Another family member has been dragged into the Aaron Hernandez murder trial. The defendant’s cousin has agreed to testify in front of a Massachusetts grand jury, as the ex-NFL star faces murder charges in the death of Odin Lloyd.
On Tuesday, Jennifer "Gina" Valderrama Mercado appeared in Superior Court without a lawyer. She will be questioned about the case on Sept.23.
Several members of the Hernandez family have been connected to trial, though Mercado appears to be the first one that is willing to speak to authorities. Hernandez’s other cousin, Tanya Cummings-Singleton, and sister of Mercado, was indicted for criminal contempt in August because of her refusal to speak before the grand jury. She has been in a Massachusetts prison ever since.
Cummings-Singleton lives in the house owned by her father and Hernandez’s uncle, Tito Valderamma. The Bristol home has been the residence for several people connected to Lloyd’s murder. Hernandez’s friends Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace were both allegedly with the former football player when he killed Lloyd. After the incident with Lloyd, Ortiz and Wallace returned to 114 Lake Ave in Bristol, where they also lived.
The place that housed many of Hernandez’s associates could be key in keeping the former New England Patriots tight end behind bars. At the home, police discovered 100 cartridges of .38-caliber ammunition, as well as a vehicle that could link Hernandez to a separate murder. In July 2012, Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Teixeira Furtado were killed in a drive-by shooting in Boston. The SUV at the Bristol house was in Hernandez’s name and had been the car that authorities were searching for in connection with the killings.
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It’s unclear exactly what Mercado knows about Hernandez’s illegal activities, if anything. However, the fact that she is willing to talk may not be good for her cousin. Ortiz has already agreed to talk to prosecutors, as well, about what Hernandez did on the night of Lloyd’s death, according to reports. Cummings-Singleton would not talk, even after she was offered immunity.
Hernandez has been held in jail since he was arrested on June 26. His next scheduled hearing is set for Oct.9.