Julie Carey, Art Lien
The assistant medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Yeardley Love testified Monday. (Courtroom sketches by Art Lien.)
The assistant medical examiner who performed the autopsy on a slain University of Virginia lacrosse player took the stand Monday in the trial of the ex-boyfriend accused of killing her.
Dr. William Gormley, the assistant chief medical examiner at the state crime lab, catalogued Yeardley Love’s injuries during the autopsy and found two that could have caused her death: pressure applied to her neck caused a hemorrhage near her carotid artery and a blow to her head caused another hemorrhage.
Gormley also found facial injuries consistent with smothering but said that’s not what caused Love’s death.
Defendant George Huguely V's had bruises and scrapes on his legs, arms and knuckles hours after her body was found, a police officer testified earlier Monday. Patrolman Jeremy Carper, who helped process Huguely's arrest, testified in Charlottesville Circuit Court about police photographs he took of Huguely May 3, 2010, the day the 22-year-old Love was found dead in her apartment bedroom of blunt-force trauma.
Under questioning by prosecutor David Chapman, Carper described visible injuries on Huguely that included scrapes on his forearms and legs and bruised or reddened knuckles. Huguely was wearing shorts the night Love was found dead.
During testimony last week, the first detective to question Huguely about Love's slaying asked him about bruised knuckles she had seen and he said they were the result of playing lacrosse.
Huguely attorney Francis McQ. Lawrence made that connection in court Monday as well before Chapman objected to his line of questioning.
Sgt. Steve Dillon also testified. He described gathering forensic evidence from Huguely's apartment and his neighbor's apartment. Prosecutors said Huguely may have stopped in his neighbor's apartment to wash up after leaving Love's apartment, before proceeding next door to his own place. Sgt. Dillon said he took swabs from the sink and shower area but did not immediately testify as to the results of those swabs.
Huguely, 24, is on trial on first-degree murder and other charges, including the theft of Love's laptop computer. The prosecution contends Huguely went to her apartment after an alcohol-fueled day of golf and slammed her head repeatedly against the wall of her bedroom. A gaping hole was left in her bedroom door.
The defense has suggested Love's death was an accident, and possibly related to her use of a prescription medicine for attention deficit disorder. The prosecution has presented medical experts who cast doubt on that theory.
Witnesses who testified last week described their relationship as sputtering, with each accusing the other of being unfaithful. The prosecution said an email from Huguely to Love in the days before a threat “I should have killed you” after he learned of an infidelity.
Huguely said in a police interrogation hours after her body was found that he had gone to her apartment to talk the night of her death. He acknowledged their encounter became physical but denied causing her death.
The prosecution has called a parade of police officers who had some role in the investigation. Three officers testified Monday about the collection of fingerprints, physical evidence and finding Love's computer in a dump bin.
The prosecution contends Huguely took the computer to hide the threatening email. The defense said Huguely was not trying to hide the email, but rather take the computer as collateral so that Love would be forced to speak with him later.
On Friday, emotions ran high in the Charlottesville Circuit Court as prosecutors played a videotape of Huguely's interview with police, hours after Love's body was discovered. On the tape, Huguely can be heard telling detectives that he had been drinking all day, first at a golf outing and then later during dinner, before heading to Love's apartment. He admitted to getting into an argument and shaking Love, although he said that he never struck his former girlfriend, also a lacrosse player with the women's team.
“I never, like, strangled her. I may have grabbed her neck,” Huguely said on the tape, describing their physical encounter as wrestling.
In the recording, Huguely cried in disbelief when detectives told him that Love had died. “Please tell me she's not dead,” Huguely said. “There's no way she's dead. There's no way. There's no way.”
Listening to the recording, at least two jurors, Love's mother and sister, and Huguely himself cried.
On Thursday, jurors heard from first responders to Love's apartment. Detective Sgt. Shawn Bayles said when he arrived on the scene, the first thing he noticed was a large hole in the bedroom door.
Prosecutors said that Huguely had kicked through the door to gain access to Love's bedroom. Detective Bayles said paramedics were working on Love as he entered her room. "The young lady on the ground was obviously the victim of some act of violence," Bayles told the court.
The defense is attempting to steer the jury toward a charge of involuntary manslaughter rather than murder, casting him as too unsophisticated, and on that day, too inebriated to have premeditated Love's killing.
Defense attorney Lawrence said of his client during opening statements: "He's not complicated. He's not complex. He's a lacrosse player."
Huguely has pleaded not guilty to murder and five other charges in connection with Love's death. Both seniors, Love was from suburban Baltimore, while Huguely is from Chevy Chase, Md.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Huguely could be sentenced to life in prison.