Accused U-Va. player George Huguely attacked sleeping student, teammates say

By David Nakamura, Christian Swezey and Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 8, 2010; B01

University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely attacked a sleeping teammate last year, leaving his face bruised, after hearing that the player had kissed Yeardley Love, a student Huguely had dated, according to three former U-Va. lacrosse players with knowledge of the incident.

U-Va. lacrosse Coach Dom Starsia quickly learned of the February 2009 incident and disciplined the two players, although both played in games that week, according to the former players, who spoke on condition of anonymity, and records of the games.

School officials have said they were not informed of prior violence by Huguely, a 22-year-old senior from Chevy Chase who was arrested Monday and charged with first-degree murder in Love's slaying. It is unclear whether Starsia told his superiors about the attack.

One former U-Va. team member said Huguely beat the sleeping teammate in his room after a night of partying. The player said Huguely was outraged over his teammate's encounter with Love, 22, a player on U-Va.'s women's lacrosse team who was dating Huguely at the time. Two other former men's team players confirmed the account.

Huguely was arrested Monday, hours after Love was found dead in her Charlottesville apartment. Police say Huguely told them he kicked in the door and shook Love during a violent argument, causing her head to repeatedly hit a wall. Huguely's attorney has said that Love's death was an accident.

Attempts to reach Starsia, whose father died Friday, by telephone and e-mail were unsuccessful. University spokeswoman Carol Wood said she was not aware of the 2009 incident. The allegedly injured player did not respond to a message sent to him on Facebook or to telephone messages left with family members.

Since Huguely's arrest, reports have emerged about his past run-ins with the law, including a violent, alcohol-fueled confrontation with a police officer in 2008. The patrolwoman in Lexington, Va., used a Taser on Huguely before eventually subduing him.

Two months before Love's death, two current and one former University of North Carolina lacrosse players had to separate Huguely from Love at a party on the U-Va. campus, according to two sources with knowledge of the incident, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In suburban Baltimore on Friday, mourners packed the Ruck Towson Funeral Home for an emotional wake for Love. The room was adorned with collages and photos from Love's youth, effectively filling it with images of her piercing blue eyes. A digital slideshow played on a laptop that the procession of mourners passed on its way to the closed coffin.

A prayer card pictured Love smiling in a sundress of yellow, purple and pink. Mourners lined up to pay respects to Sharon and Lexi Love, Yeardley's mother and sister.

Flowers were sent by lacrosse teams from Princeton, Georgetown, Brown, Notre Dame and other universities, as well as from Love's high school and college teams. Love grew up in the Baltimore suburb of Cockeysville and attended Notre Dame Prep, a girl's school in Towson.

A Mass and private burial are scheduled for Saturday.

Leigh Erlandson, 45, of Lutherville, one of the mourners, said she had known Yeardley from age 8. "Everybody should have the ability to know a family as wonderful as Yeardley's. She gave so much," Erlandson said.

Under U-Va. policy, Huguely was obligated to tell school officials about his 2008 confrontation with the patrolwoman, but he apparently did not. U-Va. President John T. Casteen III said Wednesday that the case has exposed gaps in the school's relationship with law enforcement and that he would like the university to begin checking students against a statewide criminal database.

At Wednesday's news conference, one reporter asked specifically whether team members had spoken of past violence by Huguely. Athletic Director Craig Littlepage replied: "I never heard it. Absolutely never heard it."

Casteen is scheduled to meet with Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) on Tuesday. On Friday, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) said he plans to take a lead role in rewriting state law on sharing criminal information with college administrators.

According to the three former players, the U-Va. men's lacrosse team had won a game against Stony Brook University, and members were celebrating with a night of drinking at a Charlottesville bar that served as a lacrosse team hangout. Love was escorted home by a teammate of Huguely's, and the two might have been seen in her apartment by other team members.

When Huguely found out, "he went into [the player's] room at night and laid into him pretty good," said one former player, who was on the team at the time of the attack. He spoke on condition of anonymity out of respect for the grieving families.

Huguely and the other player told Starsia about their fight, according to another source. At the next practice, where the injured player was wearing sunglasses to cover up his bruises, the coach talked about it with the team.

The practice was "extremely awkward," the former player said, until the two young men made up. "It was like a fight among brothers."

Kip Turner, a former player and 2007 U-Va. graduate who remains close to the team, said that "people knew" about the incident. "Yeardley and [the player who walked her home] were very good friends. They were both from Baltimore. George was from D.C."

If Huguely was disciplined, the punishment was not suspension. A few days later, the No. 2-ranked Cavaliers upset No. 1-ranked Syracuse. Huguely registered one shot and two turnovers in the game.

Staff writers Zachary Berman, Mary Pat Flaherty, Jenna Johnson, Taylor Shapiro, Mark Viera and Steve Yanda contributed to this report.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company