- A man says he heard cries of "Help me!" while at a Virginia apartment complex
- He testifies he saw George Huguely with his arms around Yeardley Love's neck
- The crying young woman told him "thank you," the witness testifies
- Huguely is charged with murdering Love; his lawyers call her death an accident
A man testified Thursday that he saw former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely with his arm around the neck of Huguely's then-girlfriend -- an incident that occurred a few months before she was found beaten to death.
Michael Burns' testimony highlighted yet another emotional day in the murder trial of Huguely, which began this week.
Huguely was arrested in May 2010 on several charges, including first-degree murder, in the death of Yeardley Love. Both the suspect and the victim played lacrosse on nationally ranked Cavaliers' teams.
A lacrosse player himself at the University of North Carolina and a friend of Love's, Burns admitted he'd "hooked up" a few times with Love, but denied the two had ever dated.
On the stand Thursday, Burns recalled being in an off-campus Charlottesville apartment complex where Huguely lived in February 2010 for a party. While there, he said he heard somebody yelling, "Help me! Help me!"
When he went into a nearby bedroom, Burns testified that he saw Huguely with his arm around Love's neck.
"George was on his back, and Yeardley was on her back ... trying to pull his arm off of her," he testified.
Soon after Burns came in, he said that the young woman got free and ran out of the room, while Huguely turned to face the wall.
"She said to me ... 'Thank you so much,'" Burns said. "She also said she couldn't breathe. She was hysterically crying."
Several others took the stand to say they'd also seen Love run out of the room, in apparent distress.
A couple of days later, Love phoned Burns and told him, "Everything was OK. George was just being crazy," the witness testified.
On Wednesday, the first full day with testimony, Huguely's attorney asked the jury to consider only an involuntary manslaughter conviction, saying Love's death was an accident.
Huguely has been held for nearly two years. If he's convicted of involuntary manslaughter, the most time he could serve is 10 years.
Prosecutors, for their part, said Huguely made an e-mail threat against Love, 22, before her May 2010 death at her residence.
Prosecutor Warner D. Chapman read e-mails exchanged between the two after Huguely heard Love had allegedly slept with someone else.
The defendant wrote, "I should have killed you" and Love responded, "You should have killed me?" according to Chapman. Huguely responded that the pair should talk, Chapman said.
Chapman also told jurors that Love's death was slow and painful, claiming she could have remained alive for a couple of hours after Huguely left her apartment. The defense also claims Love was alive when Huguely left.
Charlottesville Police Detective Lisa Reeves wrote in a sworn statement used to obtain a search warrant in the case that "George Huguely admitted on May 3, 2010, that he was involved in an altercation with Yeardley Love and, during the course of the altercation, he shook Love and her head repeatedly hit the wall."
But defense attorney Francis Lawrence said there was no evidence that Love's head hit a wall.
A medical examiner ruled that blunt force trauma killed Love, and authorities allege Huguely caused it during the altercation.
The trial resumes Friday with a new prosecution witness.