By Brandon Shulleeta
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (Reuters) - A former University of Virginia lacrosse player was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Thursday for the 2010 murder of his ex-girlfriend, who was beaten to death shortly before she was due to graduate.
A jury in February found George Huguely V, 24, guilty of second-degree murder and grand larceny in the death of 22-year-old Yeardley Love, who prosecutors said died of blunt force trauma after her head was slammed against a wall.
The jury had recommended a total sentence of up to 26 years. Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire instead sentenced Huguely to 23 years in prison, followed by a three-year suspended sentence during which Huguely will be on probation.
Hogshire said Huguely's attack on Love was a "brutal beating" that had been foreshadowed by previous acts of violence.
Huguely, who is from Chevy Chase, Maryland, was arrested after Love's body was found on May 3, 2010, face down on a bloody pillow in her apartment near the university in Charlottesville, a college town 117 miles southwest of Washington, D.C.
Both Huguely and Love were seniors and had played on its nationally ranked men's and women's lacrosse teams.
He was charged with first-degree murder as well as grand larceny for stealing a computer from the apartment.
Prosecutors said Huguely entered the apartment while Love was sleeping, kicked in her bedroom door and then slammed her head against the wall.
Huguely's defense team said there was no evidence that he intended to kill Love, of Cockeysville, Maryland, and suggested instead that she had suffocated on the bloody pillow.
Huguely did not testify during his two-week trial.
He avoided a potential life sentence when jurors found him guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder rather than the first-degree murder charge on which he was tried.
(Reporting by Brandon Shulleeta; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Eric Beech)