Commonwealth's Attorney Speaks Out on Huguely Trial
The murder of former University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love rocked the Charlottesville community more than two years ago. Now, for the first time, Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman is speaking freely about the case he built against George Huguely.
In February, Huguely was convicted of second-degree murder and grand larceny in connection with Love's death. In August, Judge Edward Hogshire sentenced Huguely to 23 years in prison. (Click here for case background information.)
Wednesday Henry Graff talked one-on-one with Chapman in a story you will see only on NBC29. He spent over an hour going over the entire case with the commonwealth's attorney.
The commonwealth's attorney and his staff logged thousands of hours on the case since day one, when police were called to the apartment on 14th Street and found Yeardley Love's body. The investigation led to the arrest of Love's ex-boyfriend, UVA lacrosse player George Huguely.
Chapman says he does not believe Huguely went into Love's apartment that night with the intention of killing her. It is that very reason why he says this was never a capital murder case, but he did have to evaluate it.
"He could have done it much more efficiently and quickly and could have taken a weapon had that been his intent," he said.
Chapman said he believes Huguely meant to hurt Love - but not to kill her - when he went to talk to her at her apartment. He says that is apparent from Huguely's reaction during his interrogation when police told him that Love died.
"I think it's a genuine reaction in many respects," he stated.
However, Chapman says he does not know if the reaction was just the realization that Love had died, or that Huguely was in big trouble.
"He definitely left knowing she had been hurt very badly under the circumstances that he brought about, after putting a foot through the bedroom door," he said.
Once the story made headlines, Chapman said the case quickly became overwhelming, with mainly trying to stay one step ahead of the crush of media covering every detail daily.
"It was months before I was able to devote my attention in this case to the investigation," he stated.
Early on in the investigation, a number of search warrants offered insight about what police believed happened inside the apartment and what was recovered. It was information Chapman did not want publicized but already had been.
"The request early on in this case was for absolute real-time access to the most sensitive law enforcement data in the case. That would have hampered our ability to conduct the most effective investigation," he said.
That investigation yielded a second-degree murder conviction for Huguely and a 23-year sentence, three years less than what a jury recommended, but fair according to Chapman.
"It's not illogical to do that. It's uncommon for this judge to do that," he stated.
Chapman did not have much to offer in terms of any observations or impressions of Huguely, because he says he has never talked to the convicted murderer.
Chapman said he got emotionally attached to the case, and said it is hard not to, because all he sees on both sides is loss.
"Here you have, as I think true with any loss of a young person - you know something about where they are in their life, where they might be headed in their life - and you just can recognize for them and for the family and their friends who are close, just the overwhelming sadness of their loss," he stated.
Chapman says that sadness is what struck him most throughout the case and the 13-day trial.
He says he hopes Huguely will do something meaningful with his life once he gets out of prison. Huguely will likely be in his early 40s when that happens.
Chapman hopes the Love family - Sharon and Lexie - find some sort of happiness and can move forward in life with a huge hole left.
"They've set about the business of leaving a positive legacy in the name of a daughter and a sister who would have left one herself had she the opportunity," he stated.
Huguely's attorneys have said they will appeal the case. They now have less than 30 days to do that. Chapman says he will follow the appeal but the state attorney general's office will deal with it.
The full interview is available in the video player above.