Updated Friday at 2:15 p.m.
Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder in the first degree and arraigned on five additional gun charges when he made his first appearance in front of an Attleboro District Court judge on Wednesday.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges and will be held without bail.
Hernandez, who was arrested at approximately 8:45 a.m. Wednesday at his North Attleboro, MA, home, has been the center of an investigation by Massachusetts State Police since Monday, June 17 following the “execution-style” murder of 27-year-old semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.
The Patriots released Hernandez two hours after his arrest.
In addition to being charged with first degree murder at the arraignment, Hernandez was charged with carrying a firearm without a license, two counts of possession of a large-capacity firearm, and two counts of possession of a firearm without an owner’s identification card (one including ammunition).
Attorneys Michael K. Fee and James L. Sultan represented Hernandez in court as Bristol Assistant District Attorney Bill McCauley detailed a wide variety of circumstantial evidence the state has already uncovered implicating Hernandez in Lloyd’s murder.
The state has used surveillance evidence and cellular tower tracking data to place a vehicle containing Hernandez, Lloyd and two other men at the scene of the crime. Two minutes after shots were heard in the area, the vehicle arrived at Hernandez’s home, which is two minutes away from the crime scene.
Hernandez, it is alleged, began to have a problem with Lloyd after he saw his friend speaking with men Hernandez had a problem with while the two were at a nightclub together on Friday, June 14.
He left his home early Monday morning with a hand gun and is captured on surveillance footage saying, “You can’t trust anyone anymore,” shortly before picking up Lloyd. At approximately 2:30 a.m. on June 17, Hernandez and two friends arrived at Lloyd’s home and took him away in a car.
The prosecution also cited text messages Lloyd sent to his sister while he was in the car. Lloyd asked his sister if she recognized who he left with and noted, at 3:22 a.m., “NFL” when she replied that she was unaware. One minute later, at 3:23 a.m., Lloyd added, “Just so you know.”
Between 3:23 a.m. and 3:27 a.m., witnesses near the industrial park where Lloyd was murdered and his body was eventually discovered told police they heard five shots fired. Hernandez arrived back at his home at 3:29 a.m.
Lloyd was shot five times, once in the head.
The prosecution claims to have an incredible amount of surveillance evidence including the defendant walking “into his house with a gun in his hand. That is seen on the video.” Shortly after Hernandez entered his home, his recently-installed surveillance system was shut off. Six to eight hours of footage are missing.
Additionally, a shell casing found by Enterprise in a rental car returned by Hernandez was matched, via ballistics, to a shell casing found at the scene of the crime.
Police also found a chewed piece of Bubblicious cotton candy-flavored gum at the scene, the same brand and flavor of gum purchased by Hernandez at a gas station earlier that morning.
“It is established that the defendant alone out of the three individuals had a relationship with the victim,” said McCauley. “The defendant had the motive, the means and the opportunity to orchestrate the crime.”
He added: “The defendant orchestrated the execution.”
Fee claimed the state does not have a strong case against Hernandez as all of its evidence is circumstantial. He also said there was no flight risk for Hernandez, who “stands before the court with no record whatsoever,” but was nevertheless denied bail by the judge.
The state has not yet claimed to have the murder weapon or an eyewitness.
If convicted, first degree murder in the state of Massachusetts would result in life in prison with no chance of parole for Hernandez. A second degree murder conviction would include a chance of parole after a minimum of 15 years in prison.
Update – 11:55 p.m.: According to Wesley Lowery of The Boston Globe, a second man has been arrested in connection with Lloyd’s homicide. Carlos Ortiz, 27, is currently being held at Hartford Correctional Center on $1.5 million bond. Ortiz was arrested at some point Wednesday afternoon on a fugitive warrant. Charges against Ortiz have not been made public, as of press time, and it is unknown if he is believed to be one of the other two men in the car with Hernandez and Lloyd at the time of the victim’s death.
Update – Thursday at 10:05 a.m.: FOX 25 News in Boston, MA, citing a source, is reporting that Hernandez is also a possible suspect in a double murder that occurred on July, 16, 2012.
Update – Thursday at 1:15 p.m.: The Globe has confirmed reports that Hernandez is being investigated in the double murder. “Investigators believe a fight broke out at Curve, a club in the South End, between two men and a group that included Hernandez,” writes Maria Cramer. After everyone left the club, someone from an SUV believed to contain the group that included Hernandez reportedly opened fire on a car containing the other two men, Daniel Abreu, 29, and Safiro Furtado, 28. “The officials said investigators now believe that Odin Lloyd, the man Hernandez is charged with killing in a North Attleboro industrial park June 17, may have had information about Hernandez’s role in the double slaying,” reports Cramer.
Update – Thursday at 3:30 p.m.: Hernandez was denied bail for a second time at a hearing Thursday afternoon at a Bristol Superior Court.
McCauley revealed to the court that investigators executed a search warrant on a condominium property leased by Hernandez and found even more evidence implicating the defendant. Police found .45 caliber ammunition that matches the shell casings found at the murder scene and in Hernandez’s rental car. Additionally, McCauley pointed to a photo of Hernandez carrying a Glock .45 in 2009 (released by TMZ on Wednesday), saying, “There’s good reason to believe the firearm that killed Mr. Lloyd was a Glock because the Glock has a rifling system that is different than most firearms.” The prosecution believes the Glock in the photo is the murder weapon, which has not been recovered as of press time. “I would suggest the evidence has established an overwhelming amount of evidence demonstrating the defendant’s guilt,” McCauley said.
Judge Renee P. Dupuis denied Hernandez’s request for bail, making the following statement: “The Commonwealth have presented a case that [is] circumstantial, to be sure, but very, very strong.” She added that he doubted an ankle bracelet would be enough to keep Hernandez in the state of Massachusetts, ruling that he is a flight risk and will not be provided with the opportunity to post bail.
Update – Friday at 12:30 p.m.: Police are currently searching for Ernest Wallace, 44, who they believe is an accessory after the fact (not directly involved but rather helped conceal the crime) in the murder of Lloyd. Early Friday morning, according to the Globe, cops successfully recovered a silver Chrysler 300, which the prosecution believes was rented by Hernandez to be a getaway vehicle for Ortiz and another man after the murder. There is also a strong belief that the fourth man driving with Hernandez, Lloyd and Ortiz is cooperating with police as the prosecution has been able to reference conversations that occurred in the car that evening despite neither Hernandez nor Ortiz believed to be speaking with investigators at this time.
Update – Friday at 2:15 p.m.: Massachusetts State Police announce that Wallace has been apprehended in Miramar, FL.
OGGOA will be continuously updating this story. Stay tuned.
Photo Credit: NFL