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Jurors find Huguely guilty in Virginia lacrosse slaying

George Huguely, a former University of Virginia lacrosse player, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his former girlfriend and fellow student-athlete, Yeardley Love. NBC's Lilia Luciano reports.

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George Huguely V is escorted into the Charlottesville Circuit courthouse Wednesday.

Updated at 10:30 p.m. EST: CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Jurors on Wednesday found former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely V guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his ex-girlfriend, NBC News reported.

Huguely of Chevy Chase, Md., was charged in the death of 22-year-old Yeardley Love, whose body was found battered, bleeding and bruised in the bedroom of her Charlottesville apartment in the early hours of May 3, 2010.

The jury of seven men and five women also found Huguely guilty of grand larceny but not guilty on four other charges: felony murder in the commission or attempted commission of a robbery; robbery; burglary - breaking and entering with intent to commit larceny; and statutory burglary - breaking and entering with intent to commit assault and battery.

Huguely, 24, did not visibly react to the verdict, and there was no overt sign of emotion from families of the victim and the defendant.

Jurors recommended Huguely receive 25 years in prison for the second-degree murder conviction and one year on the grand-larceny conviction, NBC News reported. They could have recommended up to 60 years total. The judge must still decide whether to agree with the jury recommendation or reduce it but cannot issue a sentence longer than the recommendation.

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Yeardley Love is shown in this University of Virginia photo.

Circuit Judge Edward Hogshire scheduled an April hearing for formal sentencing.

The recommendation came just a few hours after jurors heard sentencing-phase testimony delivered right after they convicted Huguely. That testimony included a tearful responses from Love's mother, Sharon Love, and Yeardley's older sister, Lexie.

“Every day is different,” Sharon Love said. “We've done the best we can to do something positive in Yeardley's name, but some days are unbearable."

The defense called no witnesses, NBC News said, but appealed to jurors to remember Huguely's police station plea about Yeardley Love: "Please tell me she's not dead."

After receiving sentencing instructions, jurors adjourned to a private room to deliberate Huguely's fate.

After the sentencing recommendation, Prosecutor Dave Chapman told reporters gathered outside the courthouse that "there are no winners in this case -- nothing but loss everywhere." However, he said, he hoped the Love family could "feel solace today."

Sharon and Lexie Love, in a prepared statement obtained by NBC News, thanked Chapman and others for their efforts in Yeardley's case.

"We will continue to keep her spirit alive by performing works of kindness in her name," they said.

Yeardley Love, a lacrosse player on the women's team, was found face down on her pillow. Her right eye was swollen and bruised, she had marks on her chest that suggested she was grabbed and had injuries around her jaw and inside her mouth and neck. Jurors heard several potentially lethal consequences of such injuries. A coroner concluded the young woman from suburban Baltimore died of blunt force trauma.

In a police interrogation video viewed by jurors, Huguely said he went to Love's apartment to talk about their sputtering, two-year relationship and she "freaked out" when he broke into her room. Their encounter quickly turned physical, with Huguely admitting he may have shaken her but insisting he didn't grab her neck or punch her. He also claimed she repeatedly banged her head on the bedroom wall.

A medical expert for the defense testified that Love likely was smothered, her face buried in her own blood-dampened pillow. Huguely's defense team has also suggested Love's death was the result of drinking and a prescription drug she took for attention-deficit disorder. A coroner said both substances were in her body but not in potentially lethal doses.

The prosecution painted a much more sinister scenario.

Huguely went to her apartment less than one week after he sent her a threatening email about her relationship with a North Carolina lacrosse player.

In the email, Huguely wrote that when he found out about the relationship, "I should have killed you."

In court, Chapman portrayed Huguely as intent on controlling Love. He came to her apartment to physically impose his will, kicking a hole in her bedroom door and reaching in and unlocking the door, the prosecutor said.

"That's the beginning of terror, ladies and gentlemen," said Chapman, who seemed to sob as he began closing arguments Saturday. "It's just unimaginable what that woman went through and you know it."

Then 210 pounds and nearly a foot taller than Love, Huguely battered her face and likely held her down by her neck and covered her mouth, the prosecutor said.

Prosecution medical experts said her death, which came about two hours after Huguely left, could have been caused by a loss of blood flow from the carotid artery. They also testified about bruising on her brain - the result of her brain striking the interior of her skull - and blood pooling near her brain stem. The latter was likely caused by a wrenching or torqueing of the head, experts testified.
Chapman said Huguely left Love's apartment with her laptop computer, tossing it in a trash bin in an apparent attempt to hide incriminating emails.

The alleged computer theft was critical in the prosecution's case. Chapman sought a conviction on felony murder, saying Love was fatally injured during a robbery.

In his closing arguments, defense attorney Francis McQ. Lawrence described Huguely as hulking, hard-drinking jock but no killer. He acknowledged Huguely had an unintended, accidental role in Love's death, arguing for a finding of involuntary manslaughter and a 10-year prison term.

Huguely, a member of a well-to-do Washington family, was a "boy athlete" and he and Love lived in what Lawrence described as a "lacrosse ghetto" where drinking, sexually charged relationships and emotional outbursts were the norm among elite athletes.

Huguely now bears little resemblance to the stocky 6-foot, Division I athlete of nearly two years ago. He is about 30-40 pounds lighter and pasty from his time in jail awaiting trial. He did not testify during the trial.

Jurors have asked to view a police interrogation video recorded hours after Love's death in which he reacted incredulously when told Love was dead.

This article includes reporting by The Associated Press.

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