Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez drove his friend to a remote spot in an industrial park in the dead of night and — still fuming from a fight at a nightclub three nights earlier — "orchestrated his execution," prosecutors alleged in a Massachusetts court Wednesday.
Hernandez pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and five firearms charges, including possessing a large-capacity firearm, more than a week after the body of Odin Lloyd, 27, was found near his Massachusetts home. A judge ordered him held without bail.
Hernandez "drove the victim to the remote spot, and he then orchestrated his execution. That's what it was," First Assistant District Attorney William McCauley said in Attleboro District Court.
"As (Lloyd) tried to turn, he was shot in the back, and the defendant and his confederates stood over him and delivered the two fatal shots," McCauley said, adding: "He orchestrated the crime from the beginning and took steps to conceal and destroy evidence."
Wearing a white V-neck shirt, red sports shorts and handcuffs, Hernandez showed no emotion as prosecutors laid out a bruising account of what allegedly happened the night Lloyd, a semi-professional football player, was killed, citing what they say is surveillance camera footage, text messages and witnesses who were working the overnight shift who heard gunshots as evidence. Hernandez wiped tears from his face at the very end of the arraignment.
Lloyd's bullet-punctured body was found by a jogger June 17 in an industrial park a mile from Hernandez's North Attleborough home. The death was ruled a homicide.
Prosecutors said that the killing was prompted by a fight between the two friends during a trip June 14 to a Boston nightclub. Three days later, Hernandez and two friends allegedly picked Lloyd up at his house at 2:30 a.m. Surveillance footage from Hernandez's house shows him leaving earlier in the night with a weapon, prosecutors said.
After getting into the car, Lloyd allegedly texted a family member, asking, "Did you see who I am with," prosecutors said. He then texted that it was Hernandez and followed it up with "Just so you know" in another text message, the prosecutors alleged during the arraignment.
Later that morning, between 3:23 a.m. and 3:27 a.m., employees who were working the overnight shift at the industrial park where Lloyd's body would later be found reported hearing gunshots, authorities said. It's not clear who investigators believe fired the shots.
"It is at bottom a circumstantial case. It is not a strong case," Michael Fee, Hernandez's attorney, said in court.
Prosecutors allege that security videos from Hernandez's house show him with firearms after Lloyd was murdered and show a Nissan Altima — the same type of car Hernandez had rented — going to and coming from the site where Lloyd's body would be found. He was seen exiting the vehicle at 3:29 a.m. with a gun at his home on the surveillance footage, prosecutors claim, shortly after authorities say Lloyd was killed.
Hernandez, 23, was placed in handcuffs and put in a police cruiser just before 9 a.m. Wednesday by Massachusetts State Police and North Attleborough police. Authorities have searched his home, on the Rhode Island line not far from the Patriots' stadium, several times over the past week.
Less than two hours after the arrest, the Patriots announced they were releasing Hernandez.
Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was taken out of his home in handcuffs more than a week after a body was found near his Massachusetts 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. We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do," a statement from the team read.
The Patriots drafted Hernandez in 2010. Last summer, the team gave Hernandez a five-year contractworth $40 million, including a signing bonus of $12.5 million.
The investigation also cost Hernandez his endorsement contract with CytoSport, which makes Muscle Milk and other supplements for athletes, last week.
Further information about the investigation is likely to be scarce. Attleboro District Court Magistrate Mark Sturdy sealed the case records and has imposed a gag order on prosecutors and defense attorneys alike.
Separately, Hernandez is also embroiled in a civil lawsuit by a Connecticut man, Alexander Bradley, who alleges Hernandez that shot him in the eye after the two left a Miami strip club in February.