Doctors in George Huguely case cite bruising in Yeardley Love’s brain

— A Virginia medical examiner on Tuesday told jurors that Yeardley Love died from blunt force trauma to her head.

Assistant Chief Medical Examiner William T. Gormley also said that Love had alcohol and prescription levels of the drug Adderall, which is used to treat attention disorders, in her system when she died. He said those substances did not cause her May 2010 death.

The testimony of Gormley and other medical experts came on the seventh day of the trial of George Huguely V, 24, who has been charged with murder in Love’s death. The on-off couple were seniors at the University of Virginia.

While the often-technical testimony of medical experts can prove tedious, it should help jurors answer a critical question: What killed Love?

Prosecutors have said an angry Huguely shook Love, 22, until her head banged against a wall, and left her bleeding. A roommate found her body on May 3, 2010. Huguely, of Chevy Chase, has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges.

After his arrest, Huguely told police in a videotaped statement that he shook Love “a little bit,” they wrestled and at one point they fell to the floor. He said he never hit Love in the face, and that she didn’t seem badly hurt when he left.

Gormley returned to the stand on Tuesday after hours of testimony from experts called by the prosecution who analyzed Love’s brain and identified bruises and bleeding they said came from traumatic injury.

Rhonda Quagliana, one of Huguely’s attorneys, repeatedly raised the possibility in her questioning that either an irregular heartbeat provoked by Adderall or a massive rush of blood to Love’s brain after medical rescue teams performed CPR could account for what the experts had described.

The exchanges over the CPR effect caused some of the more spirited exchanges.

“How do you know,” that CPR efforts and a blood surge could not have caused the brain bruising in a patient, Quagliana at one point asked Beatriz Lopes, director of neuropathology at U-Va.

“Because I cut hundreds of brains of people like that,” Lopes said. In rare cases where bruising has occurred in a brain after blood rushed back in, it came in a hospital setting, not at the hands of local paramedic squads, and the patient survived, Lopes said.

Christine E. Fuller, a neuropathologist at Virginia Commonwealth University, testified that Love’s injuries were consistent with those caused when a person’s head is quickly moving and then suddenly stops, and the brain continues to shift inside the skull. Bruising is often caused not only by force, she said, but also rotation. A fall from a great height, a car crash or a severe impact, such as a head hitting a wall or hitting the floor, could cause such injuries, Fuller said.

Gormley testified that Love’s blood alcohol level that night was .14, nearly double the legal limit of .08. Huguely told police he had 12 drinks of beer and wine on May 2, but his blood alcohol level was not tested after his May 3 arrest.

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Mary Pat Flaherty works on investigative and long-range stories. Her work has won numerous national awards, including the Pulitzer Prize.
Jenna Johnson writes about Maryland politics, including the General Assembly, the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley and the 2014 election.
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