Saturday, May 17, 2014

Aaron Hernandez — NFL's Real-Life Killer Faces Several Murder Charges

The former N.F.L. player Aaron Hernandez, at a 2013 hearing on a separatemurder charge, was charged Thursday in the 2012 case.

BOSTON — The 2012 New England Patriots were an offensive force, setting a record for first downs in an N.F.L. season while scoring 557 points. Tight end Aaron Hernandez was a big part of that offense, catching 51 passes for 483 yards and scoring five touchdowns. He had 15 more receptions in the playoffs as the Patriots advanced to the A.F.C. championship game.

On Thursday, a grand jury indicted Hernandez in a double murder that occurred less than two months before that season began, and about a month before he signed a five-year, $40 million contract extension with the Patriots.

Hernandez, 24, already in custody after being charged in the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, is now charged with two additional first-degree murders in the shooting deaths of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado on July 16, 2012.

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said Hernandez followed the two after a chance encounter at a bar in Boston’s Theater District. He said the three men did not know one another.

After Abreu and Furtado left the bar, the indictment charged, Hernandez followed them and pulled his vehicle next to theirs at a stop light not far from the bar. Conley said Hernandez then fired several rounds from a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver into the victims’ car.

Abreu, the driver of the car, died from a gunshot to the chest, Conley said. Furtado, who was in the front passenger seat, died of a gunshot wound to the head. Both victims were shot several times, Conley said.

The victims were “ambushed and executed as they drove home,” Conley said. He said two others in their vehicle managed to escape. Conley said the police recovered the car Hernandez was driving — a sport utility vehicle with Rhode Island license plates — by tracing it to a garage owned by a relative of Hernandez in his hometown, Bristol, Conn. Conley also said the police had recovered the murder weapon “from an individual with ties to Hernandez.”

The Boston Globe has reported that Lloyd may have been killed because he knew about the 2012 murders, but Conley had no comment when asked at a news conference about a possible link between the homicides. More information on the latest indictments will be made available at Hernandez’s arraignment next week, he said.

“For us, this case was not about Aaron Hernandez,” Conley said. “This case was about two victims, who were stalked, ambushed and senselessly murdered on the streets of the city they called home.”

Hernandez’s lawyers, Charles Rankin and James Sultan, said their client was looking forward to his day in court.

“It is one thing to make allegations at a news conference, and another thing to prove them in a courtroom,” they said in a statement that was reported by The Associated Press. “Unlike the district attorney, we are not going to try this case in the media.”

Conley said he could not say more about the charges in Boston because of the murder charge Hernandez faces in Bristol County for Lloyd. Conley said it was likely that Hernandez would be tried first for the Lloyd killing, which occurred in an industrial park in North Attleborough, Mass., not far from Hernandez’s home.

“We are aware of the heightened public interest in this case, but we have to balance that interest with our ethical responsibilities to the Commonwealth’s cases and the defendant’s rights,” he said.

The district attorney also dismissed earlier reports that the two victims were members of a Cape Verdean gang based in Boston’s Dorchester section. “Neither was involved in gangs, guns or violent crime of any kind,” Conley said.

The Patriots signed Hernandez to a multiyear contract extension in August 2012, but the team could receive financial relief if it can be shown Hernandez did not sign the deal in good faith. The team released Hernandez on June 26, 2013, the day he was charged with Lloyd’s murder. Hernandez’s cousin Tanya Singleton was also indicted, for criminal contempt of court. Conley said Singleton refused to testify about the S.U.V. after being granted immunity.

Hernandez is also being sued by relatives of Abreu and Furtado. Each family has asked for $6 million in damages. Relatives of Lloyd also have filed a wrongful-death suit against Hernandez.

Besides receiving the murder charges, Hernandez was indicted on a charge connected to a February episode in the Bristol County House of Corrections, which is where he is being held without bail. Those charges include assault and battery, and threatening to do bodily harm. — Peter May | The New York Times

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