Former New England Patriot Hernandez charged with murder - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Former New England Patriot Hernandez charged with murder

By Rick Hall. Susan Candiotti and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 6:22 PM EDT, Wed Jun 26, 2013


  • Prosecutor: Surveillance video showed Hernandez with gun
  • The former New England Patriots player is charged with murder
  • Prosecutor: "He orchestrated the crime from the beginning"
  • A defense attorney says the evidence is circumstantial

NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Authorities charged former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez with first-degree murder on Wednesday, hours after police arrested him and the NFL team that once gave him a $40 million contract dropped him from their roster.

Hernandez is accused in last week's shooting death of Odin Lloyd, whose body was found in an industrial park area less than a mile from Hernandez's home.

Hernandez "drove the victim to the remote spot, and then he orchestrated his execution," First Assistant District Attorney Bill McCauley said in court Wednesday.

"He orchestrated the crime from the beginning, he took steps to conceal and destroy evidence and he took steps to prevent the police from speaking to ... an important witness," the prosecutor said.

A judge ordered that Hernandez be held without bail.

Defense attorney Michael Fee had said that the evidence is circumstantial and that bail should be granted so that Hernandez can return home to spend time with his fiancee and 8-month-old child.

"It is a circumstantial case. It is not a strong case," Fee said, arguing that Hernandez was not a flight risk and had cooperated with authorities.

Lloyd's family tearfully watched during Wednesday's hearing. They did not speak to reporters after leaving the courthouse.

Hernandez, 23, wore a white T-shirt when he appeared in court. He stood beside his attorney, his hands cuffed.

After the court hearing, Fee said Hernandez is "doing fine."

A gag order issued during the hearing stopped attorneys from providing additional details afterward.

The Patriots released Hernandez Wednesday after he was arrested and booked at a police station in North Attleborough.

After days of secrecy in the closely watched investigation, the prosecutor's comments in court provided the first detailed account of Lloyd's killing and the evidence detectives have uncovered.

A jogger found Lloyd's body, riddled with gunshot wounds, in a secluded area of an industrial park near Hernandez's house June 17, McCauley said.

Investigators later found five shell casings at the scene. Inside his pocket, McCauley said, they found a wallet and keys to a car that Hernandez had rented.

Around 2:30 a.m. that same day, the prosecutor said, Lloyd was last seen leaving his Boston home with Hernandez in a silver Nissan Altima.

Less than an hour later, surveillance cameras at the North Attleborough industrial park showed the vehicle heading toward the remote area where Lloyd's body was later found, McCauley said.

"The car goes down there at 3:22," McCauley said. "Four minutes later, the car is visible again. During the interval between 3:23 and 3:27, people who were working the overnight shift hear gunshots."

Minutes later, surveillance video from Hernandez's home security system shows the former NFL player arriving back at his house with two other people, according to the district attorney. Hernandez appears to be holding a firearm, McCauley said.

"The defendant goes walking through the house with the gun in his hand. That is captured in the video. ... And they all go down to the basement," McCauley said. "Once in the basement, the surveillance gets shut off."

McCauley said the gun Hernandez was carrying in the surveillance video has not been found.

For the past several days, investigators have been searching the area near Hernandez's home as they have investigated Lloyd's death. Authorities Wednesday said the investigation was ongoing.

In addition to the first-degree murder charge, Hernandez faces five weapons-related charges, including carrying a firearm without a license.

It was unclear whether there had been any additional arrests in the case.

"One critical part of this case that we don't know anything about at this point is the two other men (Hernandez is) accused of being with," CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said. "Were they shooters? Were they involved? Will they flip against Hernandez? They are obviously key figures in this, and we'll watch how that unfolds."

In court on Wednesday, the prosecutor described what he alleged was a tense conversation between Hernandez and Lloyd inside the Nissan Altima and described what Hernandez and his associates had done at the scene of the shooting. He did not reveal how investigators had learned that information.

Inside the car, according to McCauley, Hernandez told Lloyd he was mad because of Lloyd's behavior at a Boston club they had gone to together several days earlier.

"There were certain things that had happened during the night that he was upset about and now didn't trust the victim," McCauley said. "He told him one of the things he was made about. ... At the club the victim had spoken to a couple of people, and the defendant told him that he was upset about that because he had some troubles with those people."

The Patriots -- who gave Hernandez a five-year, $40 million contract last year -- released Hernandez from the team before the charges against him were made public Wednesday.

"Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation," the team said in a statement.

The NFL released its own statement, calling the involvement of a player in the case "deeply troubling."

Both the NFL and Patriots expressed sympathy for the victim's family.

Hernandez's lawyer broke his silence Monday, saying his client has been subjected to "a relentless flood of rumors, misinformation and false reports," including unsubstantiated accounts in some media outlets late last week that an arrest warrant had been issued in connection with the investigation.

On Wednesday, about a half-dozen plainclothes police officers went to Hernandez's house and then led him out in handcuffs. He was wearing a white T-shirt and shorts.

Authorities had been tight-lipped since 27-year-old Lloyd's body was found last week.

Before Wednesday's hearing, Lloyd's sister, Olivia Thibou, said she was glad to hear about Hernandez's arrest.

"God is great," she said. "It's the best news I've had since my brother was killed last week."

On Tuesday, a notice posted at the courthouse said all records relating to the investigation have been "impounded by order of the court."

The move seals all records related to the case, including search warrants.

Lloyd died of gunshot wounds, the prosecutor said Wednesday.

Thibou told CNN last week that Lloyd and Hernandez were friends who were at a Boston nightclub together a few days before Lloyd's death. She said her brother was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee. She did not know when or how her brother and Hernandez met.

Thibou said she did not know of any problems between Hernandez and Lloyd, who worked for a landscaping company. She said she couldn't imagine why anyone would want to kill her brother, whom she described as a friendly guy who was like a father to her 7-year-old daughter.

CNN's Rick Hall and Susan Candiotti reported from North Attleborough. CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet reported from Atlanta. CNN's Rande Iaboni and Rachel Nichols contributed to this report.

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