*Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez will spend the rest of his life in prison after he was found guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday and swiftly handed its mandatory sentence of life without parole.
Hernandez, 25, looked to his right, pursed his lips and sat down after the jury forewoman announced him guilty in the slaying of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old landscaper and amateur weekend football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins.
Jenkins and Hernandez’s mother, Terri, cried and gasped when they heard the verdict (photo above). Hernandez later mouthed to them: “Be strong. Be strong.”
The former football pro was also found guilty on firearms and ammunition charges.
Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, was one of six who gave victim impact statements after Hernandez was convicted, saying she forgives anyone who hand a hand in her son’s death.
She said she felt her heart stop beating for a moment on the day she laid Lloyd to rest.
“I felt like I wanted to go into the hole with my son,” she said.
A motive for the murder is still unclear. Lloyd was shot six times in the middle of the night on June 17, 2013, in a deserted industrial park near Hernandez’s home in North Attleborough. Prosecutors have suggested Lloyd may have been killed because he knew too much about Hernandez’s alleged involvement in a deadly 2012 drive-by shooting in Boston. But they were not allowed to tell the jury that because the judge said it was speculation.
As a result, they never offered a motive beyond saying Hernandez appeared angry with Lloyd at a nightclub two nights before the killing.
Police almost immediately zeroed in on Hernandez because they found in Lloyd’s pocket the key to a car the NFL player had rented. Within hours of Hernandez’s arrest, the Patriots cut the former Pro Bowl athlete, who was considered one of the top tight ends in the game.
Prosecutors presented a wealth of evidence that Hernandez was with Lloyd at the time he was killed, including home security video from Hernandez’s house, witness testimony and cellphone records that tracked Lloyd’s movements.
Hernandez’s lawyer, James Sultan, acknowledged for the first time during closing arguments that Hernandez was there when Lloyd was killed. But the attorney pinned the shooting on two of Hernandez’s friends, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, saying his client was a “23-year-old kid” who witnessed a shocking crime and didn’t know what to do. Wallace and Ortiz will stand trial at a future date.
Hernandez now awaits trial on murder charges in the drive-by shooting. He is accused of gunning down two men over a spilled drink at a nightclub. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder in that case. No date in that trial has been set.