Feb 26, 2012

George Huguely Found Guilty of Murder in the Second degree- Sentence recomendation shows backward thinking re Dating Violence

This crime hits so close to home that I was barely able to glance at
Yeardley Love's autopsy report. Right down to her MRI, the report  so closely parallels injuries inflicted upon me in an eerily similar assault - it all comes rushing back and in the end I am left questioning how I managed to survive and poor Yeardley, did not.

The Jury's decision to convict George Huguely for Murder in the second degree offers little solace, especially considering that one of the original charges was felony murder, (murder committed in the pursuit of a felony ) This would be the theft of Yeardley's computer which contained incriminating threatening e-mails from Huguely saying in part, " I should have killed you" in reference to Yeardley's dating another young man.

For some reason, that email evidence was not allowed to be shown to the Jury and that was a miscarriage of justice:  Those emails showed beyond a doubt MOTIVE and PREMEDITATION.

In the end the Jury decided to convict Huguely of merely two of six charges that the State was seeking.
To make matters worse, after announcing the four not guilty verdicts and the two guilty verdicts,the Jury rather swiftly recomended a twenty six year sentence 25 for the murder and 1 year for the
nded a twenty six year sentence for George Huguley

It should be noted that the two charges that the Jury did find Huguely guilty of, allowed for a sentence of up to sixty years. Clearly this jury didnt feel that Mr Huguley deserved a senetnce that resembled life in prison for taking a life. I have seen far more severe sentences for vehiclar manslaughter. ie accidentally taking a life while driving drunk.

I cannot help but wonder' if Yeardley had not known her attacker, would he have received  the life sentence that he clearly deserves ?  I am certain that at the very least , the sentence would have been far more appropriate than 25 years for a 23 year old. Huguley will still have almost half of his life left when he gets out of prison! This is obscene, and an insult to the victim,  her family and everyone that cared for her.

It almost seems as if society, if  we are to consider this jury a representitive slice, is saying.... "well, we can see how things like this can happen in a relationship, especially with emotionally immature young people and drinking involved...

This is in fact how Huguely's defense attorney depicted this brutal crime: 'a moment of poor judgement by an emotionally immature boy"  This thinking is archaic and the sentence obscenely inappropriate for the violent taking of a life.

Mind you the aforementioned lawyer for Huguley who was in effect saying " boys will be boys .."
is a woman. She was  no doubt  shrewdly chosen for her gender,with her reputation a close second.

I am also bothered by by this Jury's decision to find Huguley not guilty of breaking and entering.
 Although it doesn't carry the biggest of sentences, it is the principal and what that act -and crime - connote
The assertionof power- and control through brute force. The apartment where Miss Love lived was shared by a few fellow female U V. students. The front door was supposedly unlocked, which could have been any of the roommates doing, but Yeardley's bedroom door was locked that night.

This is very telling it speaks of a young woman who was afraid of something. That something was George Huguley. He kicked Yeardley's bedroom door in, proving at once that his intention from the start was violence.

That bedroom was in effect Yeardleys home, her sanctuary, this wasnt the common area's of an apartment shared by others. Huguey had invaded those with probably a minumal look around to ensure noone was around.

My eductated guess is that he'sstalked yerardlyand the apartment, choosing just the right time when noone but Yeardley was home to have his revenge - he did not want witnesses to hear nor see what he was up to.

She locked her door against intruders, and Mr Huguley kicked that door in.  This is breaking and entering. Huguely's hairs were even found in the gaping hole on Yeardley's door.

When I think of this Bully kicking in that door, and Yeardley's shock and fear, I feel an immediate sense of empathy, knowing well what she experienced, as well as an intense anger. My mind skitters to my own assault, where my reaction time was non existent due to surprise, but realizing since that I never should have allowed that space between myself and my attacker to have been crossed. This I learned years subsequent in a good quality self defense class, which included teaching the students to respond defensively even with the "adrenalin dump" that accompanies any real attack.

This class taught me retrospectively how I could have saved myself from incurring life-long injuries and what could have been and should have been death at my assailants hands,.

Knowing how many women and girls are " blitz - attacked" like this, I personally would like to see every young women taught this basic self defense at the earliest possible age. It should be part of a school curriculum, more essential than any sport orr P.E class - While we like to think our children wont ever be faced with such things, statistics say that one of five will and rather than deal with trying to change things at the court level, I suggest as a society we put our efforts into prevention; Self-defense will save lives, as well as change the way our young women of the future think about protecting themselves and living safely and defensively in general.

