Defense lawyer for Va. lacrosse player charged with murder says woman’s death was accident

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Defense lawyer: Va. player’s death was accident

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The death of a University of Virginia women’s lacrosse player was an accident, a lawyer for the man accused of killing her said Tuesday.

Defense lawyer Francis Lawrence said he was confident Yeardley Love’s death was not intentional.

George Huguely, a men’s lacrosse player and a senior at the school, was arrested Monday hours after Love’s body was found in her apartment. Huguely, 22, has been charged with first-degree murder.

“Until more information becomes available, it is our hope that no conclusions will be drawn or judgments made about George or his case,” Lawrence said Tuesday, reading a statement to reporters outside a courthouse. “We are confident that Ms. Love’s death was not intended, but an accident with a tragic outcome.”

Lawrence did not elaborate and said he would have no further comment.

Police have given not details of how Love, 22, died, or why, but said she and Huguely had been in a relationship at some point.

Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Md., appeared by videoconference Tuesday at a court hearing, wearing a gray-striped jail uniform. He did not speak during the proceeding between his lawyers and the judge. There was no discussion of bond for him.

Huguely’s parents and stepfather were in the courtroom. They left the courthouse through a back entrance without talking to reporters.

Police have released few details in the case. They have said investigators planned to interview fellow players and friends about the nature of the relationship.

Love’s roommate called police around 2:15 a.m. concerned that Love may have had an alcohol overdose, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said. Police found her dead with obvious physical injuries, Longo said, but he did not believe any weapons were used in the killing.

Love, of Cockeysville, Md., was only weeks from earning a degree and she and her teammates were expecting to end their season by winning a national championship.

As the news trickled throughout campus, suggestions that the death may have stemmed from a domestic situation did little to ease concerns.

“Just to hear that anybody in the U.Va. community could be suspected of that, regardless of the relationship, does give you a sense of unease,” said Drew Cook, 22, of Burke, said.

Kyle Cecil, 22, of Newport News, said he lived on the same hall as Huguely as a freshman, and knew him well enough to say hello. He was shocked to see police cars at the building on his way to class, and more shocked when he learned of Huguely’s arrest.

Leonard Sandridge, executive vice president of the university, told reporters the campus was saddened, and that the pain is magnified because the accused is “one of our own.”

The lacrosse teams met at least once during the day, but lacrosse players and school officials declined repeatedly to comment, referring to a school statement.

The men’s and women’s lacrosse seasons — both teams are national title contenders — were “not even entering into our thoughts,” athletic director Craig Littlepage said.

The NCAA tournament pairings are to be announced Sunday, and the men’s team is expected to host a first-round game, and the women’s team is also expecting to be included.

Huguely, a midfielder, wasn’t a starter but played in all 15 games this season. He had four goals and three assists. Love played defense and started in three games this season.

Love was “described as an angel by teammates and friends,” Littlepage said.

She played varsity lacrosse and field hockey for four years at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Baltimore.

“Yeardley was the core of the personality of the team. She was our laughter, a good soul. She always found an appropriate way to lighten things up,” said Mary Bartel, who coached lacrosse at Notre Dame Prep. “I don’t think there is a soul in this building who couldn’t say her name without smiling.”

University president John Casteen said in a release on the university’s website that Love “deserved the bright future she earned growing up, studying here, and developing her talents as a lacrosse player,” he said. “She deserves to be remembered for her human goodness, her capacity for future greatness, and for the terrible way in which her young life has ended.”

Huguely attended the Landon School, a private school in Bethesda, Md. It is the same prep school that at least one of the Duke lacrosse players accused of sexually assaulting a woman at a team party in 2006 attended. The charges later were dismissed.

Huguely played both varsity lacrosse and varsity football, and was co-captain of the lacrosse team in his senior year, school spokeswoman Jean Erstlin said.

She said the school had no comment on his arrest.

Associated Press Writers Dena Potter in Richmond and Dave Ginsburg in Baltimore, Md., contributed to this report.

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