Ex-lacrosse player at UVA convicted of murdering ex-girlfriend

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia Thu Feb 23, 2012 1:03pm EST

George Huguely V in an undated photo. REUTERS/Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail

George Huguely V in an undated photo.

Credit: Reuters/Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (Reuters) - A jury on Wednesday found former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely V guilty of second-degree murder in the 2010 death of his ex-girlfriend, and recommended he serve 25 years in prison.

The jury deliberated for about nine hours before finding Huguely, 24, guilty of killing his 22-year-old on-again, off-again girlfriend Yeardley Love.

The case drew national media attention to the quiet college town of Charlottesville, Virginia, where Huguely and Love once played on the university's nationally ranked men's and women's lacrosse teams.

Prosecutors said their college romance turned deadly in May 2010 when Huguely entered Love's apartment while she was asleep, kicking in her bedroom door and slamming her head against the wall.

Prosecution expert witnesses said Love, from Cockeysville, Maryland, died about two hours later from blunt force trauma to the head.

"Every year that goes by, I would like to know what she would be doing now," Sharon Love, the victim's mother, told the court on Wednesday. "Also, every year that goes by, I'm like afraid that I'm forgetting little pieces about her."

Huguely faced a first-degree murder charge and could have received a lifelong sentence, but after the two week trial jurors instead found Huguely guilty of second-degree murder and grand larceny. In Virginia, a second-degree murder charge constitutes an act committed unintentionally but with malice.

He was acquitted of the other four charges he faced.

While jurors recommended a 25-year prison sentence for the murder conviction, the judge will have the final say. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

Defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana said Huguely's judgment the night of Love's death was clouded by severe alcohol abuse. He has since admitted to an alcohol problem, the first step toward changing his behavior, she said.

Over the course of the trial, defense attorneys argued prosecutors failed to prove Huguely intended to kill Love and suggested instead she suffocated in her bloody pillow.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Francis Lawrence acknowledged Huguely "played a role" in Love's death. Huguely told police he may have shaken Love "a little bit" but said she hit her own head against the wall.

Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, did not testify during the trial.

(Reporting by Brandon Shulleeta; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Paul Thomasch)

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