ATTLEBORO, Mass. — Aaron Hernandez’s probable cause hearing was pushed to Aug. 22 after the judge granted a prosecution request for a delay.
Hernandez appeared in court Wednesday for the hearing related to his murder charge. It was the former New England Patriot’s first appearance since a judge refused him bail nearly a month ago.
The 23-year-old Bristol native has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the June 17 shooting death of Odin Lloyd, a Dorchester man who was dating his fiancee’s sister. The Patriots released him shortly after his arrest. He also faces five firearms charges.
The prosecutor did disclose some new pieces of evidence when he told the judge that Hernandez’s fingerprints were identified on ammunition, matching the caliber used in murder weapon, investigators found at an apartment he leased in Massachusetts. He also said Hernandez’s fingerprints were found in a Hummer parked at the apartment in which ammunition was found.
Hernandez’s lawyer argued against the delay, saying the fact that a grand jury is still convened – apparently to investigate Hernandez’s potential role in a 2012 double homicide in Boston – is not enough reason to delay the probable cause proceedings.
Wednesday’s hearing was scheduled for a judge to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence against him to proceed to trial. Prosecutors have still not found the murder weapon, but used text messages, surveillance footage and testimony from witnesses to build their case against the former NFL star.
Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, both of Bristol, are also charged in the case. Wallace was charged with accessory after the fact to murder and Ortiz was charged with illegal possession of a firearm. Ortiz had pointed police to the apartment where the ammunition was found, court records show. It was where he told police Wallace drove him after the shooting.
Lloyd was shot five times, and his body was found June 17 in a North Attleborough park less than a mile from Hernandez’s home. Surveillance footage from early June 17 shows Lloyd entering a Nissan Altima with Hernandez, Wallace and Ortiz – the same car was later seen driving into the park where Lloyd’s body was found.
Before Lloyd died, he sent a series of texts to his sister to make sure she knew whom he was with. His last text to her read, “NFL, just so you know.”
After the Nissan Altima was seen driving out of the park, surveillance footage from the former tight end’s home shows it pulling into his driveway, and the three men exiting the vehicle without Lloyd.
Ortiz has told investigators that he did not witness the shooting, but that Wallace said Hernandez shot Lloyd. The three others, Ortiz said, got out of the car to urinate. Wallace and Hernandez returned without Lloyd, he said.
Footage from inside the house shows the former Patriot tight end holding what prosecutors believe to be the murder weapon — a Glock .45 pistol, based on crime scene evidence. Hernandez returned the Altima to the rental car company the next day. Police, in a search of a Dumpster where an employee discarded what was left in the car, found a .45 caliber bullet casing that matched those recovered at the crime scene.
Jonathan Ramos, 27, of Hartford came to the hearing wearing a Hernandez jersey and a hat that said “Free81″ on it. Hernandez wore jersey number 81.
Ramos said he believed Hernandez was “innocent until proven guilty.”
“I had friends who played football against him in high school…him being a Connecticut native, it’s just sad.”
Wallace will appear in Attleboro on Friday for a pretrial hearing. Ortiz is also being held and is awaiting an Aug. 14 court date.
Distributed by MCT Information Services