CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA—Yeardley Love's mother and sister wept as they testified during sentencing proceedings Wednesday evening against the man convicted of murdering her.
The sentencing phase could be complete as soon as tonight in the trial of George Huguely, 24, who was found guilty earlier Wednesday evening of second-degree murder and grand larceny in Love's May 3, 2010 death. He faces 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. After the jury delivers its recommendation, Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire will hand down Huguely's final sentence.
During the sentencing hearing, prosecutors called just two witnesses—Yeardley Love's older sister, Lexie, and their mother Sharon. Both talked about how they learned of Yeardley Love's death and how they have coped with her loss ever since.
Sharon Love spoke of Christmases and birthdays spent since Love's death. She spent the anniversary of Yeardley's death with her daughter's friends and a church service.
"Every year that goes by, I would like to know what she would be doing now," said Sharon Love, breaking into tears. "Every year that goes by, I'm afraid I'm forgetting the little pieces of her."
One female juror, seated in front of the witness stand, could be seen crying. Huguely's head was bowed during much of the sentencing phase.
Lexie Love remembered being very close with her sister, each visiting the other at their respective colleges. They spoke by phone every day, she said. To this day, she said, all it takes is a song or a picture to remind her of her sister.
"There's a huge hole that will always be there and nothing's going to fill it," said Lexie Love, who also cried during her testimony. "About the worst thing in the world that could have happened, happened."
The defense did not have any witnesses in sentencing, and did not ask Love's relatives any questions.
Most of Huguely's family came dressed in black. Some of Love's relatives, not including her mother and sister, wore pink scarves and ties.
In his closing statement, prosecutor Warner "Dave" Chapman referred back to the letter Huguely wrote to Love in February 2010, which investigators found in a drawer in her apartment. In the letter, Huguely wrote he was "scared to know" what he is capable of when drunk and that "alcohol is ruining my life."
"He didn't take heed to his own good judgement," Chapman said, also referring to Huguely's prior convictions, which include Virginia charges of resisting arrest.
Chapman said that, no matter what the jury's sentence, Huguely has many years ahead, and that he could use his education and skills to help others behind bars. Love will never have that same chance, he said.
"He gets to go to the rest of his life knowing where his family is and what's happening with them," Chapman said.
In the defense's closing statement, attorney Rhonda Quagliana also referenced the letter, but saw it as the moment where Huguely began to consider his actions.
"We submit that that letter also contains the seeds of reflection, because the first step toward change is recognizing you have a problem," she said. "People grow up, they mature."
Quagliana ended by urging jurors to consider the facts of the case and Huguely's cooperation with investigators.
"Even though it's hard not to be overwhelmed" by the emotion of the case, Quagliana said, "Your decision must be based on facts.
"No one should be held as the sum of the worst decisions they ever made."