues with women in positions of authority. He wonders if Huguely would have acted the same way if the officers were male. And as for forgetting being Tasered?
“He might be someone who functions in society, but when he drinks he goes crazy and loses all inhibition,” says Lee, which leads him to believe that Huguely might have had an existing psychological problem as well.
Echoing Johnson and Lee, Buss says that his study showed that drugs and alcohol “increased the likelihood of men acting on their homicidal impulses.”
Indeed, Buss’s studies showed that alcohol abuse can actually enhance feelings of jealously, as the lowering of inhibitions opens the door to expressing underlying suspicions, even imaginary ones. To make matters worse, alcohol abuse can lead to impotency and poor sexual performance, driving a desired mate away and causing further sexual insecurities.
As Huguely’s case moves forward, his psychological state will likely take center stage. Two local forensic psychologists declined to he interviewed by the Hook because they have already been retained by either the defense or prosecution. Was this a long-standing pattern of behavior of Huguely’s that finally boiled over?
Or, as Buss’s research suggests, were the intense feelings of jealousy and rejection, powerful emotions we have likely all felt, perhaps handed down to us through thousands of years of evolution, just too much for Huguely to handle?