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Julie Carey, Art Lien
Students and jurors believe justice was served in the Yeardley Love murder case. (Courtroom sketches by Art Lien.)
A former University of Virginia lacrosse player was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his ex-girlfriend, a suburban Baltimore woman who also played lacrosse at the school and was found bloodied, bruised in beaten early May 3, 2010.
The jury recommended 26 years in prison for George Huguely V -- 25 for second-degree murder and one year for grand larceny -- following his conviction Wednesday in the death of 22-year-old Yeardley Love.
"There's nothing to make good the terrible tragedy done to the Love family,"prosecutor Dave Chapman said under an umbrella in a drenching rain outside the courthouse. "We hope they feel some solace."
Huguely displayed no emotion as the verdict was read and sobbing filled the courtroom. His attorney Francis McQ. Lawrence told reporters he was disappointed in the verdict, and that "he looked forward to some corrections." Lawrence did not elaborate on the statement.
The Love family released this statement to the media on Wednesday night: "It is truly devastating to wake up each day and realize that she is no longer here. We will continue to keep her spirit alive by performing works of kindness in her name."
Following a short break after the verdict was delivered, only Love's mother and sister testified at the sentencing hearing, News4's Julie Carey reported.
Sharon Love tearfully described the death of her daughter as “unbearable.”
“Every year that goes by I'd like to know what she'd be doing now,” Sharon Love said.
Lexie Love, 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 “left a large hole and nothing will fill it.”
The defense did not call any character witnesses.
“No person is the sum of the worst decision he ever made,'' one of Huguely's defense attorneys, Rhonda Quagliana, told jurors before the judge gave the sentencing guidelines to the jury for its deliberation.
Huguely's defense acknowledged he kicked a hole in the door to Love's bedroom the evening of May 3, 2010, but insisted he only wanted to talk.
In his closing argument, prosecutor Dave Chapman became tearful while disputing the defense's claim that Huguely went to Love's apartment the night she died to talk things over. Chapman pointed to the hole Huguely kicked in Love's bedroom door when she wouldn't let him enter.
"What kind of conversation starter is that?" Chapman asked in court. "That's the beginning of terror."
Chapman also reminded jurors of an email Huguely sent to Love after learning she had been with another man. It read in part, "I should have killed you."
But the prosecution seemed to back away from the premeditation necessary for a conviction on first-degree murder, Carey reported. The jury found enough evidence to support a second-degree murder conviction for killing with malice.
The defense called Love's death a tragic accident, a combination of injuries inflicted by Huguely and the alcohol she drank earlier that night.
Defense attorney Francis Lawrence called Huguely's email to Love "hyperbole" and said he was incapable of carrying out a murder, calling him "stupid," "drunk" and "not calculating -- a boy athlete."
The jury of seven men and five women 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 with her own drinking and a prescription drug used for attention deficit disorder contributing to her death.
Besides her facial injuries, she had marks on her chest that suggested she was grabbed and had injuries around her jaw and inside her mouth and neck.
Jurors heard testimony from lacrosse players who told of Huguely's escalating drinking problem and public spats between the two. The incidents included Huguely putting Love in a chokehold while on his bed, and one in which Love accused him of flirting with two high school girls.
Friends and fellow players said the two were unfaithful to each other and had a fiery relationship.
In a police interrogation video viewed by jurors, Huguely said he simply wanted to discuss their sputtering, two-year relationship. Huguely admitted he may have shaken her but insisted he didn't grab her neck or punch her.
After a three-day break, jurors returned to Charlottesville Circuit Court Wednesday and deliberated for about nine hours. They also found Huguely guilty of grand larceny for taking Yeardley Love's laptop computer, which carried a possible sentence of one to 20 years. The second-degree murder conviction called for a sentence of five to 40 years.
Huguely was found not guilty of first-degree murder, robbery, burglary with intent to commit larceny and statutory burglary, which is breaking and entering with an intent to assault and batter. Jurors also could have returned lesser verdicts of involuntary or voluntary manslaughter.
In the judicial sentencing, which will come at a later date, the judge can follow the jury's recommendation or lower its suggested sentence, Carey reported. He can't increase the sentence.
Had he been convicted of first-degree murder, the 24-year-old from Chevy Chase, Md., would have faced up to life in prison.
Love's death had a statewide impact, leading to legislation that made it easier for possible abuse victims to get a restraining order in Virginia.
Last year, the state's General Assembly passed a law that expands criteria under which people can seek protective orders. The measure allows people in dating relationships or those who face threatening co-workers to more easily obtain such an order.
“Yeardley Love's death resulted in a great awakening for many individuals in Virginia and across the country about the danger that exists in violent dating relationships,” Kristi VanAudenhove, of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, said in a statement.
“It has also sparked conversations at colleges and universities about how to improve policies and services for students experiencing sexual and domestic violence,” she said.
"Our judicial system can never restore to a family what it has lost," read a statement from University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan. "Yeardley's family, teammates, sorority sisters and friends -- indeed all of us at the university -- continue to feel the loss of this promising young woman. It remains now to each of us to commit to caring for one another and, when we see someone in trouble, to having the courage to intercede and offer assistance."