After a week during which the Aaron Hernandez homicide investigation seemed—at least publicly—to move at a snail’s pace, activity came in a flurry Wednesday. First, Massachusetts state police took Hernandez into custody. Less than two hours later, the New England Patriots released a statement saying that the team had released the tight end. And earlier this afternoon, the former Patriot was arraigned on charges of murder and numerous weapons offenses. Hernandez entered a plea of “not guilty” and is currently being held without bail.
Prosecutors allege that Hernandez is responsible for the shooting death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd after the two argued at a Boston night club. Lloyd’s body was found in an industrial park with gunshot wounds to the torso on June 17, less than a mile from Hernandez’s home in North Attleboro, Mass. Lloyd, a semi-professional football player, had reportedly been dating the sister of the mother of Hernandez’s daughter. Last week, sources confirmed to news outlets that witnesses had seen Hernandez, Lloyd, and two other men together on Sunday night.
During this afternoon’s arraignment, prosecutors described incriminating text messages that Hernandez had sent on the night of the homicide and also pointed to the suspicious nature of the “six to eight” hours of footage missing from cameras connected to Hernandez’s home security system. The former University of Florida star is also charged with possession of a large-capacity firearm and possession of a firearm without an ID card.
After premature reports surfaced last Friday that an arrest warrant had been issued for Hernandez in connection with the case, police and court officials have been tight-lipped. On Tuesday, the Attleboro District Court magistrate issued a statement saying that all records related to the ongoing investigation would be sealed.
Last Friday’s confusion might have something to do with that decision. First, ABC News reported that an arrest warrant had been issued for Hernandez on obstruction of justice charges. Hours later, an Attleboro District Court clerk told USA Today that no charges had been filed in connection with the investigation—either against Hernandez or anyone else. Over the weekend, police searched Hernandez’s home for at least the second time, as well as a pond near his house. The Boston Herald also reported that investigators searched a strip club in Providence, R.I. that Hernandez allegedly frequented.
Hernandez’s lawyer, Michael Fee, insisted upon his client’s innocence at this afternoon’s arraignment: “It is at bottom, a circumstantial case. It is not a strong case.”