The Verdict

After nearly nine hours waiting for a verdict, former University student George Huguely stared straight ahead as a jury found him guilty of grand larceny and the second-degree murder of his former girlfriend Yeardley Love. Later the same evening, the jury recommended Huguely serve a 26-year prison term, comprising 25 years for the second-degree murder conviction and one year for grand larceny.

Huguely had faced first-degree murder charges for his involvement in Love's death May 3, 2010, but he was found not guilty of felony murder in the commission of a robbery, as well as robbery, burglary, breaking and entering with the intent to commit larceny and statutory burglary charges.

The jury returned its verdict at 6:48 p.m., then listened to sentencing testimony and arguments.

Second-degree murder can carry a maximum sentence of 40 years and a minimum of five years, while grand larceny can result in one to 20 years in prison.

Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman called Love's mother Sharon and older sister Lexie to testify about the impact of Yeardley's death on their family.

Few eyes in the courtroom stayed dry and multiple jurors needed tissues as Sharon Love described losing her daughter just five years after the death of her husband.

"Every year that goes by, I'm afraid I'm forgetting little pieces about her," Sharon Love said between sobs. "[The pain] never goes away. You just pick yourself up and try to do the best you can for Yeardley."

Lexie Love's testimony also evoked tears as she described the emotional pain she suffered from losing a sister she talked to "at least once a day."

"I've never wanted something so bad in my life as to see her again... it physically hurts," Lexie Love said. "It's like something's missing - there's a huge hole that will always be there and nothing's going to fill it."

After the jury left for its sentencing deliberation, the Love family issued a statement saying, "We would like to thank the Commonwealth and particularly Dave Chapman for his tireless efforts on our behalf. Our hearts burst with pride when we think of Yeardley's accomplishments but our hearts melt when we remember her kindness and grace."

The defense elected not to call any sentencing witnesses, and Chapman emphasized Huguely's prior convictions for resisting arrest and public drunkenness in his closing argument as proof the defendant was unaffected by previously lenient punishments.

Although Chapman did not request a specific sentence, he closed by asking the jurors to remember, "This woman was subjected to what she was subjected to, and in the immediate aftermath, instead of getting help for her, [Huguely] chose to steal her computer."

Defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana's closing statement, however, painted a vastly different picture of Huguely than the prosecution's did. Quagliana's account was one in which Huguely was "a friend, brother and son" capable of redemption.

Huguely was 22 years old at the time of the murder, and Quagliana asked jurors to "look back at the person [they] were at 22" and remember their own "thoughtless" behaviors. She acknowledged the strong sorrow shared by both families, but said no decision could bring Love back to life and requested the jurors balance their emotions with the potential effect of a harsh sentence upon Huguely.

Quagliana depicted Huguely's potential for growth and said his actions were not cold and calculated but rather those of an immature lacrosse player caught in a college environment of "sports, sex [and] alcohol."

University President Teresa Sullivan issued a statement following the sentencing acknowledging the trauma both families have endured.

"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," she said in the statement. "Our sympathy and compassion go to the Love family, as well as to the Huguely family, as they face the future and their personal grief."

Huguely remained solemn while the judge read the guilty verdict, but his hands noticeably shook after the jury announced its 26-year sentencing recommendation.

Formal sentencing will be held April 16.

-Associate Editor Kelly Kaler contributed to this story.

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