FALL RIVER, Mass. — A cousin of Aaron Hernandez appeared in court for the first time Friday to face a charge that she refused to testify before a grand jury convened in the former New England Patriot's murder case.
Tanya Cummings-Singleton, a heavyset woman with short buzzed hair, was indicted Thursday on a criminal contempt charge, but has been in custody in Massachusetts since Aug. 1 after a judge ordered her held in contempt of court.
Prosecutors say the Bristol, Conn., woman was offered immunity after she was subpeonaed, but would still not answer questions before the grand jury.
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Cummings-Singleton, who has attended several court proceedings for others charged in the Hernandez case, pleaded not guilty Friday during her arraignment in Fall River Superior Court. A judge ordered her held without bail until an Oct. 3 hearing based on an agreement between the prosecution and the defense.
The grand jury, which is still investigating the June 17 shooting of Odin Lloyd, also returned indictments Thursday of Hernandez and Ernest Wallace, another suspect in the case. Hernandez, the former star tight end, is expected to be arraigned next week on charges of murder and five illegal weapons counts.
Prosecutors have declined to comment about why the grand jury wanted to hear from Cummings-Singleton. Law enforcement authorities have been interested in her because she opened her home to the two Bristol men who were charged along with Hernandez.
Cummings-Singleton lived at 114 Lake Ave., a home owned by Hernandez's uncle where police have conducted multiple searches during the Hernandez investigation. Both Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, the third suspect in the case, used the residence as an address.
Authorities have said in court documents they believe she made "overt attempts … to hinder or mislead the investigation."
Investigators obtained Greyhound Transportation records that show Cummings-Singleton purchased a bus ticket for Ernest Wallace, who on Thursday was indicted for accessory after the fact to murder, to travel from Georgia to Florida the week after Lloyd's shooting.
Authorities say the phone Wallace used the night of the murder was known to friends as his number, but was registered to Cummings-Singleton. That phone, from which five calls were placed to the victim hours before his death, has not been recovered.
A prosecutor said in court last month that Wallace, an unemployed Bristol man he described as Hernandez's "right hand man," used a different number to communicate with Cummings-Singleton after Lloyd's shooting.
Ortiz, who was charged with illegal possession of a firearm, told investigators he and Wallace were at the Lake Avenue house the day before Lloyd's shooting and drove back to the address the following day, driving a car Hernandez rented for them.
Ortiz, 27, of Bristol has been held without bail since he was arrested in late June, and is scheduled to appear again in Attleboro District Court for an Aug. 29 hearing.