New England Patriots’ Aaron Hernandez Charged With Murder

Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was again ordered held without bail after being charged with murder for what prosecutors called orchestrating the execution of a friend.

Superior Court Judge Renee Dupuis in Fall River, Massachusetts, today affirmed that Hernandez will be held in jail. While agreeing with Hernandez’s lawyer that the case was based on circumstantial evidence, Dupuis said, “It’s a very, very strong circumstantial case.”

As Hernandez stood in the courtroom, the judge said the killing seemed “cold-blooded.”

Hernandez, 23, was arraigned yesterday in district court in Attleboro, Massachusetts, after being arrested at his home in North Attleboro, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southwest of Boston. He’s charged with murder in the first degree and firearms crimes. Hernandez, dressed in a white T-shirt and red shorts, pleaded not guilty during the 40-minute arraignment.

In court yesterday, William McCauley of the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office gave a minute-by-minute account of the early morning hours of June 17, saying Odin Lloyd, 27, was driven from his home in Boston by Hernandez and two other men to an industrial park in North Attleboro and shot to death.

‘Orchestrated’ Execution

“He orchestrated the execution,” McCauley said of Hernandez.

McCauley told the judge that the police found five spent .45-caliber bullet casings near Lloyd’s body and that he had been shot five times. The gun hasn’t been found. Lloyd’s body was discovered by a jogger later in the day.

The apparent motive, according to McCauley, was that Lloyd had been talking to some people at a club in Boston with whom Hernandez had “troubles.” Hernandez had told friends he “couldn’t trust anyone anymore,” according to McCauley.

Michael Fee, Hernandez’s lawyer, asked that his client be released on bail, telling Attleboro District Court Judge Daniel O’Shea yesterday that the prosecution’s case was circumstantial.

“It is not a strong case,” Fee told O’Shea.

Hernandez’s lawyers appealed O’Shea’s bail decision, saying that he lacked a criminal record, was a stable homeowner with a family and did not pose a risk of flight. Dupuis rejected that appeal today.

If convicted, Hernandez faces life in prison without parole, McCauley said. Hernandez is scheduled to appear again in court on July 24.

Team’s Disappointment

The National Football League’s Patriots said in a statement yesterday Hernandez was released from the team after his arrest.

“A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss,” the Patriots said in the e-mailed statement. “Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation.”

After the arraignment, Fee told reporters, “Aaron’s fine” and declined to comment further. Bristol County District Attorney Samuel Sutter said the investigation was still under way and also declined to comment further.

At the request of Hernandez’s lawyers, O’Shea issued an order preventing defense and prosecution attorneys and law enforcement officers from commenting publicly on the case. Fee had complained of a “hysterical atmosphere” surrounding the case.

Police and prosecutors pieced together their case from mobile-phone text messages sent and received in the hours before Lloyd’s murder, as well as footage from surveillance cameras at Hernandez’s home and other locations along the route from Boston to North Attleboro.

Fugitive Charged

The two other men in the rented Nissan with Hernandez and Lloyd that night weren’t identified by Massachusetts prosecutors. One man has been charged in Connecticut in connection with the case.

Brian Preleski, state’s attorney for New Britain, Connecticut, said in a statement today that in assisting Massachusetts authorities in the “investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the homicide of Odin Lloyd,” Carlos Ortiz of Bristol, Connecticut, was charged as a fugitive from justice and agreed to waive extradition to Massachusetts.

Hernandez grew up in Bristol and went to the local high school.

McCauley said the three men picked Lloyd up in Boston at about 2:30 a.m. Shortly before his death, according to the prosecutor, Lloyd was text-messaging his sister from the car telling her he was with “NFL” and writing “Just so you know.”

Shots Heard

“Two minutes later shots are heard by folks working the midnight shift,” McCauley said.

By 3:30, Hernandez and his two friends had arrived at his house, about a two-minute drive from the site of the killing, the prosecutor said. Surveillance cameras at the house showed Hernandez and another man entering with firearms, McCauley said.

Lloyd had dated the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee, the prosecutor said. Fee said Hernandez lived with his fiancee and their 8-month-old daughter.

The Patriots selected Hernandez in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft out of the University of Florida. He was an All-American and the 2009 winner of the John Mackey Award as college football’s top tight end.

In three years with the National Football League’s Patriots, the 6-foot-1, 245-pound tight end had 175 receptions for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Hernandez and fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski combined for 40 touchdowns in the past two NFL seasons.

In August 2012, Hernandez agreed to a five-year, $41 million contract extension, according to the Associated Press.

Hernandez missed six games last season because of injuries.

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