More than four years George Huguely was sent to prison for the 2010 murder of University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love, his mother is speaking out — maintaining that her son never meant to hurt his ex-girlfriend.
The case made national headlines and shed light on domestic abuse on college campuses: Just weeks from graduation, Love, 22, was found face down in a pool of blood in her off-campus apartment. She had been beaten to death by ex-boyfriend Huguely, who admitted to drunkenly kicking in Love’s door and shaking her, repeatedly hitting her head against a wall.
A jury found Huguely, a 22-year-old University of Virginia lacrosse player himself, guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced him to 23 years in prison with no chance of parole.
Though his mother stayed silent at the time, Marta Murphy tells NBC’s Today in a new interview that her son should have been convicted of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, calling Love’s death “a drunken accident.”
“He had absolutely no intent to hurt Yeardley,” Murphy explained. “Yeardley was his best friend.”
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She points to the fact that Huguely maintained in court that he grabbed Love by the neck but didn’t choke her. She claims Love’s death was caused by injuries sustained when the two fell off the bed.
“I never spoke, initially out of respect for the Love family,” Murphy said. “And secondly, because I believed our criminal justice system works and our criminal justice system gets it right. But it doesn’t always get it right.”
Huguely’s legal team will have an opportunity to argue their side in an upcoming civil trial in response to a $30 million wrongful death suit filed against the convicted murderer by Love’s family.
Her mother, Sharon Love, declined to be interviewed by Today for the story, but told sister station NBC-29 Charlottesville in February 2013 that she knew Huguely killed her daughter even if she didn’t know what his intent was that night.
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“I know he did kill her,” she said. “I know he did. I can’t imagine anybody that could even do anything harmful to Yeardley. I don’t know what was in his head.”
Since then, Love has set up the One Love foundation in her daughter’s honor to help young abuse victims. “The Love family is committed to remaining positive, dedicating their lives to preventing tragedies like this from happening to others,” family lawyer Paul Bekman told Today in a statement.
Huguely will be in his 40s when he’s released from prison. Murphy and family visit him often. She said he’s finishing his college degree through a University of Ohio correctional program.
Murphy said the trauma of Love’s death and Huguely’s involvement in it still sits with her. “It’s right here all the time,” she said. “It doesn’t leave you. This kind of sadness. And I know, I can imagine for Sharon Love, it’s even more so.”
“There’s nothing [that] compares to their suffering,” she continued. “I only have sorrow or pain for them. I don’t have worlds to describe the loss of her life. And I’m so sad and sorry that Yeardley is gone.”