ATTLEBORO — Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez was indicted today on a charge of first-degree murder in the slaying of a Boston man whose bullet-riddled body was found in a North Attleborough industrial park in June.
Hernandez also faces five gun charges in the slaying of Odin L. Lloyd, 27, of Boston, in the latest chapter of the downfall of a wealthy NFL star who once seemed to have a bright future.
One of Hernandez’s friends, Ernest Wallace of Miramar, Fla., also was indicted by a Bristol County grand jury on a charge of being an accessory after the fact of first-degree murder, according to the Bristol County Superior Court clerk’s office in Fall River.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Hernandez faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. Wallace faces a maximum sentence of seven years.
Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter’s office has alleged that Hernandez, Wallace, and another Hernandez associate picked up Lloyd, an amateur football player, at his Dorchester home and then drove him to the industrial park, where Hernandez shot him to death.
“Aaron Hernandez is an innocent man as we stand here today,’’ Michael Fee, Hernandez’s attorney, told reporters after a hearing today at Attleboro District Court, where prosecutors informed the judge that Hernandez had been indicted, which will move the case to Superior Court.
“Based on the evidence that we’re aware of today, we do not believe the Commonwealth has significant evidence to carry the burden of proof,’’ Fee said. “There’s been an incredible rush to judgment.’’
Wallace’s attorney, David E. Meier, said his client was eager to challenge the charge in court.
“Mr. Wallace looks forward to facing his accusers in a court of law,’’ Meier said. “We are confident that the truth will win out. It always does.’’
No date has been set in Superior Court for the arraignments of Hernandez and Wallace. Hernandez is being held without bail. Wallace is being held on $500,000 cash bail stemming from his district court arraignment on the same charge.
Hernandez is also under investigation for allegedly participating in a 2012 double homicide in Boston, The Boston Globe has reported.
Hernandez’s hearing this afternoon lasted 10 minutes. The case will be dismissed from District Court after Hernandez has been arraigned in Superior Court on the indictment, Judge Stephen Ostrach said. He set a further hearing in his court for Aug. 30.
Hernandez mouthed “I love you’’ to someone in the courtroom as he was being led out by a court officer after the hearing.
Police investigating Lloyd’s slaying discovered the keys to a car rented in Hernandez’s name in Lloyd’s pocket, prompting them to show up at the Patriots player’s doorstep in a nearby North Attleborough neighborhood of upscale homes.
According to prosecutors, Hernandez bragged to police about his home’s video surveillance system, which led them to seek search warrants for footage from the night of the slaying and to focus their investigation on whether the NFL star was involved.
The footage allegedly showed Hernandez carrying a gun when he returned to his home shortly after the slaying.
Hernandez called Wallace and Carlos Ortiz to Massachusetts from Connecticut and set up a meeting with Lloyd, prosecutors have said.
Ortiz has told investigators that Hernandez and Lloyd got into an argument in the car that evening over people whom Lloyd had been speaking to in a nightclub the previous weekend, prosecutors said.
Video surveillance footage showed Hernandez’s car entering the industrial park during the early morning hours of June 17, with Hernandez, Lloyd, Ortiz, and Wallace all visible, according to prosecutors.
When the car left the industrial park moments later, Lloyd was no longer in the vehicle, his body dumped on the industrial park’s gravel road, prosecutors said.
Police have searched multiple properties and vehicles registered in Hernandez’s name. Last month, they spent more than a week searching a pond in Bristol, Conn., hoping to find the .45-caliber gun used to kill Lloyd. Despite those searches, and the recovery of other weapons linked to Hernandez, investigators have yet to find the gun used to kill Lloyd.
Ortiz, of Bristol, faces gun charges after the surveillance video allegedly showed him wielding an unregistered weapon, but he was not indicted today.
Globe sources, meanwhile, have said Hernandez is being investigated in the July 2012 murder of two Cape Verdean men in Boston.
The killings of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu, who were gunned down in a drive-by shooting during the early morning hours of July 16, 2012, were unsolved.
Police had linked the crime to a sport utility vehicle with Rhode Island license plates, which they had not been able to locate.
Soon after Lloyd’s killing, Boston police began looking into whether Hernandez may have been linked to the 2012 crime, the Globe has reported. Then, in July, police recovered a vehicle believed to be the one used in the 2012 crime during a search of the Bristol home of Hernandez’s uncle.
Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said today that no one has yet been charged in the double murder.
“The double homicide on Herald Street remains under investigation,’’ Wark said. “No charges have been brought as of today, but the investigation by Boston police and the Suffolk district attorney’s office remains very active.’’
Tanya Singleton, a cousin of Hernandez’s, was also indicted today in Fall River Superior Court after she allegedly refused to testify before the grand jury. She will be arraigned Friday on a contempt charge.
A Superior Court judge ordered her to testify, but she refused when she appeared before the grand jury on Aug. 1, according to court records.
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