BOSTON (Reuters) - A murder investigation into former National Football League player Aaron Hernandez broadened on Thursday with the arrest of a second man, and a probe into the possible involvement of the onetime star tight end in a double homicide in Boston last year.
Police were investigating links between Hernandez and an unsolved shooting in July 2012, the Boston Globe reported, citing two unidentified law enforcement sources. Hernandez, 23, was swiftly fired by the New England Patriots after his arrest on Wednesday on charges of the execution-style murder of a friend, semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.
Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk County prosecutors, confirmed an investigation into the drive-by shooting of two men was “active and ongoing” but declined to comment on whether Hernandez was a suspect. Investigators believe that Lloyd may have had information about Hernandez’s suspected role in the double slaying, the Boston Globe reported, citing the two law enforcement sources.
A prosecutor in Connecticut said on Thursday that a second man had been arrested in the shooting death of Lloyd, whose body was found June 17 in an industrial park near Hernandez’s house in North Attleborough, Massachusetts. Authorities identified the second man as identified as Carlos Ortiz, 27, of Bristol, Connecticut, suspected of being one of the men who accompanied Hernandez during Lloyd’s murder.
In a Massachusetts court on Wednesday, Hernandez was charged with Lloyd’s murder, a rapid fall for a man who was signed to a $41 million contract with one of the NFL’s top teams.
His lawyer entered a plea of not guilty at his initial court appearance and called the prosecution’s case - based on surveillance videos and cell phone records - circumstantial.
A judge on Thursday denied Hernandez’s lawyers’ request that he be released on bail, saying he was a flight risk and calling the prosecution’s case “very strong.”
Prosecutors argue that Hernandez, along with two friends, had picked Lloyd up at his Boston home and driven him to the North Attleborough industrial park where Hernandez shot Lloyd execution-style with a high-powered handgun.
Prosecutors said Hernandez and Lloyd had argued a few nights before Lloyd’s death when they went to a Boston nightclub together and Lloyd spoke with people that Hernandez said he “had trouble with.”
The charges against Hernandez were a setback for the NFL. Over the years, despite efforts to protect itself from controversy, the league has been dragged into a string of scandals by players stretching from O.J. Simpson’s murder trial in 1995 to more recent cases involving dog fighting, injury bounties, spying and gambling.
While Hernandez was in jail, Connecticut prosecutor Brian Preleski said on Thursday that Ortiz was facing a charge of being a fugitive from justice and was expected to be transferred to Massachusetts to face additional charges.
Ortiz’s relationship with Hernandez is unclear, though both men are from Bristol, a suburban city about 20 miles southwest of Connecticut’s capital Hartford.
Court documents show Ortiz has prior convictions in Connecticut for larceny, criminal mischief, resisting arrest, disturbing the peace and assault.
Ortiz’s Facebook profile picture is a New England Patriots logo, and he posted a photograph last December of Hernandez with his fiancée Shayanna Jenkins and their infant daughter under the headline ‘Angels’.
In a separate case, Hernandez has been sued by a Connecticut man, Alexander Bradley, who said Hernandez shot him in the face after the two left a Miami strip club in February, causing him to lose an eye. A Florida police official said last week that law enforcement had investigated the shooting but abandoned the case after Bradley refused to cooperate.
Editing by Grant McCool