By Daniel Lovering
FALL RIVER, Mass. (Reuters) – Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez consoled the girlfriend of his alleged victim at the Massachusetts home where he lived with her sister, telling her he had “been through this death thing before,” the woman testified on Tuesday.
Shaneah Jenkins, the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna, said she had visited the house in North Attleborough after the death of her boyfriend, Odin Lloyd, a semiprofessional football player whose bullet-riddled body was found in a nearby industrial area.
“He asked me if I was OK, put his hand on my shoulder,” she said of Hernandez. “He told me he’d been through this death thing before, that it’ll get better with time.”
Jenkins wept as she recounted a phone call from police in June 2013 informing her that Lloyd, 27, was dead. Hernandez, a rising star in the National Football League with a $41 million contract, was arrested days later and charged with Lloyd’s murder.
Hernandez, 25, also faces firearms charges. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Jenkins, 23, said her sister received numerous text messages while they were at the house and when Hernandez was not there and that her sister’s behavior after getting them was “not normal” and “secretive.”
She also said her sister made several trips to the basement, where Hernandez had a bar and pool table. One time she carried a black garbage bag folded in her hand, said Jenkins, a law student.
The testimony came after the judge in the case, Associate Justice Susan Garsh, removed a juror from the panel hearing the case at Massachusetts Superior Court in Fall River for misleading the court about attendance at Patriots’ games and expressing an opinion on the case.
The juror was removed two days after the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
Hernandez has separately been accused of killing two Cape Verdean men outside a Boston nightclub in 2012, and will be tried on those charges later this year.
Prosecutors contend that Hernandez and two friends, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, picked up Lloyd at his home in Boston early on June 17, 2013, and drove him to the industrial park where his body was found.
Investigators have not recovered the gun that was used to kill Lloyd.
Wallace and Ortiz also have been charged in connection with Lloyd’s slaying and will be tried separately.
(Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)