Severe bruising and injuries found under Yeardley Love's chin, inside her lip and abrasions on her cheek could be consistent with smothering, according to a medical examiner that testified today in George Huguely V's murder trial.
Huguley told police in a videotaped interview hours after Love's lifeless body was discovered that he had "shook her a little," but insisted that he did not seriously injure her. But the injuries described by the medical examiner pointed to signs of a serious struggle between Love and her alleged attacker.
The assistant medical examiner, Bill Gormley, told the court that he discovered bruises to Love's chest, knuckles, forearms, lower back, buttocks and upper thigh area.
Gormley said that bruising discovered under Love's chin, inside lip and abrasions on her cheek could be consistent with smothering. He did not specify how she could have been suffocated, but said the hemorrhaging of tissue found under her neck "could reflect pressure, which could've led to death."
As Gormley described Love's extensive injuries, Huguely sat with his face in his hands.
Photos detailing Love's bruises were shown only to the the judge, jurors, Huguely and attorneys. The public and press could not see them.
Gormley explained to the court how medical examiners who dissected Love's brain found that the right side had areas of hemorrhaging.
Smothering, however, was not the cause of death, he told the court.
"Dissection of soft tissue under Love's neck showed hemorrhaging that suggests pressure of blunt force trauma," Gormley said.
Love's official cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.
In the defense's cross-examination, Gormley was asked if the injuries Love sustained on her face could have happened with a single impact blow. He said yes.
Gormley conceded that all of Love's injuries could have happened with a single event, which is consistent with the defense's claim that Huguely and Love wrestled on the ground.
It was also pointed out that bruising can be caused by a number of things aside from force, like medications.
Huguely, 24, is charged with first degree murder as well as five other charges in the death of Love.
Love, 22, was a star lacrosse player at the school and a senior just weeks away from graduation. Huguely was also a lacrosse player for the school's nationally ranked team.
Before finding out Love was dead, Huguely told police in his video-taped statement that when he went to see his former girlfriend the night of her death he told her to "chill out" and "shook her a little."
"We were just going to talk," Huguely told the officer in the video. "It was not at all a good conversation."
Huguely said that while he was trying to talk to Love, she repeatedly banged her own head against a wall.
The police officer asked Huguely if he choked her or punched her in the neck.
"I may have grabbed her a bit by the neck, but I never strangled her," Huguely said. "We were wrestling. I pushed her onto the bed and left."
Earlier today, jurors read private correspondence between Huguely and Love.
The jurors were presented a stack of papers that contained copies of a letter from Huguely to Love that was found in her desk drawer and the now famous email exchange in which Huguely wrote, "I should have killed you."
The correspondence was not read aloud in court, so the content of the communication was not revealed to spectators in the courtroom or to the press. Media requests to make the evidence public were denied by the judge.
The first half of the day was spent on testimonies from detectives and police officers, with a focus on the forensic examination of the crime scene.
Jurors looked at digital images from the crime scene with explanations of the photos from the detective that took them.
The second detective to take the stand, Det. Jeremy Carper, explained how he collected DNA from underneath Huguely's fingernails and confiscated his clothing, including brown flip-flops and dark Nike shorts. Carper also went through photos that showed cuts and scrapes on Huguely's arms, wrists and hands.
The prosecution has alleged that the injuries are from his brawl with Love and the defense has said they were from a lacrosse game.
Today's proceedings have been tame compared to last week's emotionally charged testimony from family and friends of both Love and Huguely as well as the tape of Huguely's statements to police made hours after Love's lifeless body was discovered.
Huguely doubled over, put his hands over his face and cried in court on Friday as he watched a videotape of himself being grilled by police and being told that Love was dead.
"I have to tell you something," Det. Lisa Reeves tells Huguely after he had answered questions about the night's events. "She's dead. You killed her."
"She's dead? How is she dead?" Huguely asked repeatedly. "Please, please tell me she is not dead."
"George, I wish I could, but I can't do that. She's 22 year old and the life's gone out of her," Reeves said.
A panic-stricken Huguely then repeats over and over that he doesn't believe Love is dead, that he wants to see her and that he didn't murder her.
Prosecutors allege that an enraged Huguely allegedly kicked through the door of Love's bedroom the night she died and shook her, banging her head against the wall, before leaving her bleeding. A bloody Love was later found face-down on her bed by a roommate. Her face was covered in scrapes and bruises, according to a police warrant, and her right eye was swollen shut.
The defense has suggested that Love's death may have been caused by a fatal combination of Adderall and alcohol that could have stopped her heart and that jurors should consider Huguely's role in her death as involuntary manslaughter at the most.