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Police found shell casings linking ex-NFL player to murder

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is arraigned on charges of murder and weapons violations in Attleborough, Massachusetts, afte
New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is arraigned on charges of murder and weapons violations in Attleborough, Massachusetts, afte

By Daniel Lovering

ATTLEBORO, Massachusetts (Reuters) - Massachusetts police have found shell casings that could link former National Football League player Aaron Hernandez to the site where a semi-pro football player was gunned down last month, according to court documents unsealed on Tuesday.

Hernandez, 23, has been charged with the execution-style killing of Odin Lloyd, 27, and has lost his $41 million contract with the New England Patriots. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, including five counts related to illegal firearms possession.

Hernandez, a tight end with the Patriots, one of the league's top franchises, had been a rising NFL star.

The court documents included an autopsy showing that Lloyd was shot several times and that two projectiles consistent with .45 caliber ammunition were recovered from the area where his body was recovered.

Police said they also found a matching spent shell casing that had been in a silver 2012 Nissan Altima rented by Hernandez.

At an apartment Hernandez rented in Franklin, Massachusetts, police also discovered five boxes of .45 caliber cartridges, according to the documents.

Prosecutors said Hernandez shot Lloyd after becoming upset with him days earlier at a Boston nightclub. Lloyd's body was found June 17 in an industrial area near Hernandez's house in North Attleboro, about 40 miles south of Boston.

Two other men have been taken into custody in connection with the case. Ernest Wallace, who is suspected of being an "accessory after the fact," turned himself in to police in Miramar, Florida, last month. Another man, Carlos Ortiz, was arrested in Connecticut on charges of being a fugitive from justice.

Hernandez's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A manager at an Enterprise car rental outlet in North Attleboro told police Hernandez had rented a silver 2012 Nissan Altima along with another vehicle. When he returned it on June 18, there was damage to the driver's side mirror and door, the documents said.

EVIDENCE MOUNTS

Investigators also found dirt on the tires and lower panels of the Nissan that was "similar in color and appearance" to the ground where Lloyd's body was found, according to the documents. Lloyd's fingerprints were also found in the car.

An Enterprise manager who cleaned the Altima after it had been returned said she recovered a "bullet" from the car and threw it into a dumpster. A search of the dumpster turned up a spent .45 caliber cartridge casing, which tests showed matched the casings found near Lloyd's body, the documents said.

A .45 caliber firearm has not been found.

The documents also revealed new details related to a black Chevy Suburban that Hernandez had rented and found in the yard at Lloyd's Boston residence. Keys to the vehicle were found in Lloyd's pocket.

When investigators questioned Hernandez about the car, he became argumentative, the documents said.

"We informed Mr. Hernandez that this was a death investigation," a police affidavit said. "Mr. Hernandez did not ask officers whose death was being investigated. Mr. Hernandez's demeanor did not indicate any concern for the death of any person."

Police have also recovered a semi-automatic rifle with an attached magazine containing 33 live rounds from a car parked in Hernandez's garage, according to the documents.

Hernandez did not have a valid or expired Massachusetts license to carry firearms, police said.

(Editing by Edith Honan, Steve Orlofsky and Philip Barbara)

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