Emotions ran high as George Huguely V took the stand in Charlottesville Circuit Court Wednesday, coming face to face with the mother of his victim, Yeardley Love, for the first time in a decade.
Huguely, a former University of Virginia lacrosse player, was found guilty in 2012 of killing Love, 22, a fellow UVa lacrosse player and Huguely’s on-again, off-again girlfriend. She was found dead in her apartment in May 2010, two weeks before she and Huguely were set to graduate.
A lawsuit from Sharon Love, Yeardley’s mother and the administrator of her estate, began Monday with jury selection and opening statements on Tuesday.
The wrongful death lawsuit seeks $29.5 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.
Wednesday was the only day Huguely is set to appear after it was ruled that, as a result of his conviction, he did not have the right to attend every day of the civil trial.
Due to his incarceration Huguely has been scarcely seen by the public since 2012, his face frozen in time via college photos republished in news articles.
The now 34-year-old Huguely has visibly aged, the decade of time showing on his face as he sat in the courtroom Wednesday.
Dressed in a plain white, button-down shirt, blue jeans and sporting shoulder-length hair and a short, cropped beard, Huguely took the stand as an adverse party to answer questions from the Loves’ attorney, Paul Bekman.
Bekman wasted little time, quickly working to drill Huguely on what he remembered about the weekend of May 3, 2010, during which he killed Love. According to Huguely, he remembered very little due to his excessive drinking.
His drinking had been a source of strife for Huguely and Love, whom the former described as more “off-again than on-again” during the spring 2010 semester.
“I was drinking a lot all the time, all the way from my freshman year to my senior year,” Huguely said. “I was drinking all the time. It was out of control.”
Huguely said his drinking habit began when he was in high school and only grew worse in college, recalling a period of time when he drank 30 days in a row.
Working to establish a pattern of violence, Bekman questioned Huguely about an incident in which he attacked a teammate that he believed had sex with Love. Describing the teammate as a “close friend,” Huguely said after he was told about the potential infidelity he traveled to his teammate’s room one morning, pulled him from his bed and punched him at least twice.
The incident was reported to Huguely’s lacrosse coach whom Huguely said handled the matter internally after his teammate “took responsibility for messing up.”
“Like I said, he crossed a line so I punched him a couple times, but I don’t harbor any resentment or bitterness,” he said. “We dealt with it in-house and no one was suspended.”
As it did in his criminal trial, much of Wednesday’s testimony centered on an email exchange between Love and Huguely in the week leading up to her death.
After drunkenly confronting Huguely and two high school girls who were staying with him, Love had written her ex-boyfriend a lengthy apology.
“I think we both know things are over with us, but I don’t want it to be awkward or there to be tension between us when we go out,” she wrote.
Apparently unreceptive to her apology, Huguely responded with an angry message in which he called Love a variety of insults and accused her of having sex with another man to hurt him.
The two traded insults back and forth via email, with Love attacking Huguely’s bad behaviors and him continuing to direct sexually demeaning insults at her. In one of the last emails in the exchange Huguely wrote “I should have killed you” in response to Love.
The defendant claimed Wednesday he had not meant this to be literal.
“This is a horrible, nasty exchange that I have no explanation for and I know if Yeardley was here she’d say that too,” he said.
“But she’s not here, is she, Mr. Huguely?” Bekman said in response.
Over the weekend of Love’s murder, Huguely said he drank frequently and excessively, leading to him having little memory of the night of May 2 and the early morning of May 3. Comparing his memory to a slideshow, Huguely said it was as though 98% of the slides had been removed.
He claimed that his only memory of Love during the morning of May 3 was a mental image of her with blood coming out of her nose. He claimed to not remember breaking into her room and leaving her with a swath of external injuries and a fatal head injury.
During cross-examination Huguely’s attorney, Matthew Green, talked about the defendant’s time in prison, which has involved completing alcohol and drug treatment programs.
“When you’re forced to take a step back it can sometimes give you a better perspective about how bad your problem has gotten,” he said. “The drinking had kept going and going until the worst things that could happen did.”
According to Huguely, he has worked several jobs at a few different correctional centers, with the most recent position paying him $0.55 an hour. He said he owns no assets and is not named in any trust fund, though earlier testimony had hinted at his family’s wealth.
After being stopped earlier by Bekman during the plaintiff’s questioning, toward the end of his testimony Huguely turned to Love’s mother and sister and apologized for killing their loved one.
“I miss her and think about her every day. I would do anything to take back that night,” he said. “I take responsibility for what happened to her and I should have never gone over to her apartment that night.”
The apology prompted a visceral reaction from Love’s family, causing her sister to shake her head before quietly trying to stifle a sob.
The trial is expected to continue for several days, wrapping up on May 3, the 12th anniversary of Love’s death.