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Video: Court hears brutal details of Yeardley Love’s death

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    >> before heard details about the death of athlete yeardley love. jeff rossen has the latest from charlesville, virginia.

    >> reporter: good morning. this is the first time prosecutors laid out the case in court. we learned a lot about it. it happened nearly a year ago. details now pouring out from police and prosecutors trying the case. court went through 10:00 p.m . last night. they called witness after witness, 21 in all. it was so emotional at times, yeardley love's family had to get up and leave the courtroom. this morning an inside look at the crime from the students who were there. yeardley love's friends came to this small courthouse monday ready to tell young. this promising young athlete beaten and killed inside her apartment. charged in the killing, love's off and on boyfriend george huguely, a lacrosse player in the school. in this newly released mug shot huguely now has a buzz cut , a far cry from his look the day he was arrested. the preppy-looking college student plucked from campus. his own roommate testified huguely was binge drinking the morning of the murder, drunk by 10:00 a.m . that night he confessed, police said, admitting he kicked his right foot through the door that leads to love's bedroom. they got into a fight. he shook love and her head repeatedly hit the wall, leaving her to die, police say, face down on her pillow in a pool of blood. huguely's lawyers defended him.

    >> george huguely only learned that yeardley love had died when he was told that by a detective. he did not believe that such a terrible thing could have happened.

    >> reporter: in fact, as police questioned huguely he kept asking, how is she? the detective finally told him. you killed her, george . you killed her. according to police testimony monday, huguely responded, i never did anything that could do that to her. i swear to god. i refuse to believe she's dead. huguely, his lawyers say, never intended to kill love.

    >> from the beginning we have said this case is a tragedy but not about an intentional criminal act .

    >> reporter: friends say love and huguely had a rocky romantic relationship that sometimes led to physical violence. weeks before the murder it was revealed in court huguely sent love a handwritten letter saying, you are my very best friend . but then they fought again about another girl huguely was seeing. in the end it was love's roommate who found her motionless in bed. i shook her shoulders, kneeling on the bed trying to wake her.

    >> at the point where one of the witnesses is talking about discovering her body in the apartment, mrs. love walked out. you could tell that she really didn't want to be there to hear that.

    >> reporter: yeardley love's family still understandably too upset to speak. they have released a statement to nbc news telling us, yeardley's conal -- smile, kind spirit and gentle touch have left this world but we know heaven now has an angel like no other. there are discussions about a plea, but nothing so far.

    >> jeff, thank you very much. joe tacapina is a criminal defense attorney and joins us this morning.

    >> good morning, carl.

    >> huguely's lawyers say it is a tragedy, not an intentional event. there are reports of the potential plea deal . would you try to work out a plea in this case?

    >> facts are stubborn things, carl. in this case it's pretty overwhelming, some of the evidence regarding busting down the door, the confession. it's an admission. clearly what they are trying to do is reduce it from first-degree to manslaughter, to unintentional. they chose the words carefully. this is a tragedy, not an intentional criminal act . they are not saying it wasn't a crime. just not intentional. that's looking at a manslaughter defense.

    >> you think that's a potential avenue that --

    >> i think that's pretty much the only avenue they can go down.

    >> according to the roommate he was binge drinking on the night of the murder. how does a defense attorney work with that when he's told the police so much already?

    >> you're stuck with the facts. what you have to do is show he wasn't in his right state of mind . he was clearly intoxicated. emotions from the relationship. a crime of passion , so to speak. his head becomes overwhelmed with that sort of thought. you show that this was not who he normally was. it was a momentary lapse.

    >> talking about the temper, friends talked about it. it's obvious with the kicking in of the wall. how much of that is admissible in court and how much of it hurts him with the jury?

    >> it will be admissible. it shows the nature of the relationship. it puts context to it. it is devastating for the defense here. it's not like which was a choir boy who hadn't had issues with violence and aggression. here is someone they will say was systematic in his treatment of this girl. it fit it is pattern.

    >> a dozen witnesses, almost nine hours in the preliminary hearing. is that unusual?

    >> not when talking about a high profile case with the stakes so high. the prosecutors here didn't want to leave one stone unturned or questions in the air. the judge obviously found that there was plenty of evidence to go forward to the grand jury .

    >> we have had stories of the family in the courtroom. how much does that affect the jury in watching them leave the courtroom in the parts of the testimony they can't bear to listen to.

