Records describe scene of violence at Love's apartment

Once sealed, documents related to police searches in murder case released

  • Police Chief Tim Longo said during a news conference that 22-year-old Yeardley Love's body was found early Monday, May 3, 2010 in her Charlottesville apartment by a roommate. Longo says police were originally responding to a possible alcohol overdose, but quickly discovered it was something worse.
Police Chief Tim Longo said during a news conference that 22-year-old… (AP photo )
July 09, 2010|By Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The inventory of evidence ranges from the large, as in "door to the victim's bedroom," to the small, such as a "letter addressed to Yeardley Love," and even the microscopic, "swabs of red stain."

Together, though, the documents unsealed Thursday in the murder case of the 22-year-old University of Virginia lacrosse player and Cockeysville native provide a fuller accounting of what led police to arrest and charge her ex-boyfriend and fellow athlete, George Huguely V, with first-degree murder.

Among the records made public are statements from Huguely that add details to what he told police after Love's death May 3. Huguely, from Chevy Chase, told Charlottesville Detective Lisa T. Reeves that he had kicked the door to Love's bedroom and gotten in a "physical altercation" with her.

"Huguely stated that at one point during the altercation he saw blood coming from Yeardly Love's nose," Reeves wrote in a signed affidavit. "George further told your affiant that after the altercation he pushed Yeardly onto her bed and left."

That statement, says one expert on criminal evidence, could prove damaging to Huguely, who had been a player on Virginia's top-ranked men's lacrosse team.

"The case already looked pretty bad," said Gregory Mitchell, a professor who specializes in evidence at the University of Virginia School of Law. "There's nothing in this that makes it look any better for him.

"If I were the prosecutor, that information would certainly be used by me," Mitchell said. "It suggests he absolutely knew he was inflicting harm on her and continued to do so."

The prosecutor in the case, Dave Chapman, would not comment Thursday. He had requested that the documents be sealed, citing fears about not being able to seat a fair and impartial jury should their contents be revealed.

A judge temporarily kept the records from public view, but after a group of news media outlets filed a motion to unseal them, another judge agreed to make some but not all of the records available.

The newly available documents include inventories of what police took from the apartments of Love and Huguely, both on 14th Street here, and a black 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe that Huguely drives and is registered to his father, a real estate developer whose family founded a Washington-area lumber company nearly a century ago. Circuit Judge John J. McGrath Jr., a retired judge who unsealed the records, ordered redactions of certain items that police seized as evidence.

The inventories offer an outline of the physical evidence police have gathered. From Love's bedroom, they retrieved the door that Huguely told police he kicked, as well as "wooden pieces," perhaps from a hole in the door that, Reeves wrote, "appeared to have been made by a fist."

The inventory also includes swabs of stains on the bed and wall, a cell phone, digital camera, purse, backpack, towels, bedding and a "note in desk drawer."

From Huguely's apartment, police took a spiral notebook, two Apple laptops, clothing that included Virginia polo and lacrosse shirts, a bathroom rug, a shower curtain, a letter addressed to Love and swabs from the bathroom, kitchen and entryway. In the Tahoe, they found a handwritten note, a digital camera and a Verizon LG flip phone. Investigators also collected hair samples from Love's head and legs, as well as fingernail scrapings.

Authorities have not released the contents of e-mails or texts that Love and Huguely were believed to have exchanged. The two, both 22 years old, had dated but apparently had an occasionally fractious relationship and had broken up. Love, who graduated from Notre Dame Preparatory School in Baltimore, was posthumously awarded her bachelor's degree at Virginia's graduation ceremonies.

Corinne J. Magee, president of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the messages between Huguely and Love were likely not released because the contents "may not be admissible under the rules of law."

"What if someone changed something on a computer, and it may no longer be scientifically viable?" Magee said. "Or, a letter may contain something that someone told someone; then that would be hearsay."

Mitchell, the Virginia professor, said that in addition to buffering potential jurors from information, the restriction on the documents might have been imposed by the judge out of concern for those close to Love. Her relatives and friends have largely remained silent since the slaying, requesting privacy.

"There are some pretty graphic things, such as the condition of the body, that are sensitive," he said. "Sealing it helps protect the family."

Huguely remains jailed awaiting a court hearing scheduled for Oct. 7. His attorneys, who previously characterized the killing as "an accident with a tragic outcome," declined to comment.

On Friday, a spokesman for the city of Charlottesville said police have a T-shirt that initially was missing from Love's apartment. Ric Barrick said Love's parents turned in the T-shirt a couple of days after police unsuccessfully searched her home for it. Police wanted the shirt because it might have trace evidence.

The search warrant documents released Thursday showed the shirt was not among the items police collected from Love's apartment. Barrick said news reports about the documents implied that a key piece of evidence was missing, which he said is not the case.

The Virginia medical examiner's office officially ruled Love's death a homicide Wednesday and said the cause was blunt force injury to the head.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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