Bail denied for Hernandez; judge calls evidence ‘overwhelming’

ATTLEBORO, Mass. — A judge on Thursday denied bail for former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a friend.

Hernandez’s lawyer argued that Hernandez is not a risk to flee and the case against him is circumstantial.

But a prosecutor said the evidence is “overwhelming.” A search of a Hummer belonging to Hernandez turned up an ammunition clip matching the caliber of casings found at the scene of the killing of Odin Lloyd, the prosecutor said.

Lloyd’s body was discovered by a jogger in a remote area of an industrial park not far from Hernandez’s home 10 days ago. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors called Lloyd’s killing an execution-style shooting orchestrated by Hernandez because his friend talked to the wrong people at a nightclub. Hernandez could face life in prison, if convicted.

Hernandez was cut from the NFL team less than two hours after he was arrested and led from his North Attleborough home in handcuffs, and nine days after Lloyd’s body was discovered. The 2011 Pro Bowl selection had signed a five-year contract last summer with the Patriots worth $40 million.

Another man, Carlos Ortiz, 27, was arrested Wednesday in Hernandez’s hometown of Bristol, Conn., as part of the murder investigation, New Britain State’s Attorney Brian Preleski said Thursday. Ortiz was charged as a fugitive from justice and waived extradition to Massachusetts. Prison records show he is being held on $1.5 million bail at a Hartford jail.

Ortiz’s public defender, Alfonzo Sirica, declined to comment about the case.

In the meantime, police have been searching a third-floor unit in a condo complex in Franklin, Mass., that Hernandez had visited in recent weeks, according to the unit’s next-door neighbor.

Condo resident Carol Bailey said that starting Wednesday and continuing Thursday, police removed items from the modest, two-bedroom rental unit and asked her questions about its occupants. She said a new tenant told her in May that he was moving in with his cousin, and she realized later that the second man he had referred to that way was the Patriots player.

“I thought, ‘This is Aaron Hernandez. He’s renting a place here so he can have some peace and quiet,’” the retiree said Thursday.

The Ledgewood Condominiums resident said she didn’t see the two men often, but Hernandez always had a hoodie pulled up when she saw him.

“I think all of us who recognized who it was didn’t want to invade his privacy,” she said of neighbors.

Bailey said she believed a black Hummer with expired, temporary Ohio tags that was parked at the complex was driven by someone in the condo. She said police towed away the Hummer on Wednesday.

Lloyd, 27, a semi-pro football player with the Boston Bandits, had known Hernandez for about a year and was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee, the mother of Hernandez’s 8-month-old baby, Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Bill McCauley said.

On June 14, Lloyd went with Hernandez to the Boston nightclub Rumor. McCauley said Hernandez was upset Lloyd had talked to people there with whom Hernandez had trouble. He did not elaborate.

Two days later, McCauley said, Hernandez texted two unidentified friends and asked them to hurry to Massachusetts from Connecticut. At 9:05 p.m., a few minutes after the first message to his friends, Hernandez texted Lloyd to tell him he wanted to get together, McCauley said.

Later, surveillance footage from Hernandez’s home showed his friends arrive and go inside. Hernandez, holding a gun, then told someone in the house he was upset and couldn’t trust anyone anymore, the prosecutor said.

At 1:12 a.m. June 17, the three left in Hernandez’s rented silver Nissan Altima, McCauley said. Cell towers tracked their movements to a gas station off the highway. There, he said, Hernandez bought blue Bubblicious gum.

At 2:32 a.m., they arrived outside Lloyd’s home in Boston and texted him that they were there. McCauley said Lloyd’s sister saw him get into Hernandez’s car.

From there, surveillance cameras captured images of what the prosecutor said was Hernandez driving the silver Altima through Boston. As they drove back toward North Attleborough, Hernandez told Lloyd he was upset about what happened at the club and didn’t trust him, McCauley said. That was when Lloyd began sending texts to his sister.

Surveillance video showed the car entering the industrial park and at 3:23 a.m. driving down a gravel road near where Lloyd’s body was found. Four minutes later, McCauley said, the car emerged. During that period, employees working an overnight shift nearby heard several gunshots, McCauley said.

McCauley said Lloyd was shot multiple times, including twice from above as he was lying on the ground. He said five .45-caliber casings were found at the scene.

Authorities did not say who fired the shots or identify the two others with Hernandez.

At 3:29 a.m., surveillance at Hernandez’s house showed him arriving and walking through the house with a gun in his hand, McCauley said.

His friend is also seen holding a gun, and neither weapon has been found, McCauley said.

Then, the surveillance system stopped recording, and footage was missing from the six to eight hours after the slaying, he said.

The afternoon of June 17, the prosecutor said, Hernandez returned the rental car, offering the attendant a piece of blue Bubblicious gum when he dropped it off. While cleaning the car, the attendant found a piece of blue Bubblicious gum and a shell casing, which he threw away. Police later searched the trash bin and found the gum and the casing. The prosecutor said it was tested and matched the casings found where Lloyd was killed.

———

THE ASSOCIATED PRESSs Bridget Murphy in Boston contributed to this report.

face after they argued at a strip club in February.

Hernandez became a father on Nov. 6 and said he intended to change his ways: “Now, another one is looking up to me. I can’t just be young and reckless Aaron no more. I’m going to try to do the right things.”

———

For The Associated Press, Bridget Murphy in Boston and Howard Ulman in North Attleborough contributed to this report.

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