Yeardley Love on a 2008 family vacation at Bethany Beach, Delaware.
Nine news satellite truck filled Court Square, in what local officials believe is a dry run for the Huguely trial.
PHOTO BY TOM DALY
A judge certified six felony charges against former UVA lacrosse player George Huguely for the murder of fellow student-athlete and sometime girlfriend Yeardley Love in a nine-hour, packed-courtroom preliminary hearing April 11, nearly a year after Love was found dead in her 14th Street apartment, a crime that attracted national attention.
Around 7pm, after hearing evidence that Love and Huguely had each other's DNA under their fingernails, the hearing continued another three hours. In all, the prosecution called 18 witnesses, including police officers, a medical examiner, and friends of Love and Huguely from the tight-knit lacrosse world.
The defense brought in three witnesses, including a biomechanical engineer who testified that a piece of wall board taken from Love's bedroom seemed to contradict an admission from Huguely that had famously appeared in a search warrant affidavit that Love's head "repeatedly hit the wall. According to the engineer, the wall showed no sign of impact.
Still, Love died from blunt force trauma, according to medical examiner Bill Gormley, who performed her autopsy and described injuries to her brain, neck, and mouth in detail for two hours.
Three rows in the standing-room-only Charlottesville Circuit courtroom (it's still a General District case) were reserved for Love's family and friends; and Love's mother and sister sat through the at-times grisly testimony, with Huguely's family across the aisle. Huguely had waived his right to be present.
Love's roommate Caity Whiteley, who had known Love since the sixth grade in Baltimore, was the first witness, and she testified that the relationship between the two UVA students was "on and off," mentioning a fight on the Tuesday before Love's Monday morning death, when she heard about "another woman" and Love losing her cellphone at Huguely's home.
On a trip to Chicago for a lacrosse game, Love remained in contact with Huguely and showed Whiteley emails he had sent. Then Whiteley described discovering her unresponsive friend early on May 3 in their apartment.
Earlier that evening, Love and Whiteley had attended a birthday gathering at Boylan Heights, a regular hangout a couple of blocks from their 14th Street apartment, but Love did not go out again when Whiteley left around 11pm. "She was tired," said Whiteley.
The first thing Love's roommate noticed when she returned around 2am apartment was a hole in the door to Love's bedroom.
"I saw Yeardley in bed face down with a comforter over her," said Whiteley. "I shook her shoulder. I moved her hair to the side and touched her shoulder."
That was when, Whiteley says, she saw blood on Love's neck and face and called 911. Her friend Philippe Oudshoorn, a UVA tennis player, testified that as he lifted Love out of the bed to attempt CPR he saw blood on the 22-year-old's face and eye.
Police Sergeant Shawn Bayles advised members of the Charlottesville Albemarle Rescue Squad, while they were doing CPR on the victim they found at 2:28am, that they were working in a crime scene.
"It seemed that her body was too cold," testified emergency medical technician Michael Hanshew, shortly after Judge Robert Downer warned a packed courtroom that they might soon be hearing things they "don't want to hear."
Most observers remained stoic when the victim was described by police Officer K.W. Blackwell as wearing "just a pair of panties." But when prosecutor Dave Chapman said that he was bringing out photographs from the scene, two women who'd been sitting in the front row with members of Love's family made a hasty retreat.
On cross-examination, Hanshew agreed with defense attorney Fran Lawrence that Love's body was about room temperature. And Lawrence, in his opening statement, reiterated his claim that Huguely had no intention of killing Love.
Friends of the couple described a week-earlier argument when Love came over to Huguely's apartment after learning that he'd been entertaining a pair of female high school lacrosse recruits.
Love's sorority sister Elizabeth McLean, whose boyfriend, Kevin Carroll, was Huguely's roommate, was in the next room and heard what she called loud "bickering" about the girls, and the sound of an object coming in contact with someone, but she did not see Love fling her purse at Huguely.
McLean helped Love gather the scattered contents of her purse and walked her home "because she was upset." Love was missing a camera and her cellphone, the latter of which did not turn up, according to witnesses.
Huguely's roommate, Kevin Carroll, described Huguely as "definitely drunk" May 2 after spending the day at a golf tournament at Wintergreen Resort. At 11:40pm, Carroll left with a friend to purchase more beer before markets closed at midnight; Huguely, he said, remained in their apartment, in a building immediately adjacent to Love's.
Returning from the beer run, Carroll said, Huguely wasn't home, but he came back shortly and explained he'd been downstairs with two friends.
Carroll telephoned one of them, Will Bolton, to come join them, but Bolton said he wasn't in the apartment below, a stark rejection to the just-proffered alibi. The other friend, Chris Clements, also testified with information unhelpful to Huguely. Clements told the court that he'd been so immersed in study that, earlier that evening, when he heard Huguely coming down the stairs, he told Huguely to go away. And then, Clements added, he locked his door.
Around 11:50pm May 2, downstairs neighbor Anna Lehman heard "very loud" banging noises coming from Love's apartment. She further testified that she heard footsteps come down the steps and saw a man in a blue shirt, which matches accounts of what Huguely was wearing, walking across the courtyard.
Police detective Lisa Reeves interviewed Huguely later that morning, and found him cooperative, even telling police about Love's missing laptop computer: "He told us he took it," Reeves recounted, "and put it in a dumpster."
Huguely had allegedly waived his Miranda rights before talking to police in a room where he was secretly videotaped. That videotape was not played in court, although a copy was given to the judge, and defense attorney Fran Lawrence described its contents in his opening statement.
During the interview, said Lawrence, Huguely kept asking if Love was okay. After about an hour, Detective Reeves finally said, "She's dead. You killed her."
Huguely reacted in disbelief, said his attorney, became emotional, and insisted she couldn't be dead.
"You guys said she had a black eye," Lawrence told the judge his client said. "I never did anything that would do that to her."
And Lawrence disputed that the two fourth-year students were estranged. Following the Tuesday incident during which "Ms. Love went to George Huguely's apartment and got physical with him," said Lawrence, a handwritten note from Huguely was found on her bureau in which he apologized to her and wrote, "You are my best friend."
Judge Robert Downer said there was enough evidence to send the case to the grand jury. They'll get the case April 18.
With additional reporting by Hawes Spencer.
Updated April 12.
Original headline: A 'crime scene': Graphic testimony sends Huguely to grand jury