Aaron Hernandez's Road to a Murder Indictment: Brawls and Guns

Assessing the former NFL star's future as he faces the double homicide case against him

Aaron Hernandez
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Aaron Hernandez
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They were a couple of working stiffs cutting loose for the night, at the end of a six-day week cleaning offices. Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, handsome, twentysomething immigrants from Cape Verde, had gone out with friends to a dance club called Cure in the rowdy Theater District in Boston's South End. They'd hung for several hours, trying their moves on college girls and living a little fatter than their wallets.

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But as evening turned to morning that summer Monday in 2012, something brought them up against another group of guys, fronted by a strapping Hispanic man. A drink had been spilled, or someone's dress shoe scuffed; words, and possibly shoves, were exchanged. The Cape Verdeans left the club after the confrontation, crowding into a sedan and driving off. Stopped at a light, they saw a truck roar up beside them and a revolver point out the driver's side window. At least six shots sounded, killing de Abreu and Furtado and wounding one of the friends sitting behind them. The truck, a Toyota 4Runner, charged off down the line and – despite an all-points search by police and state troopers – disappeared from view for almost a year.

The Toyota turned up finally, dust-caked and cobwebbed, more than 100 miles away in a Bristol, Connecticut garage. Its owner, and the man indicted last week for committing the double-slayings, was none other than Aaron Hernandez, the former Pro Bowl tight end who's now charged with three murders in two shootings, both of which occurred after set-tos at a club. Hernandez, who's awaiting his trial for the alleged slaying of Odin Lloyd, will likely enter a preliminary plea next week in Massachusetts for the killings of Abreu and Furtado. If he's smart – and all the evidence screams out that he's not – he'll keep his good suit pressed and at the ready. Bill Cervone, a state attorney in Florida, wants to grill him for his part in a 2007 shooting that was triggered by, yes, a scuffle at a club.

Hernandez, then a gifted but troubled tight end for the brawling Florida Gators of Urban Meyer, had already ruptured a man's eardrum in a bar fight, would reportedly fail multiple drug tests and be suspended by Meyer, and take photos of himself in gang regalia while brandishing a black semi-auto. The blueprint of that shooting closely tracks the one at Cure: Hernandez beefed with a crew at a bar; his antagonists got into their car and drove away, then stopped at a light and were fired upon by a hulking man with tats and close-cropped hair. If that was, in fact, Hernandez, his aim was a work in progress. Two of the men were wounded but fled the scene before their assailant could finish them off. They later declined to identify the shooter to cops; a third man sitting behind them gave a description. Hernandez matched it and was sought for questioning, but lawyered up and never talked. No arrests were made and the case went cold, till the Cure Lounge charges caught the eye of Florida authorities. Hernandez is certainly someone he's "interested in talking to," Cervone said. After seven years, he'll have to wait his turn.

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That's because Hernandez has kept his team of lawyers busy – and, presumably, his accountant, as well. The ex-New England Patriot, who signed a $40-million extension just weeks after the Cure Lounge killings, is prepping for a murder trial this fall that will last a month or more and likely gobble the bulk of his savings. Hernandez's deal earned him a $12.5 million signing bonus up front, of which the Pats paid $9.5 million in 2012. They've refused, however, to give him the balance of $3 million, and, if he's convicted, could sue to claw back what they've laid out, given his manifest breaches of contract.

Quite apart from the evidence prosecutors say they have stacked against him in the Lloyd case – video that places him at the scene of the crime moments after the shooting; damning forensics retrieved from his car; and footage of him wielding a pistol that night as he was leaving the house – Hernandez may be sacked by a bigger problem: lack of funds to build a capable defense in the Cure Lounge case. "Even if he somehow gets off in the Lloyd thing, he's totally fucked in the second trial," says a top defense attorney in Boston. "Rather than lawyers like Michael Fee and Charles Rankin, he's looking at Legal Aid reps, which won't cut it."

Daniel Conley, the Suffolk County DA who's in charge of trying him for the Cure Lounge murders, has a very strong hand going in: 80 pieces of evidence, including security-cam tape showing Hernandez circling the block till the victims' car takes off; a large witness pool that likely lists the Cape Verdean survivors; and – most importantly – the murder weapon. It was recovered last summer from the car of a woman after a minor accident in Massachusetts. The gun, a .38 revolver, belonged to "a football player friend" who'd left it her in her trunk, said Jailene Dias-Ramos, who grew up in Bristol, attended the same high school as Hernandez and carried a criminal record of her own. Ballistics have matched the gun to the Cure Lounge murders; if Conley can tie it to Hernandez that night, a conviction seems a matter of course.

Meanwhile, it's a lousy time to be Aaron Hernandez's friend. His fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, has been charged with perjury; his cousin and close pal Tanya Singleton is facing criminal contempt and accessory counts; Oscar Hernandez, Jr. (no relation), has been pinched for perjury, witness tampering and obstruction of justice in connection with an interstate gun trafficking investigation, including the fire-arms found at Aaron's house by police. Worse off by far, though, are Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, the two men held in the shooting of Lloyd. Both of them, longtime buddies of Hernandez, have been indicted for first-degree murder. Under the joint-venture theory in Massachusetts law, if prosecutors decide to use it, each can be convicted and sentenced to life in prison if a jury finds Hernandez pulled the trigger. By now, they've surely learned what the rest of us have: the man is mad, bad and dangerous to know – even if your only acquaintance with him is bumping shoulders at noisy night-spot.

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