STEVE SZKOTAK Associated Press
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A jury that begins deliberations Wednesday will have to decide whether a former University of Virginia lacrosse player went to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment with the intent to kill her, or if the 22-year-old’s death was the accidental end result of a jealousy-tinged, volatile relationship.
After listening to more than three hours of closing arguments, jurors in the trial of George Huguely V decided to begin deliberations on Wednesday. The defendant could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the most serious count of murder in the May 3, 2010, death of Yeardley Love.
Prosecutors told jurors Saturday that Huguely, the former lacrosse player, killed his ex-girlfriend in a drunken rage, while the defendant’s attorney said his client contributed to her death but had no intent to harm her.
Love was founded battered and bruised around her face in her bedroom in what a coroner concluded was death by blunt force trauma. Medical experts offered various possible causes for her death — a bruised and bleeding brain or smothering in her blood-dampened pillow.
Huguely, who has pleaded not guilty, told police that he had gone to Love’s apartment to talk the night of her death. But he said the encounter quickly turned physical after she “freaked out” and began hitting her own head against the wall of her bedroom.
The prosecution has said Huguely kicked a hole in her bedroom door when she refused to let him in, leading to a final violent encounter.
“Isn’t that a scene from a horror movie?” prosecutor Dave Chapman told jurors.
Chapman said Huguely left Love to die.
The prosecutor has said Huguely was incensed that Love had been seeing a lacrosse player from North Carolina and threatened her in an email after he learned about it with the message, “I should have killed you.”
Huguely’s attorney acknowledged that the Chevy Chase, Md., man went to Love’s apartment and their encounter turned physical but said he had no intention to harm her.
“The story is the same story,” defense attorney Francis McQ. Lawrence said.
“Where’s the intent to kill?” he asked jurors. “Where’s the intent to kill?”
Chapman, who presented about 50 witnesses during the 11-day trial, seemed to sob as he presented his closing to jurors. He also showed crime scene photographs of Love’s lifeless body, prompting weeping in the courtroom.
Lacrosse teammates testified how Huguely drank heavily in the hours before Love’s death during an end-of-season, father-son golf tournament, and Chapman reminded jurors of testimony that Huguely had put Love in a chokehold in February 2010.
Chapman read a letter from Huguely to Love in which he apologized for the incident.
“Alcohol is ruining my life. I assure you I’ll never act like that again,” Huguely wrote.
Defense attorneys have argued that her death was accidental, possibly the result of drinking and a prescription drug that the suburban Baltimore woman took for attention-deficit disorder. A coroner has said those substances were in her body but not in potentially lethal doses.
A defense witness testified that Love’s blood alcohol level was higher than recorded in an autopsy.
Lawrence, who presented about 10 witnesses, cast Love’s death in the context of her tempestuous relationship, which included public spats and infidelities by both of them, and the sexually charged lives of young male and female athletes — the “lacrosse ghetto,” as he called it. Love was a player on the U.Va. women’s lacrosse team.
“We know there was a jilted lover, that each jilted each other,” Lawrence said. “This is not making Yeardley a bad guy. That’s what these kids do.”
He called Huguely a “stupid drunk” who made bad choices.
Lawrence said prosecutors were overreaching in the bid for a charge of felony murder in commission of robbery. Huguely took Love’s computer in what the prosecution said was an attempt to get rid of damning emails.
Conviction on that charge could bring a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Circuit Judge Edward L. Hogshire told jurors they could find Huguely guilty of a lesser charge of involuntary or voluntary manslaughter as well as murder.
Jurors are returning Wednesday because of the Presidents’ Day holiday on Monday and grand jurors meet in the courthouse on Tuesday. Jurors are not sequestered.
Huguely is also charged with burglary, breaking and entering, and grand larceny.