ATTLEBORO — A Bristol County grand jury indicted former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez Thursday on weapons and first-degree murder charges, more than two months after the former football star allegedly orchestrated the slaying of a Dorchester man in a secluded industrial park near his home.
The indictment moves the case to Superior Court, where Hernandez will face the accusation that he killed 27-year-old Odin Lloyd in the early morning of June 17. Lloyd’s body was discovered later that day, shot several times in the chest and torso.
Since Hernandez’s arrest on June 26, bits of evidence have slowly become public, as authorities have built their case. One major disclosure was that investigators have recovered security camera footage allegedly showing Hernandez driving Lloyd into the North Attleborough industrial park the night of the killing.
If convicted, the once nationally celebrated athlete could serve the rest of his life in prison.
The indictment Thursday canceled a scheduled probable cause hearing for Hernandez in Attleboro District Court. Once the indictment was returned, the proceeding was no longer necessary, said Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter.
Hernandez will be arraigned in Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, probably in the coming days or weeks, Sutter said.
The onetime grid iron superstar was led into Thursday’s court hearing wearing a blue blazer and white dress shirt. He mouthed “I love you” to someone in the courtroom, then seemed to listen intently as lawyers made their arguments.
At the end of the brief hearing, Hernandez mouthed several words to an unidentified woman in the packed courtroom.
His fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, who had attended each of his earlier court appearances, did not appear to be present.
Members of Lloyd’s family were in the courtroom, wearing buttons bearing Lloyd’s photo and the words: “Legends never die.”
Michael Fee, Hernandez’s defense lawyer, complained about the cancellation of the probable cause hearing, telling reporters he would have preferred to proceed because it would have given the defense an opportunity to question witnesses who have not faced scrutiny by Hernandez’s legal team.
“Based on the evidence that we’re aware of today, we do not believe the Commonwealth has significant evidence to carry the burden of proof,” Fee said. “There has been an incredible rush to judgment in this case. It’s been based on innuendo, misrepresentation of fact.”
The grand jury also indicted Ernest Wallace, 41, of Miramar, Fla., described as Hernandez’s “right-hand man,” on a single charge of accessory after the fact to murder.
Police say Wallace and another man, Carlos Ortiz, were in the vehicle with Hernandez when he picked up Lloyd the night of the slaying.
Wallace is scheduled for a probable cause hearing Monday, but it is likely that the hearing will be canceled as his case moves to Superior Court. His arraignment has not been scheduled.
Wallace’s lawyer, David E. Meier, said his client is eager to challenge the charge.
“Mr. Wallace looks forward to facing his accusers in a court of law,’’ Meier said. “We are confident that the truth will win out. It always does.’’
Ortiz, charged with gun possession in connection with the case, has not been indicted. Part of the prosecution’s case is built on statements made by Ortiz.
Video surveillance footage showed Hernandez’s vehicle entering the industrial park during the early morning hours of June 17, with Hernandez, Lloyd, Ortiz, and Wallace all visible, according to prosecutors.
When the vehicle left the industrial park, Lloyd was no longer in the vehicle, his body left on the industrial park’s gravel road, prosecutors said.
Police have searched several properties and vehicles registered in Hernandez’s name. Last month, they spent more than a week searching a pond in Bristol, Conn., hoping to find the .45-caliber gun used to kill Lloyd.
Despite those searches and the recovery of other weapons linked to Hernandez, investigators have yet to find the gun used to kill Lloyd.
The Globe has also reported that Hernandez is being investigated in the July 2012 slayings of two men in Boston. The killings of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu, who were gunned down in a drive-by shooting on July 16, 2012, are still unsolved.
Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said Thursday that no one has been charged in the double homicide.
“The double homicide on Herald Street remains under investigation,’’ Wark said. “No charges have been brought as of today, but the investigation by Boston police and the Suffolk district attorney’s office remains very active.’’
Tanya Singleton, a cousin of Hernandez’s, was also indicted Thursday after she allegedly refused to testify before the grand jury. She is scheduled to be arraigned Friday on a contempt charge.
A Superior Court judge had ordered her to testify, but she refused when she appeared before the grand jury Aug. 1, according to court records.
On Thursday, Hernandez’s legal team filed three motions seeking further discovery material, a clarification of a June gag order in the case, and to prevent the state from misleading witnesses.
Defense attorney James Sultan said an investigator made misleading statements to a witness during a recent interview at a jail in Connecticut, saying he was there to help Hernandez.
“That’s one side to it,” Sutter said after Thursday’s hearing. “We haven’t had a chance to look into it.”
With regard to the gag order, Fee, Hernandez’s cocounsel, said, “We’re very concerned that Mr. Hernandez’s right to appear at trial not be further undermined by some explosion of publicity from the district attorney’s office.”
In response to Sultan’s request for additional discovery material, Sutter said his office has “absolutely cooperated” in sharing evidence, including 68 DVDs or CDs, volumes of reports, and a full copy of the defendant’s home surveillance system and other items.
Judge Stephen Ostrach scheduled a hearing on those motions for Aug. 30.John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Mark Arsenault can be reached at Mark.Arsenault@globe.com; Brian Ballou at bballou@
globe.com; and Wesley Lowery at Wesley.Lowery@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @WesleyLowery.