A Bristol County, Massachusetts, grand jury officially indicted former NFL player Aaron Hernandez on a charge of first-degree murder on Thursday.
Hernandez, a former New England Patriots tight end, is charged in connection with the alleged slaying of Odin Lloyd, the 27-year-old boyfriend of the sister of Hernandez's fiancée.
Prosecutors say Hernandez, 23, orchestrated the shooting death of Lloyd. Hernandez and two other men allegedly picked Lloyd up on the morning of June 17, and his body was found later that day in an industrial park near Hernandez's home.
Hernandez appeared in court Thursday afternoon to hear the court announce the indictment. He was handcuffed and wearing a white collared-shirt under a suit jacket.
As he sat down, he mouthed to someone sitting in the gallery, “I love you.” Hernandez showed no emotion during the brief hearing.
The football star has been in police custody since he was arrested on June 26.
Along with the murder indictment, he was also indicted on five weapons charges. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Defense attorney Michael Fee said he was pleased with the indictment because it gives his client "a path to trial," and that a jury will find Hernandez "innocent."
The indictment takes the place of a hearing to establish probable cause that was originally scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Upon reviewing the case, a grand jury determined that prosecutors have enough evidence to constitute probable cause, or that the charges are reasonable based on the facts presented. The case against Hernandez can now proceed to trial.
The judge scheduled a hearing for next Friday to deal with two outstanding defense motions.
The next significant step in Hernandez's case is his arraignment, during which he'll be informed of the crimes he is charged with. He will also have the opportunity to enter a formal plea with the court. No date has been set for Hernandez's arraignment.