Prosecutors today intensified their focus on former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez by indicting his fiancee on a single count of perjury and by charging a Hernandez cousin with conspiracy to commit accessory after the fact to the murder of Odin L. Lloyd.
In a brief statement this afternoon, Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter’s office announced the new indictments against Shayanna Jenkins and Hernandez’s cousin, Tanya Singleton.
Hernandez has been charged with orchestrating Lloyd’s murder, has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and is being held without bail at the Bristol County Jail. Ernest Wallace, whom prosecutors have called Hernandez’s “right hand man,’’ is being held on $500,000 cash bail after pleading not guilty to accessory after the fact to Lloyd’s murder.
Carlos Ortiz, who was originally arrested on weapons possession charges, today was indicted on accessory after the fact to the murder of Lloyd and is scheduled to be arraigned in Bristol Superior Court in Fall River at a later date.
The statement issued by Sutter’s office did not provide any information about the basis for the criminal charges against Jenkins, with whom Hernandez has a child, or Singleton.
But citing court records in Massachusetts and Connecticut, the Globe reported in August that prosecutors were investigating a telephone call and text message Hernandez allegedly sent to Jenkins on June 18 instructing her to“get rid of” firearms he allegedly stashed in the basement of their North Attleborough home.
Surveillance video footage from the home monitoring system shows Jenkins carrying a large, heavy object consistent with the shape of a lock box or safe from the basement to a car, leaving Hernandez’s home at 22 Ronald C. Meyer Drive and driving toward Landry Avenue in North Attleborough. She returned 35 minutes later without the large object.
Police have not found the .45-caliber weapon used to kill Lloyd, but on June 19 they did find a .22-caliber handgun along Landry Avenue. Police said the weapon appeared to have been “recently discarded.”
According to court documents, police have already searched a storage unit in Bristol, Conn., that was rented under Jenkins’s name but paid for with a credit card in Hernandez’s name. Authorities were led to the US Storage Center facility on Mountain Road after they scoured Hernandez’s financial records and discovered a receipt for the unit.
Jenkins has not faced criminal charges until today, but Singleton has been jailed since Aug. 1 for not responding to a subpoena to testify in front of a grand jury investigating the homicide.
According to the documents released in August, Singleton allegedly paid for a bus ticket for Wallace from Macon, Ga., to Florida a week after the killing.
The indictments resulted from the investigation into the June 17 murder of Lloyd, a Dorchester man who was shot to death in a North Attleborough industrial park after he was picked up in Boston by Hernandez, Ortiz, and Wallace.
Ortiz, who has been in custody on unlawful possession of weapons charges, is now facing accessory after the fact charges, the same as Wallace. Both men face a maximum of seven years imprisonment if convicted. Ortiz no longer faces weapons charges that have been pending in Attleboro District Court, officials said.
John Connors, Ortiz’s court-appointed attorney, said he spoke with Ortiz and Sutter’s office last night.
“I learned yesterday morning that he was indicted by the grand jury,” said Connors.
Connors noted that the new charge replaces the previous gun charge leveled at Ortiz. If convicted of accessory to murder after the fact, Ortiz faces up to seven years in prison.
According to court records, Ortiz admitted to law enforcement officials that he was present on the night of Lloyd’s murder, and surveillance tape from Hernandez’s North Attleborough home shows him holding a firearm in Hernandez’s home shortly after Lloyd was shot, according to prosecutors.
Connors said it is unclear to him if the grand jury heard any additional evidence against Ortiz, or whether their indictment is based solely on Ortiz’s interview and the video footage. Connors has not seen the grand jury transcripts.
“The charge of carrying the gun had to do with that particular day,” Connors said. “I’m sure that that’s all a part of this indictment — that it’s based on the interview he did in Bristol, Conn., and the surveillance images from Aaron Hernandez’s home.”
In Bristol Superior Court on Thursday, Assistant Bristol District Attorney Patrick Bomberg said that the 27-year-old Ortiz has changed his account of the final moments leading up to the fatal shooting of Lloyd.
Ortiz previously told authorities that Hernandez and Wallace got out of a rental vehicle with Lloyd in the industrial park where Lloyd was shot multiple times. Ortiz has consistently said that he remained inside the car, according to authorities.
But now, Ortiz “does not think” Wallace exited the vehicle with Hernandez and Lloyd, Bomberg said during a bail hearing for Wallace on Thursday.
Prosecutors allege that Wallace drove Ortiz to Bristol, Conn. — the hometown for all three men — after the killing in a second vehicle that Hernandez rented, and that he later abandoned the car.
David Meier, a lawyer for Wallace, said during the hearing Thursday that even though his client is charged as an accessory after the fact, there has been no allegation that he committed acts typical of that offense, such as driving a getaway car, helping to hide evidence or a suspect, disposing of robbery proceeds, or helping a suspect flee.
He also questioned whether there was convincing evidence that Hernandez committed the killing and said Wallace has “every incentive” to appear in court for future hearings.
An arraignment date for Ortiz has not yet been set.
Wallace is due back in court for a pretrial hearing on Nov. 8.
Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.