CHARLOTTESVILLE — As more than two dozen witnesses took the stand this week for George Huguely V’s trial for the murder of his former girlfriend Yeardley Love, jurors kept hearing about Love’s bedroom door.
They were told about the damaged door by attorneys on both sides of the case in their opening statements, officers and rescue workers who responded to the scene and Love’s roommate, who found Love face-down in a bloody pillow on May 3, 2010. On Friday morning, jurors watched a nearly 90-minute taped police interview during which Huguely told detectives that when Love wouldn’t let him into her room that night, he kicked through the door to reach in and unlock it himself.
Meanwhile, a tall rectangular package wrapped in brown paper and taped at the edges leaned against the window frame behind prosecutors. Courtroom spectators wondered: Could that be the door?
On Friday afternoon, Commonwealth’s Attorney Warner “Dave” Chapman picked up the package and carried it to the front of the courtroom. Wearing blue gloves, he and a testifying police detective ripped the brown paper away. Detective Michael Flaherty identified what was inside: “Yeardley Love’s door with a large hole.”
It was a white paneled door, dusty with black powder Flaherty said investigators had used. On the outside of the door was a hole, starting just to the left of the gold doorknob and jagging upwards, revealing the innards of the hollow door.
The panel of the door that was inside Love’s room had a smaller hole and was cracked. Flaherty showed how the flap of wood could be pushed in so that a hand could reach inside the room. The doorknob showed no sign of being pried or forced open, Flaherty said.
Huguely, 24, of Chevy Chase is charged with the first-degree murder of Love, 22, of Cockeysville, Md. The two were lacrosse players and seniors at the University of Virginia, just days away from final exams and weeks from graduation. Huguely has pleaded not guilty to murder and five other charges.
Love’s mother, Sharon Love, left the courtroom Friday afternoon as the detective took the stand for several hours. Chapman instructed Flaherty to “give the jurors a tour of the crime scene” using more than a hundred photos of Love’s apartment, bedroom and attached bathroom, her shattered door and red-stained bedsheets, and graphic photos of her body.
The photos were shown to jurors, who sit in two rows in front of the judge’s bench, but were not visible to those sitting in the courtroom and have not been made available to reporters.
In one photo, Flaherty pointed out a Blackberry phone on the bed that had been left by one of Love’s roommates, the one who found her. “It continued ringing and ringing and receiving messages” as police worked the scene, he said.
Flaherty showed a series of graphic photos of Love and described those photos aloud, including photos that showed redness on her neck, her right eye swollen shut, an abrasion on her chin, discoloration and cuts on her wrists and hands. At one point, a juror asked for a break.
The photographic tour of the crime scene was also a window into Love’s world: Framed photographs and other mementos lined a bookshelf. Her yellow and black North Face backpack was filled with notebooks and schoolwork. A pink laptop case. A handful of purses, stacked neatly against a wall.
Love’s older sister, Lexie Love, burst into tears as the detective pulled a olive-and-white flowered comforter out of an evidence bag.
Other evidence included the fragments of Love’s bedroom door, a crushed Natural Light beer can found in the bathroom, a section of the bedroom wall that contained a stain, and a handwritten letter found in a desk drawer that Flaherty said was addressed “to Yeardley, signed from George.” The letter was not read aloud in court, and Chapman said copies of it would be made for jurors to read.
Huguely’s attorney, Francis McQ. Lawrence, had Flaherty explain another stack of photos of the apartment and surrounding neighborhood. Lawrence repeatedly pointed out that Love’s bedroom didn't look ransacked. Items on her dresser, bookcase and bedside table appeared “unmoved, undisturbed, unturned over,” he said.
The trial is set to resume at 9 a.m.on Monday. Chapman said on Friday that he still has witnesses to call to testify. On Friday evening, Judge Edward L. Hogshire ordered the jurors not to follow media coverage of the case or to visit the crime scene.
For updates from the trial, follow Jenna on Twitter (@WPJenna) and the Post’s Crime Scene blog. Here are previous articles about the trial and related videos: