Two suspects charged as accessories in the Aaron Hernandez murder case were indicted on murder charges Friday.
The Bristol County (Mass.) District Attorney’s office announced Friday that a Massachusetts grand jury returned single-count indictments for Carlos Ortiz, 28, and Ernest Wallace, 42, two Bristol, Conn., men who prosecutors named as Hernandez’s accomplices the night of Odin Lloyd’s death in 2013.
The former New England Patriot tight end, also a native of Bristol, Conn., was accused last summer of the execution-style shooting death of Lloyd, his friend from Dorchester. Hernandez was arrested for murder in June and twice refused bail. Ortiz and Wallace, who prosecutors said helped to conceal evidence after Lloyd’s shooting, were charged with accessory after the fact to murder.
Evidence that has been presented in court and disclosed in search warrant affidavits indicates that Ortiz and Wallace were at the scene of Lloyd’s slaying. Surveillance footage shows them entering Hernandez’s North Attleborough, Mass., mansion carrying guns just minutes after their car was seen leaving the nearby industrial park where the victim’s body was found.
But prosecutors initially only brought murder charges against Hernandez, saying the former Patriot tight end “made arrangements to meet with the victim” and “orchestrated his execution.”
Last month, defense attorneys for Hernandez asked the court to order the prosecution to disclose whether it plans to name their client as the triggerman at trial, and questioned the lesser charges for Ortiz and Wallace. Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh refused that request, and said that in order to find a defendant guilty of murder, the jury is not required to determine that he pulled the trigger.
In Massachusetts, a defendant can be found guilty of murder by joint venture, which carries an equal sentence. The joint venture theory allows prosecutors, if they so choose, to seek murder convictions for all three men without having to name one as the gunman.
At the onset of the case, Ortiz was the government’s star witness _ the man whose testimony prosecutors used to build their case against Hernandez. But within months Ortiz revised his version of the night’s events, changing his story that Hernandez and Wallace were with Lloyd when he was killed to say that Hernandez was alone with the victim.
Defense lawyers said in court filings that prosecutors told them Ortiz is “completely unreliable” and unlikely to be called to testify against Hernandez at trial.
Arraignments for Ortiz and Wallace, who both are being held in Massachusetts, have not been scheduled.