Sharon Love wrote the words down so she wouldn’t forget what the jury concluded: that George Huguely V had acted in a willful, wanton way, resulting in the death of her daughter Yeardley.
“It was to make a point that, in fact, it was intentional,” Love, of Cockeysville, said. “It wasn’t an accident.”
Huguely had been so drunk, he maintained, that he remembered little of that night in 2010, when he kicked in the door of his on-again, off-again girlfriend, who like him was 22 years old and a lacrosse player at the University of Virginia, and she ended up dead. A medical examiner said she died of blunt force trauma to the head, and Huguely was convicted of second-degree murder.
On Monday, one day before the 12th anniversary of the killing, the Charlottesville, Virginia, Circuit Court jury considering Sharon Love’s wrongful-death civil suit found Huguely liable and awarded the family $15 million in damages. The jury’s finding of willful and wanton misconduct, in disregard of Yeardley Love’s rights, has both personal and legal implications.
Sharon Love’s attorney, Paul D. Bekman, said the finding means Huguely, who is about midway through a 23-year prison sentence he received for the murder, cannot have the damages dismissed by a bankruptcy court.
It is unclear when or how much Sharon Love and her elder daughter Lexie Love Hodges, who were each awarded $7.5 million, will be paid. But Bekman vowed to chase down whatever assets Huguely, who grew up in Chevy Chase and attended the private Landon School in Bethesda, has or attains in the future.
“All we know is once we have a judgment we are entitled to inquire about all his assets. We will find them,” he said. “His assets are at risk for the rest of his life.”
Bekman said the case is about more than the money.
“There was a wrong here that needed to be righted,” he said. “The justice system worked to punish him, but it did nothing to help Sharon and Lexie recover what the law says they’re entitled to recover.”
Which is, he said, their mental anguish, sorrow and loss of Yeardley.
“He’ll be out and free to do whatever he wants to do,” Love said of when Huguely completes his sentence. “And Yeardley will never be out.
“Who know what happens when he gets out,” she said. “I don’t know what’s around the next corner for him, but he will be indebted to us. Whether we see (any damages) or not, it will still be a reminder of what he did.”
Huguely is expected to be in his 40s when released — there is no parole in Virginia but inmates can shave some time off their sentence for good behavior. His attorney, Matthew Green, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. During the civil trial, Green acknowledged that Huguely’s actions caused Yeardley Love’s death and her family was entitled to compensatory damages, but that because his client had been drinking heavily, he did not intend to kill her.
Sharon Love said she hasn’t thought ahead to what they might do with any money.
“I would want to do something that would honor Yeardley,” Love said. Perhaps it could fund a scholarship in her daughter’s name, she said, or go to the One Love Foundation that she and Hodges started.
The foundation, named after Yeardley’s uniform number, works to educate young people about relationship violence. More than 1.8 million people have attended workshops conducted by the foundation
On May 15, the foundation is having its first in-person “Move for Love” 5K run/walk to raise $350,000. The event will be held at the Camden Yards Sports Complex between the Ravens and Orioles stadium.
Love said she and Hodges found it painful to return to the Charlottesville courthouse where they attended the criminal trial in 2012 and then the recent civil trial.
“Everything comes flooding back,” she said. “You can put yourself in Yeardley’s shoes that day, and then it’s hard to get yourself back out.”
Love said she felt anger, watching her daughter get visibly upset when Huguely, who testified in the civil case, directly addressed them. He said he misses Yeardley, thinks about her every day and takes responsibility for her death.
Love said she considers the civil case “the end of everything. There is no reason for us to face each other again.”
So much had changed in the time between the criminal and civil cases: Hodges is now married and has three daughters, aged 5, 3 and 1, whom Love often and happily babysits and takes turns at the wheel of the carpool.
That gives her less time for the foundation, but she still does occasional speaking engagements and other events honoring her daughter, who graduated from Notre Dame Prep in Towson.
“I just feel like she’s with me when I do it,” Love said.