Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering an acquaintance in an industrial park near his Massachusetts home, concluding the first of two murder trials he faces this year.
A Massachusetts jury found Hernandez, 25, guilty of first-degree murder in the June 2013 slaying of Odin Lloyd, who had been dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancée at the time.
During the trial, the men were described as having been in the early stages of friendship, but Hernandez soured on Lloyd after the man hung out with people the former New England Patriots tight end disliked.
Massachusetts Superior Court Associate Justice Susan Garsh sentenced Hernandez to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the mandatory punishment for first-degree murder in the state.
Hernandez, who had stood to hear the verdict, collapsed into his chair after the verdict was read, and court security officers handcuffed him. His mother and fiancée, who were in court, broke into tears.
The Patriots cut Hernandez, a rising star with a $41m contract, hours after his arrest on June 26, 2013, nine days after a teenage jogger found Lloyd's body.
The highly publicised case was another black eye for the NFL. The United States' most profitable sports league was already facing a lawsuit by former players who contend it ignored the concussion risks they faced on the gridiron and criticism for its handling of cases involving domestic violence by players.
Investigators never recovered the .45-caliber Glock pistol that was used to pump six bullets into Lloyd, 27, who had been a semiprofessional football player.
"He was a 23-year-old kid who witnessed ... a shocking killing committed by somebody he knew," said defense attorney James Sultan. "He really didn't know what to do. So he just put one foot in front of the other."