By Daniel Lovering
FALL RIVER, Mass. (Reuters) – A semiprofessional football player found dead in an industrial park near former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez’s home in 2013 was in the “early stages of friendship” with the rising NFL star, the dead man’s girlfriend said on Friday.
But Shaneah Jenkins, also the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée, said she did not remember her late boyfriend, Odin Lloyd, having phone conversations with Hernandez, who has been charged with his murder. Defense attorneys contend the two men were friends.
The testimony at Massachusetts Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, came during the first of two murder trials Hernandez faces this year. He also has been accused of killing two men outside a Boston nightclub in 2012 following a dispute over a spilled drink.
Prosecutors on Friday showed graphic photos of Lloyd’s body as it was found by a jogger in an industrial park near Hernandez’s North Attleborough home on June 17, 2013. Authorities have said he was shot six times.
The images of Lloyd’s body, sprawled on the ground in a bloodstained shirt, prompted Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, to begin sobbing and leave the courtroom.
Jenkins, 23, said she and Lloyd had visited the house in North Attleborough where her sister, Shayanna, lived with Hernandez and their baby.
Asked to characterize the relationship between Hernandez and Lloyd, Jenkins said they were in “the beginning stages of a friendship” and were “cordial.”
“From what I’m aware of, they were only together when my sister and I were present,” said Jenkins.
She said the two would “hang out and smoke” marijuana in Hernandez’s basement, where the former National Football League star had a “man cave” with a pool table and a bar.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Investigators have not recovered the gun they say was used to murder Lloyd, 27.
Prosecutors have argued that Hernandez and two friends, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, picked up Lloyd at his home in Boston in the early hours of June 17, 2013, and later drove him to the industrial park where his body was found.
Wallace and Ortiz also have been charged in connection with Lloyd’s slaying and will be tried separately.
(Reporting by Daniel Lovering; Editing by Scott Malone, Mohammad Zargham and Eric Beech)