Prosecutors announced three new indictments Friday in the Odin Lloyd homicide investigation, intensifying the focus on former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez, who is charged with killing Lloyd.
A Bristol County grand jury handed down indictments for Hernandez’s fiancee and cousin, and leveled a new charge against Carlos Ortiz, of Bristol, Conn., one of the three men believed to have been with Lloyd on the night of his killing.
Legal specialists say the new indictments probably signal that prosecutors have settled on the narrative of what they believe happenedJune 17, when Lloyd was fatally shot in a North Attleborough industrial park, and are now ready to move forward.
“What this flurry of activity says to me is that the prosecutor’s office has reached whatever agreement they are going to reach with any cooperating witnesses and is comfortable with the facts of what they believe happened,” said Gerry Leone, former Middlesex district attorney.
Prosecutors have alleged that Hernandez, 23, who has been charged with first-degree murder and faces several gun charges as well, orchestrated Lloyd’s killing after the two had a disagreement in a Boston nightclub the previous evening.
The two other men authorities say were present the night of the killing — Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, of Miramar, Fla. — remain in custody and face lesser charges in connection to the death of Lloyd, who prosecutors say was killed just hours after he was picked up at his Dorchester home by Hernandez, Wallace, and Ortiz.
Wallace was immediately charged with being an accessory to murder after the fact, but Ortiz initially was charged only with possession of a weapon without a permit, based on surveillance footage that shows him carrying a gun into Hernandez’s home. That gun charge was dropped Friday, however, and replaced with the same charge Wallace faces — accessory to murder after the fact.
Both men now face a maximum of seven years in prison if convicted.
Court records show that Ortiz first told investigators he was asleep in the back seat while Hernandez and Wallace got out with Lloyd in the moments before the fatal shooting.
But prosecutors said during a court hearing Thursday that Ortiz has changed his account, and now says Hernandez was alone with Lloyd in the moments before his bullet-riddled body was abandoned.
Reached by the Globe on Friday, Ortiz’s court-appointed attorney, John Connors, downplayed the significance of the change in Ortiz’s story.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I have never seen any case — innocent, guilty, or whatever — where everything said by a witness is consistent from beginning to end,” Connors said.
The revelation that Ortiz has spoken with investigators churned speculation that he might be cooperating with police and could serve as a witness against Hernandez.
Former prosecutors who are not involved in the case suggest that it is too soon to draw conclusions about whether Ortiz has cut a deal with prosecutors, but the changes to his charges could indicate that he has negotiated for a softer sentence.
While accessory to murder sounds more severe than possession of a weapon without a license, Leone noted that the gun charge would have carried a mandatory minimum sentence because Ortiz has a previous felony on his record, while the accessory to murder charge would not mandate any jail time.
Ann McGonigle-Santos, a former district attorney, said that if Ortizis cooperating, leniency would probably be shown during his sentencing.
“It’s hard to tell right now whether or not he still may provide key evidence against Hernandez,” she said. “It’s not like ‘Law and Order’ where they say: ‘we’ll give you immunity if you testify.’ ”
In a brief statement, Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter’s office also announced the new indictments against Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, for perjury, and his cousin, Tanya Singleton, for conspiracy to commit accessory after the fact to murder.
The statement provided no information about the basis for the charges against Jenkins, with whom Hernandez has a child, or against Singleton.
But citing court records in Massachusetts and Connecticut, the Globe reported in August that prosecutors were investigating a phone call and text message Hernandez allegedly sent to Jenkins on June 18 instructing her to“get rid of” firearms he allegedly stashed in the basement of their home.
Video from the home monitoring system shows Jenkins carrying a large, heavy object consistent with the shape of a lock box or safe to a car, leaving Hernandez’s home and driving toward Landry Avenue in North Attleborough. She returned 35 minutes later without the large object.
Police have not found the .45-caliber weapon used to kill Lloyd, but on June 19 they found a .22-caliber handgun along Landry Avenue. Police said the weapon appeared to have been “recently discarded.”
According to court documents, police searched a storage unit in Bristol, Conn., that was rented under Jenkins’s name and paid for with a credit card in Hernandez’s name. Authorities were led to the US Storage Center facility after they scoured Hernandez’s financial records.
Jenkins had not faced criminal charges prior to the indictment, but Singleton has been jailed since Aug. 1 for not responding to a subpoena to testify in front of a grand jury.
According to the documents released in August, Singleton allegedly paid for a bus ticket for Wallace from Macon, Ga., to Florida a week after the killing.