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Lacrosse suspect absent at time of death: witness

By Brandon Shulleeta

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (Reuters) - Former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely V split from his friends briefly about the same time prosecutors say he murdered his ex-girlfriend, according to a friend who testified Wednesday.

After returning to pals who were drinking in his apartment, friend Ken Clausen said, Huguely, 24, lied about his whereabouts and resorted to "a blank stare."

After a week of testimony in a murder trial that has brought national media attention to the quiet college town of Charlottesville, Virginia, prosecutors closed with a series of witnesses who called Huguely loud and belligerently drunk the night Yeardley Love died.

But when Huguely returned from about a half-hour hiatus, a friend testified, he was quiet and his account of his whereabouts was puzzling.

"There's no doubt in my mind that there was a change in his demeanor," said Clausen, who had been drinking in Huguely's apartment when Huguely returned after midnight.

According to Clausen, Huguely said he had visited a lower level of his apartment complex during his absence and socialized with two men: Will Bolton and Chris Clements, who Huguely described as "drunk."

Huguely's story raised a red flag because Clements had been writing a school paper that night, Clausen said. Clements also testified he turned Hugely away and did not drink that day.

"There's no reason to lie about something like that," Clausen said in court Wednesday, adding that he repeatedly asked: "'George, what's wrong with you?'"

"He had no response," Clausen said. "He had kind of a blank stare on his face."

Neuropathologists testified Tuesday that Love, 22, of Cockeysville, Maryland, died from blunt force trauma to the head that night in May 2010.

Prosecutors say Huguely walked into Love's apartment drunk, kicked in her bedroom door, slammed her head against the wall and left her to die.

The fellow senior university lacrosse players had been in an on-again, off-again relationship for about two years leading up to her death.

Huguely admitted in a videotaped police interview played for jurors last week that he kicked in Love's bedroom door, 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.

Huguely was in her apartment for eight to 10 minutes, he told police, but said he didn't hurt her.

His attorneys have suggested Love, who had been drinking that night, died from an "accident."

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.

The defense is now presenting its case in the trial, which could continue into next week.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta)

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