A grand jury on Thursday indicted former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez on murder and weapons charges in the slaying of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, who was gunned down in a secluded field.
In addition to first-degree murder, the grand jury also indicted Hernandez, 23, on multiple weapons charges.
He is expected to be arraigned on the charges in the coming weeks, although a final date was not established Thursday.
The indictment was announced in an afternoon court hearing. Hernandez, wearing a Navy blue sport coat, did not speak during the 10-minute hearing.
Afterward, Michael Fee, one of his attorneys, asserted that “there has been an incredible rush to judgment in this case” and said that he questioned whether prosecutors had enough evidence to prove that Hernandez shot and killed Lloyd, 27.
“On the evidence that we’re aware of today, we don’t believe it’s possible for the commonwealth to meet its burden,” Fee said outside the squad red brick courthouse.
District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter, asked to respond to Fee’s assertion, said he was prohibited from commenting on the evidence. But he also noted that he was not prohibited from pointing to the words of a judge who handled one of Hernandez’s first court appearances.
That judge, Renee Dupuis, said that while the evidence laid out to that point was circumstantial, it was “very, very strong.”
“Justice comes at the end of the trial, not today,” Sutter said.
Hernandez is the subject of two other ongoing investigations — one into a double murder in Boston in 2012 and one in Florida in which a man has alleged that he was shot by the former player in February.
Also Thursday, the grand jury issued two other indictments. Ernest Wallace Jr., who prosecutors allege was with Hernandez the night Lloyd was shot and killed, was charged with being an accessory after the fact. And Tanya Singleton, a cousin of Hernandez’s, was charged with contempt for refusing to testify before the grand jury.
Carlos Ortiz, another man who prosecutors allege was with Hernandez when Lloyd was killed, was not indicted, although he was previously charged with weapons possession.
Lloyd was a semi-pro football player, and his girlfriend and Hernandez’s fiancee are sisters. Prosecutors have alleged that Hernandez wanted Lloyd dead because he had been talking to people at a nightclub that the now-former Patriot had a problem with.
Lloyd’s body was discovered the afternoon of June 17 in a secluded section of a wooded industrial park not far from the former player’s home. Lloyd may have realized what was happening — according to court documents, he sent his sister several texts in the minutes before his death, telling her he wanted to make sure she knew he was with a friend he called “Nfl” — apparently a reference to the National Football League.
“Just so you know,” was the final text, sent within a minute of when prosecutors believe he was shot and killed.
According to court documents, prosecutors allege that Hernandez summoned Wallace and Ortiz to his home late the night of June 16. The three of them then allegedly set out for Boston in a rented Nissan Altima, where they picked up Lloyd early the next morning and then made the approximately 45-minute drive back to North Attleboro, pulling into the industrial park at 3:23 a.m. and leaving four minutes later.
The accusations are based on a detailed reconstruction of the hours leading up to Lloyd’s killing, which was based on cell phone calls and text messages and numerous images from surveillance cameras, including several in Hernandez’s home.
The area where Lloyd was killed is about a half-mile from Hernandez’s home in a straight line, and about 1.2 miles by road. Even observing the speed limit and obeying the stop signs, it is a three-minute drive to his three-story home in a wooded neighborhood.
Hernandez, who signed a five-year, $40 million contract in 2012, was cut by the Patriots hours after his June 26 arrest.