Hernandez associate Carlos Ortiz pleads not guilty to murder charge

Aaron Hernandez remained in jail Tuesday while one of his associates pleaded not guilty to a murder indictment alleging he was involved with the former Patriots star in the 2013 killing of a semi-pro football player.

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An associate of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a murder indictment alleging that he was involved with the former football star in the 2013 killing of a semi-pro football player.

Carlos Ortiz, 28, is one of two men alleged to have been with Hernandez when Odin Lloyd, 27, was murdered last summer in a secluded field in North Attleboro, Mass.

“Not guilty,” Ortiz answered to the only question he was asked in the hearing before Judge E. Susan Garsh.

In addition to Hernandez and Ortiz, the other man alleged to have been present when Lloyd was killed, Ernest Wallace Jr., has also been indicted on a murder charge in the case. Prosecutors have said that Hernandez, then the star tight end for the New England Patriots, orchestrated Lloyd’s execution. But they have not detailed their theory of how they believe the killing was carried out – and they don’t have to until the case goes before a jury.

Under Massachusetts law, a person does not have to be the actual killer to be charged with murder. Instead, a legal doctrine known as "joint venture" makes associates who are involved in a killing susceptible to the same charge as the person who carried out the killing.

Ortiz’s arraignment came less than two weeks after Hernandez was indicted by a Boston grand jury in a 2012 shooting in the city’s theater district that left two men dead and another wounded. Hernandez is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in the July 16, 2012, murders of Daniel de Abreu, 29, and Safiro Furtado, 28, and wounding of a third man who was in their car.

Hernandez has been held without bail since his arrest last June 26 in Lloyd’s killing.

FOX Sports previously reported that court documents indicate the possibility that the 2012 and 2013 killings and another shooting in Florida may all be related.

Ortiz and Wallace were both initially charged as accessories in Lloyd’s killing. Then, in April, a grand jury indicted both on the additional charge of murder.

Prosecutors have alleged that Hernandez, angered at Lloyd after a trip to a nightclub several days earlier, summoned Wallace and Ortiz from his hometown of Bristol, Conn., to his mansion in North Attleboro late on June 16, 2013. They also have alleged that Hernandez contacted Lloyd and asked him to go out that night.

After Wallace and Ortiz arrived at Hernandez’s home, the three of them allegedly drove to the Dorchester section of South Boston, picked up Lloyd and returned to North Attleboro. Prosecutors have alleged that there, early the morning of June 17, Hernandez drove into a secluded field and that Lloyd was then murdered.

Lloyd was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins. His body was discovered the next day by a jogger.

Prosecutors based many of their early allegations about the crime on statements made by Ortiz. He initially told them that he stayed in the car at the murder scene and that Hernandez, Wallace and Lloyd got out. At that point, he had claimed, he heard gunshots and that only Hernandez and Wallace got back into the car.

However, it quickly became apparent that Ortiz’s credibility would be an issue.

First, as FOX Sports first reported in early September, the presence of a white towel that was discovered on the ground near Lloyd’s body opened the door for defense attorneys to attack Ortiz’s credibility by questioning whether he was telling the truth when he insisted he never got out of the car at the murder scene. Here’s why: A surveillance camera image from a gas station, snapped about 90 minutes before Lloyd was killed, showed Ortiz with a light-colored towel draped around his neck.

And then, in a hearing a few weeks later, prosecutors acknowledged that Ortiz had changed key parts of his story. After initially claiming he never got out of the car at the murder scene, and that Wallace did, Ortiz said Wallace may have stayed in the vehicle. That and other discrepancies in his statements to investigators led prosecutors to file court documents in which they descried Ortiz as "completely unreliable" as a possible witness.

Two others have also been charged in Lloyd’s killing.

Tanya Singleton, 38, faces charges of conspiracy to commit accessory after the fact to murder for allegedly helping Wallace flee to Florida as well as contempt for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating Lloyd’s death. Singleton is Hernandez’s cousin.

And Jenkins, the former player’s fiancée and the mother of his 17-month-old daughter, has been charged with perjury. She has been accused of lying in her grand jury testimony at least 29 times, according to court documents.

In addition to the 2012 South Boston murders and the killing of Lloyd, Hernandez has also been accused in a federal civil lawsuit of shooting an associate in the face after a February 2013 dispute at a Florida nightclub. Alexander Bradley, who lost an eye in the incident, was allegedly with Hernandez the morning Abreu and Furtado were gunned down at a stoplight in South Boston.

And although prosecutors have yet to detail their theories of the killings, this month’s Boston indictment of Hernandez in what was described as an ambush shooting and details in court documents suggest that the three shootings may be related, that Bradley and Lloyd may have been targeted because of what they knew about the inexplicable murders of Abreu and Furtado.