Former New England Patriot Hernandez charged with murder

CNN
Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 8:27am

Authorities charged former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez with first-degree murder on Wednesday, hours after police arrested him and the NFL team that once gave him a $40 million contract dropped him from its roster.

Hernandez is accused in last week's shooting death of Odin Lloyd, whose body was found in an industrial park area less than a mile from Hernandez's home.

Hernandez "drove the victim to the remote spot, and then he orchestrated his execution," First Assistant District Attorney Bill McCauley said in court Wednesday.

"He orchestrated the crime from the beginning, he took steps to conceal and destroy evidence, and he took steps to prevent the police from speaking to ... an important witness," the prosecutor said.

Hernandez pleaded not guilty.

A judge ordered him held without bail.

Defense attorney Michael Fee had said that the evidence is circumstantial and that bail should be granted so that Hernandez can return home to spend time with his fiancee and 8-month-old child.

"It is a circumstantial case. It is not a strong case," Fee said, arguing that Hernandez was not a flight risk and had cooperated with authorities.

Lloyd's family tearfully watched during Wednesday's hearing. They did not speak to reporters after leaving the courthouse.

Hernandez, 23, wore a white T-shirt when he appeared in court. He stood beside his attorney, his hands cuffed.

After the court hearing, Fee said Hernandez is "doing fine."

A gag order issued during the hearing stopped attorneys from providing additional details afterward.

The Patriots released Hernandez Wednesday after he was arrested and booked at a police station in North Attleborough.

Hernandez's next court date, for a probable cause hearing, is scheduled for July 24. That's when the state would have to prove it has enough evidence to move forward. But it's possible that Hernandez will be indicted before then, in which case a probable cause hearing would be unnecessary.

Prosecutor: Surveillance footage shows Hernandez with gun

After days of secrecy in the closely watched investigation, the prosecutor's comments in court provided the first detailed account of Lloyd's killing and the evidence detectives have uncovered.

A jogger found Lloyd's body, riddled with gunshot wounds, in a secluded area of an industrial park near Hernandez's house June 17, McCauley said.

Investigators later found five shell casings at the scene. Inside Lloyd's pocket, McCauley said, they found a wallet and keys to a car that Hernandez had rented.

Earlier that same day, around 2:30 a.m., the prosecutor said, the 27-year-old Lloyd was seen leaving his Boston home with Hernandez in a silver Nissan Altima.

Less than an hour later, surveillance cameras at the North Attleborough industrial park showed the vehicle heading toward the remote area where Lloyd's body was later found, McCauley said.

"The car goes down there at 3:22," McCauley said. "Four minutes later, the car is visible again. During the interval between 3:23 and 3:27, people who were working the overnight shift hear gunshots."

Minutes later, surveillance video from Hernandez's home security system shows the former NFL player arriving back at his house with two other people, according to the district attorney. Hernandez appears to be holding a firearm, McCauley said.

"The defendant goes walking through the house with the gun in his hand. That is captured in the video. ... And they all go down to the basement," McCauley said. "Once in the basement, the surveillance gets shut off."

McCauley said the gun Hernandez was carrying in the surveillance video has not been found.

Investigation continues

For several days, investigators searched the area near Hernandez's home as they investigated Lloyd's death. Authorities said Wednesday the investigation was ongoing.

In addition to the first-degree murder charge, Hernandez faces five weapons-related charges, including carrying a firearm without a license.

It was unclear whether there had been any additional arrests in the case.

"One critical part of this case that we don't know anything about at this point is the two other men (Hernandez is) accused of being with," CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said. "Were they shooters? Were they involved? Will they flip against Hernandez? They are obviously key figures in this, and we'll watch how that unfolds."

In court on Wednesday, the prosecutor described what he alleged was a tense conversation between Hernandez and Lloyd inside the Nissan Altima and described what Hernandez and his associates had done at the scene of the shooting. He did not reveal how investigators had learned that information.

Inside the car, according to McCauley, Hernandez told Lloyd he was angry because of Lloyd's behavior at a Boston club they had gone to together several days earlier.

"There were certain things that had happened during the night that he was upset about and now didn't trust the victim," McCauley said. "He told him one of the things he was mad about. ... At the club the victim had spoken to a couple of people, and the defendant told him that he was upset about that because he had some troubles with those people."

Victim's family reacts

Lloyd's sister, Olivia Thibou, told CNN last week that her brother and Hernandez went to a Boston nightclub together a few days before Lloyd's death.

Her brother was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee, she said.

She said she didn't know of any problems between Hernandez and her brother, who worked for a landscaping company.

Before Wednesday's hearing, Thibou said she was glad to hear about Hernandez's arrest.

"God is great," she said. "It's the best news I've had since my brother was killed last week."

Patriots drop Hernandez

The Patriots -- who gave Hernandez a five-year, $40 million contract last year -- released him from the team after his arrest, but before the charges against him were made public Wednesday.

"Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation," the team said in a statement.

The NFL released its own statement, calling the involvement of a player in the case "deeply troubling."

Both the NFL and Patriots expressed sympathy for the victim's family.

On Wednesday, about a half-dozen plainclothes police officers went to Hernandez's house and then led him out in handcuffs. He was wearing a white T-shirt and shorts.

Sheriff: Gang unit will investigate Hernandez's tattoos

Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson said he expects living behind bars will be a major adjustment for the former NFL star.

Wednesday night's dinner at the Dartmouth House of Correction was chop suey, green beans and a slice of bread, the sheriff said. Hernandez will only be allowed out of his one-person cell for showers and phone calls. Authorities will perform background checks on any visitors.

Hodgson said he met with Hernandez "as soon as he came in" to the facility and told him he'd receive no special treatment.

Asked how Hernandez responded, Hodgson said, "He did not seem nervous," adding he was "polite and respectful."

Hernandez is currently being held in the jail's medical unit while he undergoes further screening, including mental health, physical and security tests.

As part of the security screening, authorities will determine whether he has any gang affiliations.

"He had tattoos that our gang unit would be looking at ... to see if he's involved in any kind of gang," Hodgson said. "Doesn't mean he is."

The tattoos raise suspicion, the sheriff said, and investigators will follow up with interviews to further determine the significance of what they saw.

"He'll be treated no better and no worse than any other inmate," the sheriff said.

--CNN's Rick Hall and Susan Candiotti reported from North Attleborough. CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet reported from Atlanta. CNN's Rande Iaboni, Ross Levitt and Rachel Nichols contributed to this report.

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