Yeardley Love died senselessly. She died terrified, surely in pain, from multiple blows from a brain injury inflicted by a young man who had a history of violence. This history included an assault against a Virginia Police woman that resulted in Huguely pleading guilty to resisting arrest in a plea deal. This arrest and  conviction should have resulted in disiplinary action from the School's athletic Department, most likely pulling Huguely from the Lacrosse Team. Despite the incident being public knowledge among teammates and adults on the periphery, no action was taken as the coach's claimed complete ignorance. This undoubtedly added to George Huguley's sense of invincibility and bravado.

Tragically we all learned after her murder that Huguley's history of violence included at least one unreported assault\ against Yeardley herself.

According to a bevy of witnesses after the fact, George Huguley grabbed his then - girlfriend by the neck, choking her in front of an entire party full of students, literally having to be pried off of her by a group of male Lacrosse players who witnessed the attack.

Badly Shaken, Yeardley returned home to distance herself from Huguely immediately after this assault.
This reportedly occurred  months before Huguely murdered her. Tragically, no one reported the incident to police. There is no evidence that Yeardley confided the attack  to her mother, an aunt uncle or perhaps even a counselor of some kind ( Yeardley's dad had sadly died of cancer years before).

Worst of all no one at the party reported the incident which was in fact a  serious crime to Virginia Police, Campus Police, either lacrosse team coach, or any adult at all.

Strangulation is thankfully now considered a felony in most States, as it has finally been recognized as an act of serious violence, and  dangerous batterers and predators will think nothing of grabbing a woman, or girl by her throat.  It is in fact a threat of possible imminent death.  "I can kill you"  they are saying to the victim, " This is how easy it is."  Men that choke are a breed onto themselves, baring a serious instability, volatility and misogyny. The moment this rears it's head is time for the offender to be arrested and put behind bars.

A question we must ask, as a society and individuals is " Why were Yeardley's friends and all of the other young people at this party not aware enough or traumatized enough to report the choking assault?

Was it ignorance? Did they simply did not understand the major red flags that they had just become privy to, as well as the fact that a serious crime had occurred and as witnesses they thus had a responsibility, morally and legally to report it?

Perhaps they felt that this kind of behavior, especially when drinking was involved, was upsetting yes, but just a fluke - the result of  of an extremely passionate couple?!

This is what scares me the most.

In this day and age, our young women and men need to so much more astute and aware of the potential for extreme violence and death, when they see this kind of behavior in any form as part and parcel of a relationship, or any union that has ended recently.

Too often, the violence is behind closed doors, and friends and acquaintances are then shocked when their family member or friend is discovered to have been the victim of ongoing abuse, silently for months, and even years. When a man or a boy actually commits violence in front of witnesses, this is the time to act as a witness, you will quite possibly be saving a life.
 The answer to this epidemic must start with awareness of what abuse is and where it can - and often does, lead in specific terms, as our youth especially suffers from a sense of unrealistic immortality "oh that will never happen to me, that happens to other people..."

But in Yeardley Loves case, as college and college athletics are a highly social atmosphere, the signs were there for many people on the periphery of both Yeardley and Huguely's life, boys and girls and even some adults who needed to step up and get involved, before a life was brutally taken.

None of the dating violence services were apparently used,  although we may never know if Yeardley reached out anonymously to one of the various hot lines or websites for teens and young women in her home town of Baltimore. These services would have surely explained to her that George Huguely's behaviors were not normal nor reflective of  his love. although she felt it difficult to completely break free of him at times, this was part of the abusive cycle, including the " honeymoon phase" that follows an assault, or even threats such as the emails she recieved shortly before her murder.

And that the extra loving and caring attention would soon be followed by a return to the jeolousy and rages which considering the history in this relationship, might result in her being gravely injured or murdered.

There is no doubt in my mind that Yeardley Love was caught in the terrible plight of a battered women's syndrome, and at such a tender age she was even more ill equipped to discern the symptoms of extreme jealousy and possessiveness (which can be mistaken at first by a young girl as intense love) from Socio-pathology. Huguely clearly illustrated that he was a Sociopath when he carefully took the time to unplug and steal Yeardley's computer, after smashing her head into a wall repeatedly,and tossing her face down on her bed, dying from bleeding in her brain stem.

Huguely was aware that Yeardley computer contained threatening emails that he'd written in the days prior to his final murderous act. And he knew that these emails would point Virginia Police straight into his direction as well as serve as hard evidence that he was likely the man who murdered her.

This alone proves that George Huguely was not some panicked young man that accidentally ( isnt it always?) banged his on - again-off again girlfriend's head into a wall, within an " altercation".

