Former Patriots player Aaron Hernandez charged with ‘execution’ of acquaintance; held without bail
ATTLEBORO — Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez executed his acquaintance Odin L. Lloyd because Hernandez was upset that Lloyd had spoken at a Boston nightclub on June 14 with people Hernandez “had troubles with,” a prosecutor alleged today.
Lloyd was shot five times in a North Attleborough industrial park not far from Hernandez’s home. He raised his arm as he lay on the ground, in a desperate attempt to fend off the bullets, Bristol County prosecutor William McCauley said.
The prosecutor said Hernandez, who was accompanied by two men, had the means, motive, and opportunity to kill Lloyd and had been the prime mover in the crime. “He orchestrated his execution,’’ McCauley said. The prosecutor said Hernandez had spoken of no longer trusting Lloyd.
The identity of Hernandez’s two confederates was not disclosed at Hernandez’s arraignment.
Hernandez’s arraignment came after a week of suspense in which media had camped out in front of Hernandez’s home and followed his car by helicopter, in a futile search for details from tight-lipped law enforcement officials. Residents in Massachusetts and beyond have been riveted by the story of a highly paid professional athlete who may have squandered a bright future.
McCauley said Hernandez summoned his two friends, then drove to Fayston Street in Boston’s Dorchester section early on the morning of Monday, June 17, where Lloyd, a 27-year-old semipro football player, left his home, got in the car, and then rode south to North Attleborough.
Along the way, Lloyd alerted relatives in a text message, asking them, “Did you see who I am with?” After they asked who, he replied cryptically, “NFL,” the prosecutor said.
“Just so you know,’’ Lloyd added. It was the last text message he sent before he died, McCauley said.
Surveillance cameras in the North Attleborough industrial park where Lloyd was murdered captured the men arriving in the same silver Nissan that Lloyd had gotten into in Dorchester, the prosecutor said.
Once near a wooded area, Lloyd started climbing out of the car, and was shot once, which knocked him to the ground. As he lay there, he raised his arm and was shot multiple times. Five spent .45-caliber spent shell casings were later recovered, McCauley said.
When Hernandez returned home around 3:30 a.m. Monday, surveillance video at his house showed him walking through his house holding a pistol in his hand, the prosecutor said.
Not-guilty pleas were entered on his behalf. Judge Daniel J. O’Shea ordered Hernandez held without bail.
Hernandez attorney Michael Fee, arguing for bail, said the prosecution case was “circumstantial ... not strong.”
Hernandez also faces five illegal firearms charges.
The courtroom where Hernandez appeared was filled with people, including Lloyd’s mother and other relatives; Hernandez’s fiancee; and a large contingent of reporters. When prosecutors described Hernandez returning home with a gun in his hand, Lloyd’s mother, sobbing, had to leave the courtroom. Hernandez’s fiancee also left the courtroom in tears.
Hernandez, a Bristol, Conn., native, showed no obvious emotion as he stood, his hands cuffed in front of him. Defense attorney Fee and prominent defender James L. Sultan, who is also on the defense team, stood nearby.
After the arraignment, Fee spoke briefly with reporters, saying that he wants the issue of his client’s innocence resolved in the courtroom not in the media.
As he stepped away from the microphones, Fee was asked how his client is faring. “Aaron’s fine,” Fee said before walking away.
Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter told reporters “the reality is that this case is still an ongoing investigation and, invariably, it is in the best interest of an ongoing investigation for the district attorney office not to comment.”
Both Fee and Sutter were restricted in what they could say publicly by a gag order put in place by Judge O’Shea.
The Patriots announced they were cutting their ties to their star tight end around 10:30 a.m. today, shortly after Hernandez was arrested by State Police and North Attleborough police at his home.
“A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss. Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation,’’ the Patriots said in a statement.
“We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process,’’ the statement said. “At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.”
NFL Networks quoted league spokesman Greg Aiello as saying, “The involvement of an NFL player in a case of this nature is deeply troubling.”
“The Patriots have released Aaron Hernandez, who will have his day in court. At the same time, we should not forget the young man who was the victim in this case and take this opportunity to extend our deepest sympathy to Odin Lloyd’s family and friends,” Aiello said.
Around 8:40 a.m., a group of about five police cars, including a marked cruiser from the North Attleborough police, arrived at Hernandez’s home.
Plainclothes officers went to the front door and were greeted by a shirtless Hernandez.
About five minutes later, Hernandez was escorted from the house with a white T-shirt pulled over his torso, his hands cuffed behind his back. He was put into the North Attleborough cruiser and then driven to the police station.
As Hernandez was arraigned in Attleboro, the neighboring town where the courthouse is located, a crowd of onlookers gathered at the foot of the courthouse steps. Some said curiosity and disbelief drew them there.
“I just don’t understand how he could be involved in all this,” said Pete Ciaccio, 66, of Jefferson, who was in town for his granddaughter’s middle school graduation. “He had a promising career in front of him and now he’s thrown it all away and is losing it all.”
As word that Hernandez was charged with murder made its way to the crowd outside, some of the people gathered audibly gasped, while others simply looked at their feet and shook their heads.Globe correspondent Juliet Pennington and Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Colin A. Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ColinAYoung. John R. Ellement can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.