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3rd man held in Aaron Hernandez murder probe; Puma drops NFL star

A third man was in custody Friday in Florida in an expanding murder investigation swirling around Aaron Hernandez, the star NFL tight end accused of orchestrating the shooting death of a friend.

Ernest Wallace, 41, known as “Fish,” turned himself in in the Miami suburb of Miramar, police said. Massachusetts police had said they were seeking him as an accessory after murder, and that he was considered armed and dangerous. They were on their way to Florida to pick him up, NBC affiliate WHDH in Boston reported.

Hernandez, an All-Pro who was released by the New England Patriots after his arrest earlier this week, is charged with first-degree murder in the execution of the friend, Odin Lloyd. He was denied a second request for bail Thursday.

Sources told NBC News that he was being investigated in another case — the drive-by killings of two men in Boston last year. The men were shot to death in an SUV after leaving a nightclub.

Hernandez, who is being held in a Massachusetts jail, lost a second endorsement deal Thursday. The Puma sportswear company, which signed Hernandez to a two-year deal in April, told CNBC it was ending the relationship “in light of the current situation.” CytoSport, maker of the Muscle Milk supplement drink, dropped Hernandez as a pitchman last week.

Authorities have said Hernandez took part in Lloyd’s killing in the early hours of June 17 after summoning two friends from out of state. Lloyd’s body was found in an industrial park near Hernandez’s home in North Attleborough, Mass. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty.

Connecticut authorities said Thursday that they had charged another man in connection with Lloyd’s killing — Carlos Ortiz of Bristol, the city where Hernandez grew up. He was charged as a fugitive and agreed to return to Massachusetts, authorities said.

Authorities have not spelled out the connection they believe Wallace and Ortiz have to the killing. They have said Lloyd was killed by two shots fired from someone standing above him, but they have not said who they believe pulled the trigger.

Ortiz, who was arraigned in Attlesboro District Court on a charge of carrying a firearm without a license, was being held on $1.5 million bail. His public defender declined comment on Thursday.

Prosecutors say that text messages — including from Lloyd to his sister when he was worried about his safety — and surveillance video are part of their case against Hernandez. The judge who denied his second request for bail, Renee Dupuis of Superior Court in Fall River, described the state’s case as “circumstantial but very, very strong.”

Prosecutors said they had uncovered four new pieces of evidence in less than 24 hours after searching a condo leased by Hernandez. They said they had found ammunition, a clip and a picture of Hernandez with a Glock handgun.

William McCauley, an assistant district attorney, also said that Hernandez had interfered with the investigation by home surveillance-camera video and instructing his girlfriend not to talk to investigators.

“The evidence of his guilt is overwhelming,” prosecutor William McCauley said.

Hernandez’s lawyers argued that he deserved bail because of his upstanding character and clean record, and because he was not a risk to flee. They noted that he stayed put last week, when rumors circulated that Hernandez was about to be arrested.