FALL RIVER — An associate of Aaron Hernandez pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge of joining the former New England Patriot and a third suspect in the slaying of a man in North Attleborough last year.
Carlos Ortiz, 28, pleaded not guilty to a murder charge during his arraignment in Bristol Superior Court.
Hernandez, Ortiz, and another man, Ernest Wallace, are all charged with murder in the June 2013 slaying of Odin L. Lloyd, 27, whose bullet-
riddled body was found in an industrial yard near the athlete’s North Attleborough home.
All three men have pleaded not guilty and are being held without bail. Hernandez, 24, is also charged with weapons violations in the case.
Ortiz and Wallace, 42, had been held for months on charges of accessory after the fact of Lloyd’s slaying but were indicted on murder charges in April.
During Tuesday’s hearing, prosecutors did not detail the evidence supporting the murder count against Ortiz, and a spokesman for District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter declined to discuss the factors the led to the upgraded charge.
Prosecutors contend that the trio picked up Lloyd in Dorchester early on June 17, 2013, and drove him to the industrial yard where he was killed. The government has not identified an alleged shooter.
Ortiz’s lawyer, John J. Connors, said during Tuesday’s hearing that while “the charge has changed, none of the facts of the situation have changed.”
Connors repeated that assertion after the arraignment.
“I’m worried that I have an innocent guy who was along for the ride,” he told reporters.
He did not answer directly when asked if Ortiz is now interested in cooperating with prosecutors, in light of the pending murder indictment.
“Right now, I’m interested in working toward getting my client found not guilty of the crime,” Connors said.
He also disputed one reporter’s suggestion that Ortiz could have avoided the murder charge if he cooperated with investigators at the outset.
“You really believe that?” Connors said. “You’ve read, from the affidavits, what he said down in Bristol [Conn.]. His story hasn’t changed since I’ve talked to him. What he said then is what he’s saying now.”
Court records show Ortiz initially told investigators who interviewed him in Connecticut shortly after Lloyd’s slaying that he stayed in the rental vehicle in the industrial yard while Hernandez, Lloyd, and Wallace got out together.
Ortiz said he heard, but did not see, the gunshots, and that Wallace told him that Hernandez admitted to pulling the trigger, court records show.
However, prosecutors disclosed in September that Ortiz had changed his story and “does not think” that Wallace exited the vehicle.
In addition to Lloyd’s slaying, Hernandez has also been indicted in Suffolk County on first-degree murder charges in the fatal shootings of two men in Boston in July 2012. His arraignment in that case is slated for Wednesday afternoon.
On Tuesday, members of Lloyd’s family, including his mother, Ursula Ward, attended Ortiz’s arraignment. Ward wore a now-familiar pin emblazoned with a photograph of her son.
She left court without commenting and hugged a staff member from the district attorney’s office before getting into her vehicle.
Ortiz is due in court for a pretrial conference Sept. 24.