August 22, 2013

Ex-Patriot Hernandez indicted on murder charge

'There has been an incredible rush to judgment,' and the state doesn't have enough evidence to prove the charges, Hernandez's lawyer says.

The Associated Press

FALL RIVER, Mass. — Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez was indicted Thursday on first-degree murder and weapons charges in the death of a friend whose bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial park about a mile from the ex-player's home.

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Former New England Patriot football player Aaron Hernandez, listens to procedings in a court in Attleboro, Mass., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013. Hernandez was indicted on first-degree murder and weapons charges in the death of a friend whose bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial park about a mile from the ex-player's home. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

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The six-count grand jury indictment charges Hernandez with killing 27-year-old Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player from Boston who was dating the sister of Hernandez's girlfriend.

Hernandez, 23, pleaded not guilty to murder and weapons charges in June, and he is being held without bail.

He had a brief court appearance in Attleboro on Thursday afternoon. Afterward, his attorney Michael Fee said the defense was pleased to be on a path to a jury trial and was looking forward to testing the prosecution's evidence.

"There has been an incredible rush to judgment in this case," and the state doesn't have enough evidence to prove the charges, he said.

Hernandez signed a contract last summer worth $40 million but was cut by the Patriots within hours of his June 26 arrest, when police led the handcuffed athlete from his home as news cameras rolled.

He could face life in prison if convicted.

The Bristol County grand jury also indicted two others in the case: Hernandez associate Ernest Wallace and Hernandez's cousin Tanya Singleton.

Wallace is charged with accessory to murder after the fact. Prosecutors have said he was with Hernandez the night Lloyd died.

Singleton is charged with criminal contempt for refusing to testify before the grand jury, Bristol County District Attorney Samuel Sutter said. She has been jailed in Massachusetts since Aug. 1. A recent affidavit said that, after Lloyd's killing, Singleton bought Wallace a bus ticket.

Carlos Ortiz, who faces a weapons charge in district court connected to the case, was not indicted.

Sutter said Hernandez's arraignment in Superior Court, where the case now moves, could come next week.

A jogger found Lloyd's body on June 17 in a North Attleborough industrial park. His mother, Ursula Ward, called him a loving son who never hurt anyone.

Prosecutors say Hernandez orchestrated Lloyd's killing because he was upset at him for talking to people Hernandez had problems with at a nightclub days earlier. They say Hernandez, Wallace and Ortiz picked Lloyd up at his home in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood early on June 17 and then drove to the industrial park.

Shortly before his death, authorities say, Lloyd sent his sister text messages asking if she had seen who he was with. "NFL," he wrote. "Just so you know."

Moments later, authorities say, Lloyd was dead after gunshots rang out near a warehouse after he apparently got out of the car for what he thought was a bathroom break.

Authorities have not said who fired the shots, but according to court documents, Ortiz told police in Florida that Wallace said it was Hernandez.

Wallace earlier pleaded not guilty in district court to a charge of accessory to murder after the fact. Ortiz pleaded not guilty to the firearm charge. A judge ordered Wallace held on $500,000 bail and Ortiz held without bail.

Authorities have said they haven't found the murder weapon, which they believe was a .45-caliber Glock pistol.

But they recovered a magazine for .45-caliber bullets in Hernandez's Hummer as well as ammunition of the same caliber inside a condo he rented in Franklin, Mass.

Prosecutors say they have video surveillance from Hernandez's home showing him before and after Lloyd's killing holding what appears to be a Glock. Authorities also recovered a shell casing that matched those found at the homicide scene after tracking the rental car Hernandez was in the night Lloyd died.

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