Update (02/23): It seems as though George Huguely will spend the next 24 years behind bars in a Virginia state prison. Late Wednesday, a Charlottesville jury found the Chevy Chase native guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his on again, off again, girlfriend, Yeardley Love. Huguely broke into her apartment and battered her in a drunken rage in May 2010, and left her bleeding on her pillow. Both were 22 and days away from graduating from the University of Virginia. The jury took three hours to sentence Huguely to 26 years. He has already been jailed for two, and Virginia does not allow parole, so it’s likely he will serve 24 more.
What has become known as the “lacrosse murder,” since both Huguely and Love played for the university’s championship teams, is a tragedy for both families, their friends, and the university. But there’s plenty of guilt weaved in amid the sadness. Keep in mind that on the Sunday before he smashed through Yeardley Love’s door, George V spent the entire day drinking—starting with beer in the morning, then wine at dinner, and more beer into the night. Who was by his side from breakfast through drunken swings at golf balls and that wine at dinner? His father, George Huguely IV. Not one of the teammates or roommates who testified in court mentioned the father admonishing the son. George V was unrestrained—by his father, his friends, his university.
We often liken heart-wrenching tales such as this to Greek tragedies or Shakespearean dramas, but the Huguely story is a truly American tragedy, especially from the perspective of Chevy Chase, Maryland, where I spent months researching a feature for last May’s The Washingtonian.
The Huguely family left Ireland for Washington, DC, in the early 1900s. They settled into the capital city and started selling lumber with the Gallihers, another family of Irish immigrants, in 1916. Lumber from their yards helped build homes and buildings in the burgeoning capital city. The business grew with the city, and the families thrived. Successive generations of Huguelys worked hard and invested well. They went to the best private schools, such as Sidwell Friends and Landon, and the best colleges, such as the University of Pennsylvania and UVA.
Then came George Huguely IV, the father of the young man accused of murder. George IV didn’t go to a great college and didn’t join the family business. His reputation in Washington was that of a party boy. Friends and acquaintances knew him from the bars where he spent his evenings. His marriage to Huguely’s mother, Marta, ended in a nasty divorce. I was able to read the records before they were sealed. In court filings, George IV described himself as broke and said he supported his lavish lifestyle with million-dollar loans from his father, George III, and by liquidating a $450,000 trust left by his grandfather, George Jr.
Marta and George IV fought over custody of George V and his younger sister, Teran. A judge had to order them to not communicate with the children in earshot. George IV agreed to alimony in the divorce settlement, but Marta had to take him to court to force him to pay.
As George V excelled in sports at Landon, an elite private school for boys in Bethesda, and then at the University of Virginia, his father tried to be one of the boys. He went drinking with young George and his buddies. He entertained them on booze-filled trips on his yacht, the Reel Deal. He hung out with them in Charlottesville.
As George V began to drink more beer and play less lacrosse, his father never ordered him to put on the brakes, according to friends of both. Even when George V was arrested in Lexington, Virginia, in 2008 for drunken behavior and resisting arrest, he suffered few consequences from his father.
Why was Huguely allowed to continue playing lacrosse when the team had a rule that drinking and getting arrested must be reported and might result in suspension? Because reporting such events was left to the players, which allowed the coach to look the other way.
Why did the Lexington arrest not get reported to UVA? Because privacy rules prevented sharing of information.
Why did Huguely’s friends and teammates fail to intervene, even when they knew he had assaulted Love in February, weeks before he broke into her room? Why did Love’s friends allow her to suffer the abuse?
What about Love’s mother, Sharon? Love went home to Cockeysville, Maryland, outside of Baltimore, after Huguely assaulted and choked her in February of 2010. Her mother comforted her but declined to report the attack. What if she had?
In reaction to Love’s death, the university has implored students to intervene to stop drunken or abusive behavior; Virginia has tried to allow police departments to share information; and the athletic department has stiffened requirements for reporting misbehavior. All good intentions.
George Huguely V and Yeardley Love could have been saved from this tragedy if just one person—a parent, a friend, a cop—had had the moral fiber and guts to say no to George. That’s a tragedy.