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Jurors in lacrosse trial watch police interview

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.  — A former University of Virginia lacrosse player said he got physical with his former girlfriend but did not kill her, sobbing and saying “she’s not dead” when detectives told him she died, according to a videotape played Friday at his murder trial.

George Huguely V

George Huguely V sobbed on the videotape showing his police interrogation and in the courtroom as it was played during the most riveting moment in the nearly one-week trial. One juror dabbed at tears as the tape played.

Huguely, 24, of Chevy Chase, is accused in the May 3, 2010, death of 22-year-old Yeardley Love. The suburban Baltimore woman, also a lacrosse player at the school, was found dead in her apartment bedroom from injuries sustained when her head was slammed repeatedly against a wall, leaving her face battered, bruised and bloody, according to prosecutors.

Huguely has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and other charges, and his attorneys maintain Love died in part by taking the prescription drug Adderall and drinking alcohol.

Charlottesville police detective L.T. Reeves told jurors in Charlottesville Circuit Court she went to Huguely’s apartment hours after Love’s body was found to interview him. She said she quickly considered him a suspect in Love’s slaying after she saw his bruised knuckles and a cut on his arm.

Police found a large hole the bedroom door of Love’s bedroom.

During the interrogation, Huguely said the bruises were the result of playing lacrosse.

Witnesses have testified that Love and Huguely were involved in a volatile relationship, and both had been unfaithful to each other and had publicly argued. Huguely said he had gone to Love’s apartment to talk and she “totally freaked out.”

Huguely acknowledged the two wrestled, he shook her and may have grabbed her neck, but did not strangle her or repeatedly bang her head against the wall, as prosecutors allege.

“We were just going to talk,” he told Reeves. “I never struck her. I never hit her in the face.”

“Did you hit her neck at all?” Reeves asked.

“I never, like, strangled her. I may have grabbed her neck,” Huguely said, describing their physical encounter as wrestling.

‘I don’t believe that she’s dead’

About halfway into the one-hour tape, Reeves and another detective informed Huguely that Love was dead, prompting a shocked response from Huguely.

“She’s dead? She’s dead? She’s dead?” Huguely asked. “How? How is she dead?”

“You’re here because she’s dead,” one of the detectives said.

“I don’t believe that she’s dead. She’s not dead,” he said, repeating those three words again several times.

“Please tell me she’s not dead,” Huguely said. “There’s no way she’s dead. There’s no way. There’s no way.”

A slapping sound echoed through the courtroom, apparently Huguely slamming his hands or arms on the table. The tape was facing jurors and was not visible to family and spectators.

The tape’s audio quality was poor, and many of the questions and responses were difficult to understand. Jurors, many of whom have taken notes through three days of testimony, leaned over and looked intently at the screen.

During the first half of the police interrogation, Huguely agreed to waive his right to an attorney present. He made rambling and seemingly contradictory statements.

Huguely shifted in his seat during the playing of the videotape. When he was told of Love’s death on the video, he became more emotional and rubbed his eyes and appeared to be crying.

Prosecutors have presented former teammates of Love’s and Huguely’s who testified of their fiery relationship and infidelities. Huguely’s teammates also said that he had been drinking more, and that they had considered an intervention.

During the interrogation tape, Huguely said he had drank heavily the day before Love’s death at a father-son golf outing at the Wintergreen resort. He said he drank beer while playing and wine at dinner that night.

Huguely was also questioned about Love’s laptop, which was taken from her apartment. His attorneys have said he took the computer so Love would seek him out later.

But police and prosecutors said he tried to delete an email he sent to Love days earlier in which he wrote “I should have killed you” when he learned of her infidelity with a North Carolina lacrosse player.

While Huguely and Love dated for two years, their relationship at the time of her death was sputtering. Months before her death, a witness said he saw Love in Huguely’s chokehold. She had accused him of cheating.

Defense attorneys have yet to present their case,

During earlier testimony on Friday, a physician said Love did not have any pre-existing heart conditions that contributed to her death.