By David Nakamura, Steve Yanda and Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 23, 2010; A01
On the day before he was charged with first-degree murder, George Huguely V walked the fairways and greens of Charlottesville's exclusive Farmington Country Club, the Blue Ridge Mountains at his back.
The University of Virginia men's lacrosse team, ranked best in the nation, had just won the last regular-season game of Huguely's senior year. The 22-year-old and some teammates had gathered at the club with their fathers to celebrate the storybook ending and to look forward to the NCAA tournament.
Within hours, according to police, Huguely would kick down the bedroom door of his former girlfriend, Yeardley Love, and smash her head repeatedly against a wall.
On Sunday, while his classmates finish their school careers amid the pomp and pride of a U-Va. graduation ceremony and his teammates play a quarterfinal tournament game, Huguely will remain in the 4-by-8-foot jail cell he has occupied since police found Love facedown in a pool of her own blood on May 3. She was buried five days later.
The two sides of the George Wesley Huguely who could stroll a manicured golf course in the afternoon and allegedly commit an unfathomable act of fury in the wee hours of the next morning were not unknown to his friends and teammates. Huguely had a mercurial temperament. He was sometimes chivalrous, occasionally savage. He drank prodigiously, and that habit had resulted in previous violence.
"Every time I see Yeardley's face on a magazine, I want to die. None of us can believe this actually happened. It doesn't click. It doesn't jibe. It doesn't work," said one family friend. "The George we knew wasn't capable of that. There had to be a different George that was inside that head."
This picture of Huguely and Love, herself a U-Va. lacrosse player, is incomplete because most of those close to them declined to speak to The Washington Post. Neither of their families would speak to reporters. Others asked for anonymity out of respect to the Loves or because the police investigation is continuing. Public records and statements by police and university officials tell only pieces of the story.
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Huguely was a child of divorce but knew few other deprivations. He spent some of his teenage years in a million-dollar yellow brick home on a 1.5-acre corner lot in Potomac, where a boar's head hung over the fireplace. His round face came from his mother, Marta, a part-time model at Saks Fifth Avenue.
He was "the most friendly kid I've ever met," someone who "shook your hand and looked you in the eye," said Michael Mullally, a family friend and business associate of Huguely's father.
Huguely's great-great-grandfather co-founded the Galliher & Huguely lumber yard in Northwest Washington in 1912. The family invested in racehorses and a 1,000-unit apartment complex. Some family members had lifetime memberships at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase and the Annapolis and Corinthian yacht clubs.
Before Huguely reached his teens, the Huguely family splintered in an ugly divorce. A legal agreement from 1997 required that George Huguely IV and his ex-wife would speak by telephone every Tuesday at 9 p.m. They could discuss the children -- George and his younger sister, Teran -- only if neither child was in earshot. The parents pledged in court not to criticize each other.
Huguely finished the eighth grade at Mater Dei School in Bethesda and matriculated to nearby Landon School, an elite boys' private school. He did not want for confidence. Thrust into a football game as a freshman, he promised a coach he would make a big play -- in exchange for a kiss from the coach's fiancee, according to a Washington Post profile in 2006. Huguely promptly intercepted a pass, then walked off the field to ask for the fiancee's number.
He was the starting quarterback in his senior year and led Landon to a conference title. In lacrosse, he amassed the fifth-largest goal total in school history.
Huguely also displayed an irreverent side. Once he stole his coach's car keys from his office, pulled his car onto the lacrosse field and, from the driver's seat, struck up a conversation with the coach. The team burst out laughing, according to Huguely's account.
That same year, Huguely spoke about accusations of rape -- later refuted -- against the Duke University lacrosse team, whose roster included five players from Landon. Although Huguely had no connection to the incident, he told The Post: "I sympathize for the team," he said. "In this country, you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty."
Huguely went to U-Va. to play lacrosse, but he was not the star he was at Landon. He was more the team jester, although his humor could be sharp. He had a running joke about the fixation other players had with the "flow" of their hair as it trailed beneath their lacrosse helmets.
He was still cocky but lacked some of his teammates' discipline. He let his 6-1, 200-pound body go soft. Teammates branded him "Fuguely," a mashup of his name and a common vulgarity.
"You'd see him walk in . . . with other lacrosse players, and you'd think, 'Oh, there goes a bunch of lacrosse players and some other guy,' " said a bartender at a popular Charlottesville bar. "He just seemed like kind of an overgrown big kid."
Huguely hosted friends at his family's five-bedroom beach house on North Carolina's Outer Banks and on his father's 40-foot yacht, the Reel Deal. The elder Huguely often took lacrosse players on fishing trips and was a regular presence in Charlottesville and at team parties.
"I view them in the same way," one former player said. "Mr. Huguely was the same as George."
There was occasional discord between father and son. On winter break during Huguely's junior year, while vacationing at the family home in the affluent Palm Beach community of Manalapan, Huguely leapt from the Reel Deal into the water after a loud argument with his father. Huguely refused to return to the boat and a passing vessel picked him up, according to a sheriff's report.
But on campus and off, Huguely lived mostly within a bubble of privilege. The lacrosse team had a record unparalleled in men's athletics at U-Va., having captured national titles in 1999, 2003 and 2006. Within their circle of coaches and alumni, boosters and bartenders, the players were treated as local heroes even as alcohol fueled brushes with the law.
