Julie Carey, Art Lien
Witnesses describe the relationship between Yeardley Love and George Huguely and the scene the night Love was found dead in her bedroom. (Courtroom sketches by Bill Hennesy)
A romantic rival of a former University of Virginia men’sd lacrosse player accused of killing his ex-girlfriend saw the defendant with his arm around her neck months before her death, he testified Thursday.
Mike Burns, a lacrosse player at the University of North Carolina, was visiting Charlottesville in February 2010 when he saw George Huguely V holding Yeardley Love in an apparent chokehold. Huguely is accused of killing Love, a member of UVA’s women’s lacrosse team, in May 2010.
Burns testified he was Huguely on his back on a bed with Love on top of him with Huguely’s arm around her neck. Love fled the bedroom when Burns entered and told Burns she wasn’t able to breathe, Burns testified. Describing his relationship with Love, Burns said they “hooked up” several times.
Burns’s name came up Wednesday. Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman said he was mentioned in a threatening email from Huguely to Love two days before Love’s death.
"When I found out about Mike Burns, I should have killed you," the email said, according to Chapman.
Love showed the email to friends and teammates, Chapman said.
Thursday morning for the first time, jurors saw photographs of Love's body after police and emergency personnel arrived at her apartment. Sharon Love, the victim's mother, cried quietly as the court was shown pictures of paramedics working on her daughter on her bedroom floor the night of May 3, 2010. The sobs of the victim's sister, Lexie Love, were audible in the courtroom.
As rescue squad member Michael Henshaw described the efforts to save Love's life, Huguely looked down as he sat at the defense table, News4's Julie Carey reported. A few jurors initially looked away.
The prosecution called Henshaw among a series of first responders, and with each, the graphic photos were shown again.
"I made a comment of the fact she had a very large bruise on her face, so the officer leaned over and took a picture," Henshaw said.
Huguely's defense tried to introduce sanitized photos of Love's bedroom from after her body was removed, but the prosecution fought them and won, forcing the defense to use the crime scene photos taken by Charlottesville police.
The 911 call suggested alcohol poisoning. Charlottesville police Detective Sgt. Shawn Bayles rushed to the scene when he heard CPR was in progress.
"When I arrived, one of the main things that drew my attention was a huge hole in the bedroom door," he testified.
According to the prosecution, an angry, inebriated Huguely kicked in the door before shaking Love, hitting her head against the wall.
"The young lady on the ground was obviously the victim of some act of violence," Bayles said.
Charlottesville police Officer K.W. Blackwell, the first officer to arrive at Love's apartment, also thought he was responding to an alcohol overdose but quickly discovered the woman was bruised and bloodied. Her eye was swollen shut and there was blood on her face. She was not breathing, so Blackwell administered CPR in an attempt to revive her.
Chapman also called UVA emergency medicine Dr. William Brady to debunk the defense's contention Wednesday that sustained, vigorous CPR caused Love's brain injury. Asked if CPR can cause brain injury from elevated blood pressure, Brady replied, "No."
Huguely's attorneys have said he was very drunk the night Love died and incapable of plotting to kill her. Huguely's attorneys argue that Love died of a type of asphyxia created because she had been drinking and was lying face-down on her pillow.