NFL tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder Wednesday afternoon in the death of an acquaintance, a semi-pro football player from Boston, the dramatic culmination of several days of what appeared to be patient evidence-gathering by investigators.
Mr. Hernandez was arrested at his home Wednesday morning following an investigation that began last week with the discovery of a body, later identified as a Odin Lloyd, in a North Attleborough, Mass., industrial park near Hernandez's home.
In a hearing Wednesday at a district court in Attleboro, Mass., prosecutors alleged that Hernandez had “orchestrated [Mr. Lloyd’s] execution” after a disagreement at a Boston nightclub June 17, citing evidence from surveillance videos taken the night of the murder, according to Boston.com.
Shortly after video of a handcuffed Hernandez being led out of his home was broadcast, the New England Patriots issued a statement saying he had been cut from the team.
“A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss,” the team wrote. “Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation…. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.”
As the investigation into the 23-year-old’s alleged involvement in Lloyd’s death progressed, police made repeated searches of the Hernandez home and surrounding areas, and a daunting list of potential links between Hernandez and the murder mounted.
The player had been with Lloyd on the night of his murder, and reportedly had his home professionally cleaned just hours after Lloyd was shot. Authorities also reported that Hernandez had intentionally smashed his cell phone and home security system following the death.
The Patriots drafted Hernandez from the University of Florida in 2010, and in 2012 he was awarded a five-year, $40 million contract from the team.
But his time as a college and professional football player had been marred by repeated allegations of violence and drug abuse.
Most recently, a Connecticut man filed suit this month alleging that Hernandez shot him outside a Florida strip club in February, destroying his right eye and leaving him “substantially disabled,” according to the Boston Globe.
Prosecutors said in court Wednesday that on the night of the murder Hernandez and two others drove Lloyd to the industrial park and shot him five times. Surveillance cameras at the industrial park captured the arrival of the car with Lloyd and his shooting, and video taken in Hernandez’s own home showed the player entering the house with a pistol around 3:30 a.m., the prosecution alleged.
For Hernandez's part, his attorney, Michael Fee, said the evidence against his client is “circumstantial ... not strong. However, Judge Daniel J. O’Shea ruled to hold Hernandez without bail, according to Boston.com.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement that Hernandez’s ties to the murder investigation were “deeply troubling.”
“The Patriots have released Aaron Hernandez, who will have his day in court. At the same time, we should not forget the young man who was the victim in this case and take this opportunity to extend our deepest sympathy to Odin Lloyd’s family and friends,” he said.