Jurors found a former University of Virginia lacrosse player guilty of second-degree murder Wednesday in the drunken, jealousy-fueled slaying of his ex-girlfriend, rejecting a verdict of first-degree murder and a possible life sentence.
George Huguely V, 24, stood straight, flanked by his attorneys, as jurors returned the verdict after approximately nine hours of deliberations. He was convicted in the slaying of Yeardley Love, 22, who was found bloodied, beaten and bruised in the bedroom of her Charlottesville apartment in the early morning hours of May 3, 2010.
Hours later, the jury recommended a 25-year prison sentence for the slaying and one year for for a grand larceny conviction. Circuit Judge Edward Hogshire scheduled an April hearing for formal sentencing. He is not bound by the jury's recommendations.
The second-degree murder conviction carries a prison sentence ranging from five to 40 years; the grand larceny's sentencing range is one to 20 years.
Huguely displayed no outward emotion as the verdict was read, while some sobbing could be heard in the courtroom filled with family and friends of Love and Huguely.
Prosecutors said Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Md., killed the UVA women's lacrosse player after a day of golf and binge drinking, incensed that she had had a relationship with a North Carolina lacrosse player. Love's right eye was bashed in and she was hit with such power, her brain was bruised and she had a wrenching head injury that caused bleeding at the base of her brain stem.
A coroner concluded she died of blunt force trauma. Defense and prosecution experts offered different medical opinions on the lethal consequences of her injuries.
Prosecutor Dave Chapman, who described the night Love was killed as a scene from a horror show, said Huguely kicked a hole in Love's door to get in her bedroom and left his on-again, off-again girlfriend to die.
Huguely's attorneys said he only went to Love's apartment to talk before the encounter quickly turned physical. He said she banged her head against the wall of her bedroom, and she only had a bloody nose when he left. A prosecution witness testified Love smothered in her own blood-dampened pillow.
Love's mother, Sharon, tearfully testified during the sentencing phase as Huguely cast his gaze down at the defense table. She described the death of her daughter as "unbearable."
Love's sister, Lexie, 28, described the absence of her kid sister. "A song will come on the radio, and I'll just burst out in tears," she said, sobbing. Her sister's death, she said, "left a large hole, and nothing will fill it."
The jury had to decide whether Huguely battered Love to death in a jealous outburst or if his intent to talk with her spiraled out of control and she died accidentally.