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George Huguely's behavior not reported before Yeardley Love's death, U-Va. says

By Daniel de Vise and David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 15, 2010; B01

Yeardley Love, her family, friends and lacrosse teammates never voiced concerns to any University of Virginia official about violent altercations involving 22-year-old George Huguely, the classmate charged in Love's slaying, a university spokeswoman said Friday.

"Unfortunately, no one came forward to anybody who could do anything. Fellow students kept it among themselves," Carol Wood said in a wide-ranging response to questions about whether coaches or officials could have done more to prevent Love's death on May 3.

"We have some students who are really suffering. Because they're saying in hindsight: 'That could have been a signal. That could have been a signal.' "

Love had at least one violent, public encounter with Huguely in the months before she died, a Feb. 27 altercation at a Charlottesville party, where University of North Carolina lacrosse players had to pull Huguely off Love. A member of the Love family has said Yeardley described Huguely as "aggressive" in a March conversation. Police are investigating whether Huguely sent Love threatening e-mails or text messages.

If there were concerns, no one in the Love family brought them to a coach or other university official, Wood said. Neither did any of her teammates, sorority sisters or friends, she said.

Wood said she conferred Friday with the Love family before making the statement, which is more specific than a similar disavowal expressed by U-Va.'s athletic director at a news conference a few days after Love, 22, was found dead in her bedroom. Police have said that Huguely, a lacrosse player, kicked in Love's bedroom door and shook her so that her head repeatedly hit a wall. Huguely's attorney has portrayed the death as an accident.

Love's family members, contacted in person and by telephone, declined to comment.

University officials have said they knew nothing of Huguely's past behavior, including a violent 2008 run-in with a Lexington, Va., police officer, who used a Taser in an attempt to subdue him. They said Huguely did not report that incident to the university, as its rules required.

Former U-Va. lacrosse players said last week that men's lacrosse coach Dom Starsia had learned from Huguely himself about a 2009 incident in which Huguely attacked a sleeping teammate in his bed after hearing that the player had kissed Love.

Wood, commenting on the incident Friday for the first time, confirmed that it had occurred and described it as "a vicious attack of somebody in bed."

But she said Huguely and the other player involved portrayed the attack as "just a little personal scuffle," an argument between friends "that became physical."

Starsia dismissed Huguely and spoke with the victim of the attack privately, asking whether he had any more to say, Wood said. The player did not, she said.

Because the players portrayed it as "trivial," Wood said, Starsia had no reason to report the incident to others at the university. Had the players spoken more candidly, she said, "it would have triggered a totally different reaction," probably including intervention by the dean of students.

Other players might have known what really happened, Wood said, "but nobody was willing to come forward and tell the coach."

Contacted again Friday, one of the former U-Va. players who had told The Washington Post of the attack said he thought Starsia "knew the circumstances" of the incident.

The players interviewed last week said that Starsia had addressed the incident with the team and might have meted out some form of minor discipline.

Starsia "would have known," said one player, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of respect for the Love family and the ongoing criminal investigation. Even if the players involved didn't tell Starsia directly about details of the altercation, other players would have, the former player said.

At a vigil for Love last week, U-Va. President John T. Casteen III appealed to students for vigilance in such circumstances.

Staff writers Mary Pat Flaherty and Jenna Johnson contributed to this report.

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