Coroner: Yeardley Love died of 'blunt force injuries'

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Local,Crime,Emily Babay

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The ex-girlfriend of a former University of Virginia lacrosse player died from a cardiac arrhythmia caused by "blunt force injuries to the head," the coroner who performed her autopsy said.

Dr. William Gormley testified Tuesday at the murder trial of George Huguely V. The 24-year-old from Chevy Chase is accused of killing Yeardley Love in May 2010.

Gormley said Love, 22, had amphetamines from an attention-deficit disorder medication and alcohol in her system when she died, but those substances weren't lethal.

Two experts who examined Love's brain also testified Tuesday and said the U.Va. student from Cockeysville suffered injuries to the part of the brain that controls basic life functions. Through their testimony, prosecutors sought to refute defense contentions that Love's irregular heartbeat was caused by taking Adderall and that some of the injuries to Love's brain were from paramedics' resuscitation efforts.

Dr. Christine Fuller of Virginia Commonwealth University testified that Love suffered contusions and hemorrhaging to her brain stem that were visible to the naked eye.

Those injuries are significant, Fuller said, because "that's where the vital structures are." They were also the result of trauma, she said.

"If you find hemorrhaging in that location, it's trauma, period," Fuller testified.

Such hemorrhages have never been associated with the administration of CPR, both Fuller and Dr. Maria-Beatriz Lopes, a U.Va. neuropathologist, testified. When blood flow is restored during CPR, the organ becomes swollen and discolored, and Love didn't have any such injuries, Fuller said.

Fuller testified that she found injuries on both sides of Love's brain, meaning her head was likely twisted in more than one direction.

Lopes said she performed tests that showed Love must have been alive for at least two hours after suffering the head wounds.

Huguely was seen outside Love's apartment at about 11:50 p.m. on May 2, 2010. One of Love's roommates returned to the apartment and found her bloodied body shortly after 2:15 a.m., the roommate testified last week.

Love might have lived if Huguely had promptly summoned help for her, Lopes testified.

"If you re-establish oxygen to the patient, they may get conscious and survive," she said.

Gormley said Love's blood alcohol level was 0.14, nearly twice the legal limit for driving. She had traces of amphetamines from Adderall consistent with taking the drug as prescribed, he said.

Curt Harper, a toxicologist with the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, testified that there's no increased risk of a serious cardiac event from taking Adderall.

Also Tuesday, Angie Rainey, a Virginia state DNA expert, testified that Love's DNA was found under Huguely's fingernails, and that his DNA was found under Love's nails.

Huguely's trial in Charlottesville Circuit Court began last week. Prosecutors are expected to finish calling witnesses Wednesday.

ebabay@washingtonexaminer.com

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