ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) — Former New England Patriots tight end 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.
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 last summer signed a contract 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 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 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. Lloyd’s 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 drove to the industrial park.
Shortly before Lloyd’s death, authorities say, he 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 released in Florida, Ortiz told police that Wallace said it was Hernandez.
Wallace earlier pleaded not guilty 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. Singleton’s family hasn’t commented.
Authorities have said they haven’t found the murder weapon, which they believe was a .45-caliber Glock pistol.
But they said they recovered a magazine for .45-caliber bullets in Hernandez’s Hummer and ammunition of the same caliber inside a condo he rented in Franklin.
Prosecutors say they have surveillance video from Hernandez’s home showing him before and after Lloyd’s killing holding what appears to be a Glock. Authorities say they’ve 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.
Since then, Boston police have asked police in Hernandez’s hometown, Bristol, Conn., for their help with the probe into Lloyd’s homicide and a 2012 double homicide near a Boston nightclub. A Connecticut police lieutenant said authorities searched the home of Hernandez’s uncle, seizing an SUV sought in the double killing that had been rented in Hernandez’s name.
Two men died in the July 2012 shooting in Boston’s South End, with witnesses reporting that gunfire came from inside a gray SUV with Rhode Island tags. Boston police haven’t reported any arrests in the deaths of Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Teixeira Furtado and won’t comment on whether Hernandez is a suspect.
Hernandez also faces civil litigation after a Connecticut man filed a lawsuit asserting the former player shot him in the face in February after they argued at a Miami strip club. Alexander Bradley, who says he lost an eye, told police at the time he didn’t know who shot him.
Also Thursday, Hernandez’s attorneys asked an Attleboro judge to order the state to stop “deliberately misleading or making false statements” to potential witnesses. They claim detectives visiting a potential witness at a Connecticut prison to interview him told the man this month they were there “to help Aaron out.”
Sutter called it an allegation and said he hadn’t reviewed the defense motion.
Associated Press writers Bridget Murphy in Boston and Michelle R. Smith in Fall River contributed to this report.