Lacrosse trial details victim's massive head injuries

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 09, 2012 5:13 PM
Lacrosse trial details victim's massive head injuries

By Brandon Shulleeta

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (Reuters) - Responders to slain University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love described massive head injuries that prosecutors illustrated to the jury with graphic photos on Thursday, attacking a potential defense for the man accused of murdering her.

George Huguely V, her boyfriend and also a lacrosse player, is charged with first-degree murder in the 2010 murder of Love, 22, in a trial that has generated national media fascination.

While witnesses pointed to new details suggesting she'd been the victim of a fatal attack, Huguely's attorneys have tried to poke holes in the witnesses' accounts. They have said when Huguely last left Love she only had a bloody nose and that she likely died of "positional asphyxia," not a brain injury.

Prosecutors showed the jury photos of Love's wrecked face and neck, as well as blood on her apartment rug resting below her feet after rescuers unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate her. Defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana countered by questioning a rescuer about the possibility of blood splattering during CPR.

A medical examiner determined she died from blunt force trauma to her heard.

"The young lady ... was obviously the victim of some type of act of violence," Detective Sergeant Shawn Bayles said of his observations of the scene. "She had on her right side of her eye and side of her head a large area of discolored black and blue (and the area was) swollen. On her neck and chin, there were abrasions."

Police say Huguely, 24, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, broke down Love's bedroom door, battered her against a wall and left her bleeding.

A large hole in Love's bedroom door also caught the detective's attention.

Anna Lehmann, who lived below Love's apartment, testified she heard a loud crash, which seemed to have come from Love's apartment, before emergency rescuers arrived.

However, Huguely's defense attorneys argue Love's death was the result of a "tragic accident," not murder.

His attorneys probed witnesses about the details of what transpired after Love was found face down, motionless in her bed.

Responding Charlottesville Officer K.W. Blackwell said Thursday that Love's body was about "room temperature" after a friend had removed her from her bed and placed her on the floor, to attempt CPR. However, Quagliana questioned whether his description of her body as "room temperature" was in sync with a previous statement that her body temperature was "normal."

Love and Huguely had been seniors at the university and in a long, rocky relationship that grew tense before Love's death.

Huguely choked Love months before her death, according to the prosecution team, and she had hit him with her purse about a week before her death.

Days later, according to prosecutor Warner D. Chapman, Huguely emailed Love: "I should have killed you."

He said Love's injuries included damage to her brain stem at the back of the head and to her carotid artery, plus bruising to the right side of her head.

Huguely also faces charges of robbery, burglary, breaking and entering, grand larceny and murder in the commission of robbery. The trial is expected to last about two weeks.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta)