2 others now in custody with Hernandez in connection with Massachusetts slaying

Posted at 9:43 PM, Jun 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-28 21:43:22-04
(CNN) — It was around 2:30 a.m. on Monday, June 17, when Odin Lloyd climbed into a silver Nissan Altima.

He had company.

Hours later, Lloyd was found dead, shot with a .45-caliber firearm in a gravel pit in the southeastern Massachusetts town of North Attleborough.

And as of Friday afternoon, the three others who had been in the car with Lloyd early that Monday morning are in custody.

“We believe we have the three individuals,… and we’re very pleased about that,” Bristol County, Massachusetts, District Attorney Sam Sutter said.

Foremost among them — given his public prominence before Lloyd’s death and the charges against him after it — is Aaron Hernandez. He’d been a star tight end with the New England Patriots, at least until the team released him shortly after his arrest Wednesday.

The Bristol, Connecticut, native pleaded not guilty this week to a premeditated murder charge, among others.

The cloud over Hernandez doesn’t end there. A law enforcement source told CNN that Boston police are “very active” — and making progress — in trying to connect the dots that could link Hernandez to an unsolved drive-by shooting that left two people dead last summer in Boston’s South End.

The Boston Globe reports that the unsolved shooting deaths of two men might have played a role in the motive for Lloyd’s death. The newspaper quoted two law enforcement officials as saying Lloyd may have had information linking Hernandez to the shooting.

“The motive might have been that the victim knew (Hernandez) might have been involved,” the paper said, quoting one of the officials.

For now, prosecutors contend that something Lloyd may have done or said didn’t sit well with the NFL standout. Two days later, they allege, Hernandez rounded up some friends and orchestrated the hit, to settle the score.

On Wednesday, the same day authorities showed up at Hernandez’s door and took him away in a police car, 27-year-old Carlos Ortiz was similarly arrested in Bristol and charged as a fugitive from justice.

Ortiz was in a Massachusetts court on Friday. According to his lawyer, John Connors, Ortiz pleaded not guilty to a single charge of carrying a firearm without a license. That was related to an incident that allegedly took place in Massachusetts, though it was not immediately known if it had any connection with Lloyd’s killing or the double homicide in 2012.

He’ll remain behind bars until a hearing on July 9, at which time Connors said he plans to press a judge to set bail.

“Mr. Ortiz struck me as being a gentle person who is confused as to how he is in this situation,” Connors said following his first, brief meeting with his client Friday afternoon. “… We’re going to try and prove he’s not guilty.”

Ernest Wallace, meanwhile, turned himself in Friday in Miramar, Florida, nearly 1,500 miles away. Police there said, in a news release, that Wallace had seen news reports that an arrest warrant had been issued for him. Shortly after 1:20 p.m., he walked into the police department in his hometown of Miramar and turned himself in.

The warrant had been issued by the North Attleborough Police Department, Miramar police noted.

For now, at least, Hernandez is the only one of the suspected Nissan Altima passengers known to be charged directly in Lloyd’s death.

Cell phone records and surveillance camera tapes will link him to the killing and retrace the final moments of Lloyd’s life, the prosecution says.

And a trail of blue bubblegum colorfully shows Hernandez’s path that night, according to prosecutors.

But the defense contends that the evidence does not add up.

“It is a circumstantial case. It is not a strong case,” defense attorney Michael Fee said.

How it started

Over the weekend, Lloyd and Hernandez had a run-in, prosecutors allege.

They had met up at the popular Boston dance club, Rumor, according to Lloyd’s sister, Olivia Thibou.

Lloyd, a semipro football player who also worked as a landscaper, was dating the sister of Hernandez’ s fiancee.

Hernandez swung by in the rented Altima to pick up Lloyd at the latter’s Boston home in the predawn hours of June 17, prosecutors say.

They stopped at a gas station and made a purchase. But one that sticks out as evidence — a pack of blue bubblegum.

Prosecutors say that cell phone towers nearby tracked the men’s movements. Lloyd had his phone on and texted his sister at 3:23 a.m., very likely minutes before his death.

“NFL. Just so you know,” he texted his sister to let her know who he was with.

About 3:25 a.m. — two minutes after the message — gunshots shattered the quiet night, according to witnesses.

Hernandez and a gun

Not five minutes passed before a surveillance camera captured video of Hernandez carrying a gun as he arrived back at his home, prosecutors say.

He was with two other people. Lloyd was not among them.

A murder weapon is usually a key piece of evidence in a homicide case, and investigators have not been able to turn one up.

But Hernandez at least once had a Glock .45, prosecutors say, entering a cell phone photo into evidence of him posing in the mirror with it.

And police have seized .45-caliber ammunition and an ammunition magazine that were in a Hummer SUV he drove and a condo he rented.

Bubblegum evidence

Hernandez and the other two later took the car back to the rental company.

There, the defendant offered an attendant a piece of blue Bubblicious, prosecutors say.

What appeared to be a piece of chewed blue gum was left lying inside the vehicle, prosecutors say. Next to it was a spent .45-caliber casing.

The casing matches the empty shells Investigators recovered near Lloyd’s body, prosecutors say.

If that gum was in Hernandez’s mouth, DNA tests will connect him to the casings, prosecutors say.

When investigators inspected Lloyd’s body, they found keys in his pockets to a rental car registered in Hernandez’s name.