CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va (Reuters) - University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love likely died about two hours after suffering a blow to the head that prosecutors say was inflicted by the young woman's former boyfriend, A brain expert testified on Tuesday.
George Huguely V, 24, is accused of killing Love, 22, in 2010 in what authorities claim was the drunken culmination of a tumultuous on-again, off-again relationship between the fellow senior lacrosse players at the university.
Prosecutors said Love suffered brain trauma when Huguely slammed her head against a wall. Dr. Christine Fuller, a neuropathologist, said the injury was severe enough to cause Love to lose motor functions before dying as many as two hours later.
Had Love survived the brain injuries, she could have been left in a vegetative state, said Fuller, who analyzed Love's dissected brain.
Love's head jolted and then came to a sudden halt, causing her brain to smash into the inner wall of her skull, Fuller said.
The trial, now in its second week, has focused national media interest on the quiet college town of Charlottesville, Virginia, and is expected to continue through at least Friday.
Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, which include first-degree murder, robbery, burglary at night, breaking and entering, grand larceny and murder during a robbery.
His attorneys have suggested that Love's death was an accident.
Prosecution experts at the trial have agreed it was unlikely Love died from falling and hitting her head on the floor, saying the damage was probably too severe to have been caused by a ground-level fall and noting her nose had no serious injuries.
But Huguely's defense team has focused on the experts' inability to completely rule out a fall as the cause of Love's brain trauma.
Huguely admitted in a videotaped police interview played for jurors last week that he kicked in Love's bedroom door in May 2010, wrestled with her and "may have shook her a little bit." He claimed she had bloodied herself by banging her own head against the wall.
Love, of Cockeysville, Maryland, was also drinking that evening and was found by her roommate and an acquaintance face down on her bed.
Assistant medical examiner Bill Gormley said Love had a blood alcohol content of 0.14 but testified that alcohol poisoning did not cause her death.
Huguely told police that he took Love's laptop when he left her apartment and tossed it in a nearby dumpster.
Love and Huguely had ended their rocky relationship of about two years a few weeks before her death. A man who said he had "hooked up" with Love, prompting some of Huguely's anger, testified last week that he had seen Huguely choking Love weeks before her death.
Forensic scientist Angela Rainey testified Tuesday that DNA tests showed Love and Huguely each had the other's blood under their fingernails.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)