Jurors leaned toward the screen, one wiping her eyes. Love’s mother and sister stared coldly at Huguely.
“I never did anything that could do that to her,” Huguely, now 24, said on the tape.
Prosecutors played the 90-minute video on the third day of testimony in Huguely’s trial, turning the screen toward the jury but away from a rapt and silent courtroom audience that could only hear it. It was the first time jurors heard Huguely’s voice.
In that interview, recorded only hours after Love was found dead early May 3, 2010, Huguely said that the on-and-off couple, both University of Virginia seniors, fought and that he “shook her a little” but did not hit her in the face. He said she hit her own head against the wall and that he didn’t think she was seriously hurt when he left.
The taped exchange between Charlottesville Detective Lisa Reeves and Huguely was rhythmic and chilling as she told him that the woman he had dated for two years was dead.
Reeves: “I have to tell you something. She’s dead. You killed her.”
Huguely: “She’s dead?”
Reeves: “You know.”
Huguely: “She’s dead? She’s dead? She’s dead?” and with his voice rising, “How?”
Huguely has pleaded not guilty to murder and five other charges in connection with Love’s death. The two were accomplished lacrosse players on the verge of graduation: Huguely from Chevy Chase; and Love, 22, from Cockeysville, Md.
By Huguely’s telling on the tape, he had gone to Love’s apartment late May 2 “just to talk” about running arguments in a relationship that had turned tumultuous over romantic betrayals.
Love told him to go away when he knocked on her bedroom door, he says on the tape. When she didn’t let him in, he kicked through the door to reach in and unlock it — an admission he makes only after a detective repeatedly presses him about how he had gotten into the room.
Love “was all freaked out just at seeing me. . . .
She was getting all, like, really defensive,” Huguely says. He also said “she kept hitting her head against the wall,” telling him that she didn’t want to discuss things.
“I shook her a little bit,” Huguely tells the detective. When asked about a bruise on Love’s neck, he says: “I may have grabbed her a little bit around the neck . . . but I never strangled her.”
Huguely also says “I never struck her” and “I never hit her in the face.”
A medical examiner has ruled that Love died of blunt force trauma to the head. Huguely’s defense team has suggested to jurors that she could have died of an irregular heartbeat brought on by the prescription drug she took for an attention disorder.
Huguely was at Love’s for less than 10 minutes, he estimated. “I was more emotional than I would say ‘angry.’ ”
The couple wrestled, he says on the tape, and at one point when they were on the floor by her bed, “she was flopping, like a fish out of water.”
Her nose was bleeding “a little bit” when they stood up, Huguely told police, and he “tossed” and “pushed” her back onto her bed before leaving.
“I did not” call paramedics, Huguely says. “I didn’t think she was in need” of medical help, he says after a detective asks why he had left her bleeding.
Huguely’s mother, Marta Murphy, sitting a few feet away from her only son, sobbed as the tape was played.
Friends of Huguely’s have said that he drank excessively and increasingly in the weeks before Love died, and on the police tape, Huguely says he had had more than a dozen beers as well as wine at a golf course, his home, a restaurant and a bar before going to see Love.
In the interview, Huguely admits that he took a laptop from Love’s apartment the night of their final argument: “I was so pissed that she didn’t want to talk. I took it as collateral, I guess,” he says, and later tossed it into a dumpster. A detective suggests that he had taken it to conceal possible evidence. “No,” Huguely responds.
As he was heard pleading again and again that he wanted to see Love, Huguely wept in court. “She has to be alive. She has to be,” he says in the tape. There is the sound of a hand hitting a table.
Huguely says on the tape that he and Love had argued about other women in his apartment days earlier. Love hit him in the face and threw a purse and cellphone at him, he adds. That incident and Love’s refusal to talk it over with him, Huguely says on the tape, drove him to try to see her.
Reeves offers him another explanation: “It had to be your way or the highway?” And another detective suggests, “Was it she got what she deserved?”
“No, no, no,” Huguely answers, moments before the aired portion of the tape ends.
In court, Huguely gingerly rose and stood until jurors left. He dropped back into his chair once the seven men and seven women weighing his fate were out of sight.
Across the courtroom, propped against a wall amid boxes of other evidence, was a big rectangle as high and wide and thick as a door, wrapped in brown paper and scheduled to be unveiled before the jurors.
After lunch break, to the sound of ripping paper, they got their look at it.