Aaron Hernandez, the former NFL tight end already charged with killing an associate, murdered two relative strangers in the streets of Boston two summers ago, prosecutors charged Thursday.
Hernandez was indicted in the shooting deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, who were killed in their car after a chance encounter with Hernandez in a Boston nightclub on July 16, 2012.
Hernandez was already in jail at the time of Thursday's indictment, held without bond as he awaits trial for the shooting death of friend Odin Lloyd, whose bullet-ridden body was discovered last year.
Given the timeline that prosecutors allege, Hernandez, charged with two counts of first-degree murder, played an entire season for the New England Patriots after gunning down de Abreu and Furtado.
Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley told reporters Thursday that the two men were “ambushed and executed” on their way home from Cure Lounge in Boston’s South End that night.
And he said Hernandez was the one who pulled the trigger, unloading a .38 revolver multiple times and fatally striking the victims. Hernandez apparently did not know the men before meeting them at the nightclub that night.
Conley said police have since recovered the murder weapon and the SUV they say Hernandez was driving that night. Authorities believe he pulled up alongside their car on the right and unloaded.
From a football perspective, the timing is haunting. A month after the 2012 shooting, the New England Patriots awarded Hernandez a new contract worth up to $40 million, with $16 million guaranteed. He went on to catch 51 passes for 483 yards and five touchdowns that fall.
The Patriots organization embraced Hernandez at the time, and his narrative was one of redemption from a rough past. But ever since the slaying of Lloyd last spring, a string of shocking details about Hernandez’s personal life have emerged.
• Hernandez's alleged shooting of Alexander Bradley, his employee, after a fight at Tootsie’s Cabaret in Miami Gardens.
Bradley, who was shot in the eye, later sued Hernandez in U.S. District Court’s Southern District of Florida. The lawsuit remains active, although his attorneys recently acknowledged in court that “there is no way of knowing when Hernandez’s criminal action may he resolved.” The latest charges will only add to the uncertainty.
Authorities believe Bradley was in a Toyota 4Runner with Hernandez the night de Abreu and Furtado were killed.
Bradley has since been arrested for his alleged role in a separate nightclub gunfight in Connecticut. Despite his incarceration, Bradley's representatives are still pushing for a June 2015 court date in Bradley’s lawsuit against Hernandez.
• Investigators have also looked into potential gun-trafficking charges for Hernandez, an inquiry that has involved Dolphins center Mike Pouncey.
When the Dolphins traveled to New England last October, Massachusetts State Police served Pouncey with a subpoena to appear before a grand jury in the Hernandez investigation. Pouncey has never been named as a suspect, and briefly left the team in December to testify.
Efforts to reach Pouncey’s representatives for reaction Thursday were unsuccessful, and the Dolphins had no comment.
Prosecutors on Thursday did not publicly link the most recent charges to the Lloyd slaying, but some have theorized that Lloyd may have known about the previous two murders.
Lloyd, a semi-pro football player who was part of Hernandez’s circle, was shot and killed on June 17, 2013, in an industrial park a mile from Hernandez’s opulent home.
After a brief investigation, authorities charged Hernandez with first-degree murder. Hernandez pleaded not guilty; he’s since been held without bond. Shortly after his arrest, the Patriots terminated his contract.
Just this month, authorities charged Hernandez with assault and battery for his role in a jailhouse brawl.
Before his string of arrests, Hernandez — a native of Bristol, Conn. — was best known locally for his role in the University of Florida’s 2008 national championship run. The university honored Hernandez with a brick outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, but dug it out of the ground following his arrest last summer.