Eight of the 41 players on the men's roster this spring had been charged with alcohol-related offenses during their time at the university, according to court records; two were found not guilty. A ninth had been charged before joining the team. A 10th had a charge related to marijuana possession.
Men's coach Dom Starsia said in 1999 that he adopted a rule that allowed players to drink only one night a week. In subsequent years, alcohol policy was set by the players, but former players say the rules were routinely ignored. Starsia declined repeated requests to comment for this story.
One November night in 2008, a police officer found Huguely stumbling drunk into traffic near a fraternity at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. The officer, Rebecca Moss, told him that he'd have to find a ride home or go to jail. At this, Huguely unleashed racial and sexual epithets and threats that ended only when she was able to subdue the much larger Huguely with the help of a Taser after a three- or four-minute struggle, she said.
Ross Haine, Huguely's attorney, said his client was "just so drunk, he did not remember doing or saying any of those things, really." Huguely pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and public intoxication and completed 20 hours of substance abuse education, according to court records.
The university would have suspended Huguely for the arrest, according to President John T. Casteen III, but it never learned of the incident from Huguely -- who was required to report it -- his parents or the police. Yet it was not a well-kept secret among lacrosse players. A former player and the father of another player said the incident was common knowledge on the team because Huguely himself recounted a version that cast him as the victim of the officer's aggressiveness.
In the second half of 2008, a lacrosse player -- not Huguely -- tested positive for cocaine during a random drug test administered to athletes by the school. Starsia suspended the player and required him to attend a drug and alcohol education program, according to university spokeswoman Carol Wood. Starsia also ordered the rest of the team to take drug tests, all of which came back negative, Wood said.
Starsia "was extremely concerned when he learned about this drug test," Wood said in an e-mail. "After dealing with the individual, he pulled the team together to talk about it and counseled them on the dangers of drug use."
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Love grew up in an affluent Baltimore suburb. Her father, an investor, died of prostate cancer in 2003, leaving his widow, Sharon Love, to raise Yeardley and her older sister, Lexie. Continuing a passion for lacrosse shared with her father, Love played four years on the team at Notre Dame Prep in Baltimore. At U-Va., she was a beloved member of a powerful collegiate team that also was nationally ranked.
The men's and women's lacrosse teams traveled in the same concentric circles of social and athletic life. Love also was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, further elevating her stature in Charlottesville.
Clear signs of trouble in Love's relationship with Huguely emerged in February 2009, when a teammate of Huguely walked Love home from a team victory party on The Corner, a strip of burger joints and bars near campus. Word reached Huguely, who believed the two had kissed.
Huguely went to the teammate's apartment, where he was sleeping, and pummeled him, according to accounts confirmed by the university. Later, in a tavern with some teammates, Huguely recounted the assault "like some cheesy action movie, where he stood above the guy while he was sleeping and said, 'Sweet dreams, punk,' and then just punched him in the face," according to a bartender who heard the account.
Huguely and the teammate reported the attack to their coach. Wood said both players portrayed it as "a little personal scuffle." Had the players spoken more candidly, said Wood, who called the attack "vicious," the incident would have triggered a strong disciplinary response. Wood said no one else came forward with the full story.
In public, Huguely was often courteous toward his girlfriend, "always really polite" and "always smiling," one team parent recalled. "I never saw the angry part of him, ever."
But one night in February of this year, Huguely's mask slipped. At a celebratory party after back-to-back victories by the men's and women's teams, Huguely jumped on Love and began to choke her, according to an eyewitness. Three current and former lacrosse players from rival University of North Carolina pulled him off Love. One of the UNC men drove Love, who was shaken by the attack, home to suburban Baltimore for a break from Huguely.
Love told some people that she and Huguely were through after the attack. But several acquaintances described seeing them together on campus. They continued to travel in the same social circles, giving some the impression that relations had improved. A few thought they were still dating.
One friend said Huguely apologized and expressed remorse for the attack, "trying to get back on her good side." Police and university officials said no report of the violence was ever made by Love, her family, friends or teammates.
On May 1, two days before her death, Love gathered with a group of players and parents at Boylan Heights, a team hangout on The Corner. The men's team had won its final regular season game that day, securing the top seed in the NCAA tournament. It also was U-Va. senior weekend, an event that brings many parents to campus.
Love spent part of the evening talking with Marta Murphy, Huguely's mother. He didn't sit at the table but popped over for visits. "I still didn't know they had broken up," said a person who saw them. "Everything seemed fine."
The lacrosse team outing at Farmington Country Club was the next day. Huguely began a day of heavy drinking during or after the final round of golf, according to accounts provided by acquaintances who saw him that day and told others.
Love was spotted later that night, a few hours before her death, as she sat with some teammates on the deck at Boylan Heights. The crowded tables pulsed with excitement over the coming NCAA tournament. Someone asked Love, "What's going on with you and George?"
"Same old stuff," she replied. "Everything is good."
Staff writers Zach Berman, Matt Bonesteel, Mary Pat Flaherty, Jenna Johnson, T. Rees Shapiro and Mark Viera; special correspondent Christian Swezey; and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.