    >> we are all human beings . just because they are jurors, they don't check common sense at the door. they will feel it, see it. emotion will be a huge part of the case. the evidence and facts will dictate what happens here. but emotion will definitely play a hand in the outcome here.

    >> how do you think it will turn out?

    >> there will be a conviction, without question. prosecutors are going for first-degree murder and they have the evidence. the destruction of the computer, attempted. the breaking down of the door. it shows not an accident but someone who knew he committed a crime and tried to cover it up. tough case for the defense.

    >> and tough to listen to.

    >> tough to listen to.

By
updated 4/12/2011 9:13:54 AM ET 2011-04-12T13:13:54

A grand jury will hear the case against a former University of Virginia lacrosse player accused of killing a member of the women's team, a judge ruled on Monday after a nine-hour hearing.

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George Huguely, 23, is charged with first-degree murder in the May 3, 2010, slaying of 22-year-old Yeardley Love in her Charlottesville apartment. After nine hours of testimony from about 20 witnesses, the judge determined that there was evidence for the case to move forward.

Huguely is accused of entering Love's apartment and slamming her head into a wall. She died of trauma to the head, authorities said. Huguely told police at the time that they had been involved in a relationship that had recently ended. Huguely has been in jail since his arrest and waived his right to appear at the probable cause hearing before General District Judge Robert Downer.

Besides murder, Huguely is charged with robbery, burglary, statutory burglary and grand larceny. The grand jury is scheduled to consider all six charges when it meets on April 18 and decide whether to indict Huguely and allow the case to proceed to trial, which officials say is likely.

Huguely's lawyer Francis Lawrence said he plans to show that Huguely had no intention of killing Love, and didn't even know she was dead until a detective told him. Lawrence also noted that his client has been cooperating with police since he was taken in for questioning after Love's body was found.

Defense lawyers and prosecutor Dave Chapman took turns questioning police officers, forensics experts and rescue crew members as well as roommates and lacrosse teammates of Huguely and Love over details about the case. Families and friends of both athletes sat in the crowded courtroom.

Caitlin Whiteley, Love's roommate and lacrosse teammate, testified that Love, who was from Cockeysville, Md., decided to stay home the night before the slaying, when Whiteley went out with friends to several nightspots.

She returned home with U.Va. tennis player Phillipe Oudshoorn about 2 a.m. on May 3, and noticed a hole had been punched through Love's bedroom door. She said Love was face down, her arms down by her side. Then she saw blood on the pillow and sheet. Oudshoorn testified that they both "started freaking out."

A student who lived in the apartment below told the court that she heard a loud bang, then heavy footsteps while she was studying on May 3. Anna Lehmann testified she looked out her ground-floor picture window and saw a man walking away from the building. She didn't see his face, but testified he was muscular and wore shorts and a blue shirt, similar to the clothing other witnesses had told police that Huguely was wearing that day.

Lead investigator Lisa Reeves testified that she videotaped an interview with Huguely, who was quickly identified as a suspect in Love's death. Reeves said he was calm and cooperative, and that he told her that he'd put Love's missing laptop computer in a trash bin at a nearby apartment complex. Police retrieved it there.

Several of Huguely's teammates recounted the team's final lacrosse game of the season, a senior dinner, and a father-son golf outing at Wintergreen, where the teammates noted that Huguely had started drinking heavily in the morning. The attorneys tried to get the men to recall certain details of that Sunday night, but some said they couldn't recall specifics.

Dr. William Gormley of the state's chief medical examiner's office detailed the injuries Love suffered, including hemorrhages under the eye and scalp and a bruised chin. He said that Love died from blunt-force injury to the head, and went over photographs with lawyers. Defense attorney Rhonda Quagliano questioned Gormley at length about the autopsy findings, including asking him about the lack of "grab injuries" to the torso or whether her death could have been caused by a fall.

According to search-warrant documents, Huguely had told investigators that he and Love fought on May 3, that it turned physical, and her head struck a wall several times.

Quagliano read a statement on Huguely's behalf in front of the courthouse after the hearing. She said Love's death was a "tragedy but not an intentional criminal act." She also noted that the preliminary hearing only was intended to determine probable cause and "the burden of proof is very low."

She said that the hearing did allow lawyers to clarify some misconceptions about the case that will be cleared up at trial, including what she called erroneous reports of damage to Love's apartment's walls and furniture. She also noted that the medical examiner on Monday began to acknowledge the complexity of the medical issues and questions about what caused Love's death.

Chapman didn't make a statement after the hearing.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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