ATTLEBORO (Reuters) - Former National Football League player Aaron Hernandez was indicted on Thursday by a grand jury in Massachusetts on a charge of first-degree murder and five firearms violations for the June killing of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.
Hernandez, a former New England Patriots tight end, appeared briefly in Attleboro District Court after being indicted in the shooting of Lloyd, whose bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial area near Hernandez’s home in North Attleborough, Massachusetts.
Hernandez, who did not speak during Thursday’s brief hearing, has pleaded not guilty to six criminal counts, including murder and weapons charges tied to Lloyd’s death.
“Aaron Hernandez is an innocent man as we stand here today,” Michael Fee, one of his attorneys, told reporters after the hearing. “There has been an incredible rush to judgment in this case ... It has been based on innuendo, misrepresentations of facts, hearsay and opinion has been represented as fact.”
The indictment means the case will move to state superior court in Fall River, said Bristol District Attorney Sam Sutter.
“The investigation is ongoing,” Sutter told reporters outside the court. “This was a very grave case. My heart goes out to the Lloyd family.”
Hernandez, 23, was cut from the Patriots on June 26, shortly after police arrested him for purportedly orchestrating the execution-style murder.
Lloyd, 27, had been dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée. Prosecutors said Hernandez soured on him a few nights before the body was found, and that the two had argued after Lloyd socialized at a nightclub with people Hernandez disliked.
Two other men have been arrested in connection with the case. Ernest Wallace, who turned himself in to police in Florida, has been accused of being an accessory after the fact, and Carlos Ortiz was arrested in Connecticut on charges of being a fugitive from justice.
Before his arrest, Hernandez had been a rising star in the NFL with a $41 million contract with one of the league’s top teams.
Editing by Scott Malone, Carol Bishopric, Toni Reinhold