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Murder victim is recalled with affection, respect

Odin Lloyd’s funeral set for today

A photo of Odin Lloyd was among trophies on the porch of the house where he resided in Dorchester. Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez faces charges in Lloyd’s death.

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

A photo of Odin Lloyd was among trophies on the porch of the house where he resided in Dorchester. Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez faces charges in Lloyd’s death.

The starkly different worlds of Grove Hall and Gillette Stadium — one troubled by gangs and poverty, the other studded with football celebrity — intersected when Dorchester landscaper Odin Lloyd and Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez became acquainted.

The pair went to nightclubs together, hung out together, and even had relationships with sisters, according to Lloyd’s friends and others.

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Lloyd, a 27-year-old amateur football player, apparently did not boast of his friendship with an NFL star, and its scope and depth remain a mystery. But that unlikely acquaintance ended at a North Attleborough industrial park where he was shot and killed June 17, a murder that authorities allege was orchestrated by Hernandez.

After Hernandez’s arraignment, the grief that had touched Lloyd’s family and neighbors for 10 days became mixed with a new layer of disbelief. The son, brother, and friend who had been a fixture on Fayston Street, a smiling man who rode his bicycle 12 miles to work, now was alleged to have been slain by a multimillionaire football star.

Anthony Paul, a 25-year-old friend of Lloyd’s, sat on Fayston Street in disbelief after Hernandez appeared in handcuffs at Attleboro District Court.

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“I saw him every day,” Paul said. “We were close, like brothers.”

Lloyd had two brushes with the law — a 2008 arrest for an alleged fight, and a 2010 charge of breaking and entering — but those cases were dismissed in Dorchester District Court, records show.

The memories summoned Wednesday on Fayston Street were of a big man with a wide smile, a laid-back spirit, and a large heart. There may be much that remains unknown about Lloyd’s life, including what role he played in Hernandez’s circle, but the man neighbors say they knew was one who loved to party, loved football, and took time to look after his family.

Women flocked to him, a friend said. And even though he spent considerable time in Hernandez’s orbit, Lloyd, the oldest of three children, stayed connected to his neighborhood.

“He was a fun-loving guy,” said neighbor Dominic Johnston. “He was a football player. He had charisma. He had groupies. He had connections.”

To families who know the perils that ensnare many young men in the inner city, Lloyd stood out for his respectful ways, and his achievement on the football field for the amateur Boston Bandits was a source of pride.

“He was a superstar around here, for this entire block,” said a cousin who identified himself by his nickname, Shatta, to protect his privacy. “Everybody here loved him.”

On June 16, the day before Lloyd was found dead less than a mile from Hernandez’s house, Shatta sat with him in a backyard on Seaver Street in Roxbury, watching a Trinidadian band make costumes for the Caribbean Carnival in August.

Lloyd — who was born in St. Croix, according to another cousin — smiled as he sipped a beer, Shatta said.

Boston Bandits coach Olivier Bustin said Lloyd was dedicated to his mother and two sisters. “He basically was the man of the house, taking care of his little sister and his mom, so he had priorities,” Bustin said.

His family and another coach, Mike Branch, who coached Lloyd in high school and later at the Bandits, recall a ferocious young football player, who idolized football giants Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, and loved to listen to reggae and Caribbean music.

On the football field, Lloyd took no prisoners, but did not always apply the same passion academically at John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics & Science in Roxbury, Branch said.

“He liked hitting. He had a nasty side, but in a good way — the way that coaches love,’’ he said. “He was a talent. Odin could do the work, but he did not put the effort he put on the field in the classroom.’’

Lloyd did not go to college, and Branch — also the Bandit’s defensive coach and general manager — said he got him to join the team to keep him active in football and out of trouble.

After joining the Bandits in 2007, Lloyd held a succession of jobs, the latest a landscaping job in Norwood to which he often rode his bike.

In 2011, Lloyd met his girlfriend, whose sister was dating Hernandez, Branch said, and he talked about spending time with Hernandez. After that, he said he came to practice less often but made most games.

“He didn’t necessarily play every game, but we’d call him up and say, ‘We have a big game coming up. We need you to make it,’ ” Bustin said.

Lloyd was a force as linebacker and defensive end on an amateur team that has won four titles in the New England Football League, Bustin said. The players, who are not paid and buy their own uniforms, can range in age from 18 to late 40s, and perform “for the love of the game,” Bustin said.

“He had been working out more diligently this past off-season,” Bustin said of Lloyd. “He was a very gifted athlete, very fast, could run down plays. His specialty was the pass rush.”

During all his dealings with him, the coach said, Lloyd never showed signs of being connected with activities that might lead to violence.

“He never came to any practice exhibiting anything that would make me concerned,” Bustin said.

The coach said he was not personally aware of Lloyd’s relationship with Hernandez, but that “the players that were close to him knew, that he was dating Hernandez’s girlfriend’s sister, and that they were friendly.”

Video images taken early June 17, the day Lloyd’s body was found, appear to show him with Hernandez on Fayston Street, two law enforcement officials told the Globe. Lloyd’s cousin Shatta said that on the night of June 14 he joined Lloyd and Hernandez at Rumors, a Boston nightclub.

The Rev. Zenetta Armstrong, an Episcopal pastor, will officiate at Lloyd’s funeral on Saturday at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mattapan.

The church, Armstrong said, is a haven for Lloyd’s mother, who sings in the choir, is active in the hospitality ministry, and visits people who are sick on her own time.

Since Lloyd’s death, Armstrong said, his mother has found comfort in Lloyd’s advice during rough times: “Why worry, Mommy, when you can pray?”

On Friday, his mother, Ursula Ward, and sister, Oliva Thibou, stood outside their Fayston Street home going through photographs of him.

“My son did not disappoint me in his life growing up,’’ she said. “My son died a king. He is my hero. He’s the love of my life.”

At the funeral, Armstrong said, she will talk about respect for human life.

“For him to end up like that — his body dumped like that, like nobody cared for him — that touched a chord in my soul,” the pastor said. “He had lots of people who loved him.”

Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at macquarrie@
globe.com
; Meghan Irons at mirons@globe.com
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