Romantic Rival Testifies At U.Va. Murder Trial

Published February 10, 2012 3:36AM (EST)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — The romantic rival of a former University of Virginia lacrosse player accused of killing his ex-girlfriend testified Thursday that he saw the defendant with his arm around her neck months before her death.

Mike Burns talked about the chokehold at George Huguely V's murder trial. Huguely is accused of killing Yeardley Love in May 2010 by slamming her head against a wall. Huguely's defense maintains Love died in part by taking the prescription drug Adderall and drinking alcohol.

Love was on Virginia's women's lacrosse team. Burns played for North Carolina.

At a party at Huguely's apartment complex three months before Love's death, Burns said he heard yells from Huguely's bedroom. When he walked in, he saw Huguely with his arm around her neck and midsection, he said.

"What did George do?" prosecutor David Chapman said.

"George let go of her," Burns said.

Love was crying hysterically after Huguely released her and she fled, Burns said. Love later told Burns that Huguely wanted to talk but she was resisting, Burns said.

Chapman produced an email earlier this week in which Huguely accused Love of having a relationship with Burns.

"When I found out about Mike Burns, I should have killed you," the email said, according to Chapman.

Burns testified that he and Love "hooked up" several times beginning in the 2008, including after the night at the party.

Huguely and Love dated for two years, but in their final year of college, the relationship turned hot and cold, with arguments and angry and abusive emails.

Former Virginia lacrosse players and their friends also testified Thursday, describing a sexually-charged, alcohol-fueled atmosphere. He said the choking occurred at a party involving two apartment buildings in Charlottesville attended by 120 people.

Burns demonstrated on the prosecutor what he saw.

Tim Fuchs, a former Virginia lacrosse player, testified that he saw Love leave the bedroom.

"She seemed a little scared," Fuchs said. "She was a little freaked out."

Fuchs and others also talked about when Love walked in on Huguely, Fuchs and two high school girls from northern Virginia who were visiting the campus. Love confronted Huguely, asking if the girls were the same ones he had sent flirtatious text messages to.

Instead of answering, Huguely responded with insults, another witness said. Huguely's relationship with the girls was not made clear during testimony.

Two former Huguely teammates also testified to his growing drinking problem, including a father-son golf tournament at which he began drinking at 9 a.m. and continued until he stumbled, slurred his words and made inappropriate remarks. Teammates were considering an intervention.

During earlier testimony Thursday, police officers who responded to what they thought was an alcohol overdose said they found Love's bruised and bloodied body, and quickly realized her apartment was a crime scene.

Patrolman K.W. Chapman said he arrived at the apartment and found a hole in her bedroom door and her body lying on the floor next to her bed. She was wearing only underwear.

He kneeled down to check whether she was breathing and detected nothing. He then unsuccessfully tried CPR. He said Love's face was bloodied, bruised and had scrapes.

"When I saw that, I knew that this was nowhere near the report that I was given," Chapman said.

Charlottesville Police Sgt. S.R. Bayles said after he viewed Love's lifeless body, he concluded she had been the "victim of some act of violence" and began recording the apartment with a digital camera.

Love had a black eye and the side of her face had bruises, Bayles said.

When photos of the scene were shown to jurors, Huguely cast his eyes downward and fidgeted with his hands.

EMT crews that followed Chapman and his partner to Love's apartment testified about the frantic efforts to revive her.

Huguely's attorneys have said he was drunk the night Love died and incapable of plotting to kill her. They maintain Love, of Cockeysville, Md., died from a cardiopulmonary failure caused in part by Adderall and alcohol.

They also said the blood found at the base of Love's brain wasn't caused by Huguely but by forceful attempts to resuscitate her.

By Salon Staff

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