Interestingly, this word altercation is an extremely common description of what transpired during partner murders, and severe assaults, especially involving assailants with higher intelligence and articulate personalities. They realize that the word implies an exchange of violence  ie "alter"

The word is chosen most purposefully, as it  intimates that the male assailant was not simply beating upon a much smaller, weaker, lighter person ie a woman, but rather fighting with her, (as huguley tried to claim he "wrestled with his victim" ) taking at least some of the ownice off of himself, if only via the careful use of that word and others: This can actually have a subconscious effect on less savvy Police officers or even Jury members.

As is often the case with what police and FBI call " blitz style attacks" there was no signs of damage to Huguely or defense injuries on poor Yeardley's arms or hands, nor was any skin found beneath her nails. Like me, she probably never saw that first terrible blow coming and was rendered semi- conscious or unconscious immediately, making a perfect rag doll of a victim, even a strong athletic young woman cannot overcome the sudden shocking insult to our brains when so brutally struck against a hard surface.

To this day I myself get angry that I did not fight back during my assault or at least try to block the succession of  blows to my head from my assailant that just never seemed to end.

But the truth was that I couldn't. My brain wasn't fully engaged, it was all I could do to not relent to the darkness that was threatening to envelop me.  I somehow knew that I would not return if I allowed myself to lose consiousness.

Bleeding and bruising in Yeardley Love's brain in the temple areas showed multiple blows to the sides of her head; although those did not kill her, according to the state medical examiner. It was a hard slam or several slams to the back of her head into something hard and immovable, like a wall, that caused bleeding into her brain stem, the area  that controls respiration and heart function.  THIS this is what ultimately killed Yeardley Love.

Huguely's first version of the events that night made to police had zero credibility and only showed the ease with which he lied and his emotional distancing from the fact that he had just taken a life.  Huguley first claimed that he'd only shaken Yeardley during an "altercation" but when he left, she was alive and perfectly "fine"

This story is so ludicrous that it leaves no room for how or why he took Yeardley's computer, left a giant hold in her door where hed kicked it  inif he had not mortally wounded her, why would he be so anxious to remove all evidence of his threats to Yeardley?

Many people on the periphery of Miss Love' Life were privy to previous physical violence committed against
this young girl by George Huguely, including the serious choking incident at a campus party; Not one of the young people who witnessed the assault or pulled Huguely off of Yeardley, reported the crime to anyone. This is unacceptable. It is at these points that a victim's life can be saved. There is a predictable pattern of escalation of violence within such relationships, and it is up to everyone who is aware of threats, physical attacks, or stalking, to report it to Police. No if's ands or but's!

 Seemingly less serious issues within relationships such as extreme jealousy, possessiveness name calling taunting ie emotional abuse, these all need an open forum on every college campus.  This should be readily available for students and trained partner violence/ intimate violence counselors should be part of every schools and peer  on both C,ollege campuses and at the high school level. A deeper awareness & education campaign for all of our young people covering the intricacies of  predators and all of the signs of abuse both within dating relationships and elsewhere-this is where the changes must begin in earnest.

Ramping up our outreach programs and making them as accessible as possible, including informal dialogue sessions about dating behaviors that cue possible future violence, what steps to follow if even seemingly small acts of violence, such as pushing or blocking someone from leaving a room, happen or have happened within a  relationship.

We need mandatory Comprehensive, in depth College  and High School level programs that teach our young women about physical, emotional and sexual violence, be it committed by peers or adults in thier lives. They must grow up fully understanding exactly what it not acceptable and why,  as well  how to get real help, if  they, or a friend has experienced anything from a threat to a full blown assault.

Please Get involved.

R.I.P  Yeardley Love


Anonymous said...

Hi, I hope you don't think I'm a stalker or anything, but this case took place close to home, and I'm a victim of violent crime as well. I can't believe the jury didn't give him the max! I had a stalker, don't know who he is, but he found me, and nearly killed me. My heart goes out to the Love family, and to you as well. Something needs to be done to stop the violence.
Sincerely, Stephanie

Laurel O'Keefe said...

Oh no Stepanie lol
I hardly think you are a stalker, you are an extremely supportive reader of my blog as well an activist in your own rite. I am so sorry that you have had to endure the horrors of being stalked and assaulted! I am amzed at how many women have experienced somethng like this in thier lives. We need to change many things from education and awareness - at the level of whomever we are trying to reach, as well as major changes in our sentencing laws for crimes involving people we have dated or simp[ly know, these crimes are still being categorized as not as serious as the very same crime committed by a stranger it is archaic- and deadly!
I think you are great! Always keep your great spirit of compassion empathy and speaking out