(Updated 12:12 a.m.) CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA—A Charlottesville jury recommended that Chevy Chase native George Huguely V spend 26 years behind bars Wednesday evening in the 2010 killing of ex-girlfriend Yeardley Love of Cockeysville.
The sentence—25 years for second-degree murder and one year for grand larceny—ends the more than two-week trial and closes a chapter in a case that drew national attention.
The jury of five men and seven women began deliberating the sentence shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday, and returned the recommendation at 10 p.m.
Huguely sat with his head bowed and his eyes closed for much of the sentencing hearing. Family and friends, some with ash on their foreheads to mark Ash Wednesday, also bowed their heads as the sentence was read. As they left the courthouse following the hearing, a young girl sobbed.
Huguely could have faced five to 40 years in prison on the murder conviction and up to 20 years on the larceny conviction. Huguely has served nearly two years since his 2010 arrest.
Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire, who has the final say in Huguely's sentence, will schedule a date for sentencing on April 16. Hogshire can sentence Huguely to no more than what the jury recommended.
Virginia law does not offer parole in most cases, including Huguely's, Hogshire said.
"There's no winners in this case," said Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman, the lead prosecutor.
Defense attorney Francis McQ. Lawrence did not take questions, but in a brief statement outside the rain-soaked courthouse said "we look forward to some corrections in what happened here tonight."
Huguely and Love were both lacrosse players at the University of Virginia. University President Teresa Sullivan said in a statement following the verdict: "Yeardley's family, teammates, sorority sisters and friends—indeed all of us at the University—continue to feel the loss of this promising young woman. It remains now to each of us to commit to caring for one another and, when we see someone in trouble, to having the courage to intercede and offer assistance."
Jurors declined to be interviewed as they left the courthouse.
Huguely was evening of second-degree murder and grand larceny, charges stemming from the early hours of May 3, 2010, when he burst into Love's Charlottesville apartment and the two got into a fight shortly after Huguely learned of infidelities by Love. A roommate found her half-naked in a pool of blood, and resuscitation efforts failed.
In a statement, Sharon and Lexie Love—her mother and sister, respectively—thanked Chapman and thanked friends and supporters.
"It is truly devastating to wake up each day and realize that (Yeardley) is no longer here," they said in the statement. "Yeardley's contagious smile, kind spirit and gentle touch have left this world but we know that heaven has an angel like no other."
during the Wednesday evening sentencing hearing.
“Every year that goes by I'm afraid I'm forgetting little pieces about her,” Sharon Love told the jury, sobbing. In the courthouse, her daughter Lexie also cried.
Lexie Love, who is planning her wedding, told the jury of a “hole” in her life that will “always be there – nothing’s going to fill it.”
"I never wanted anything so badly in my life than to see her face again,” she said.
The trial included testimony from friends, teammates and neighbors who painted a picture of Huguely and Love's turbulent relationship.
Huguely was known to have a problem with alcohol. His prior convictions included Virginia charges of resisting arrest and public drunkenness. Following a February 2010 incident where he, he wrote Love a letter admitting he had a problem and that he was "scared to know that I can get that drunk to the point where I cannot control how I act."
Huguely spent the day leading to Love's death on a father-son golf tournament with teammates, visibly intoxicated and slurring his words, having drank for much of the day and well after dinner.
Evidence at trial included Huguely's letter, the door Huguely broke in and investigator photographs of Love's body and her autopsy. The photographs were shown on monitors only visible to the jury, judge and attorneys.
Speaking during the sentencing hearing, defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana said that though the note was offered as evidence against Huguely, it showed “seeds of redemption” because “the first step to change is recognizing you have a problem,” Quagliana said.
Huguely’s judgment, she said, was clouded by drinking, immaturity, and “the emotional turmoil of a dysfunctional relationship.”
“No person is the sum of the worst decisions they have ever made or the worst judgment they have ever exercised,” Quagliana said.