Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez ambushed and gunned down two men after a chance encounter inside a nightclub nearly two years ago, prosecutors said Thursday in an indictment that places the gun in his hands weeks before he signed a five-year, $40 million contract and went on to catch 51 passes and score five touchdowns during the 2012 NFL season.
Hernandez was already jailed in connection with a man's 2013 shooting death and was indicted anew on two counts of first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the July 2012 killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. A third man was wounded in that attack.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty in the killing last year of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, whose body was found in an industrial area near Hernandez's home in North Attleborough. He was released by the Patriots last summer after being arrested in Lloyd's death, and his attorneys said he looks forward to proving his innocence of the new charges.
According to Conley, the night of the 2012 shootings unfolded when Hernandez and an associate went into the Cure Lounge in Boston at about the same time as the other men. The prosecutor would not describe their encounter but said there was no evidence Hernandez knew the victims.
After the men left, Hernandez followed in an SUV and pulled up alongside them as they were stopped at a red light in Boston's South End, Conley said.
"Aaron Hernandez fired a .38-calibre revolver multiple times from the driver's side of his vehicle into the passenger's side of the victim's vehicle," killing de Abreu and Furtado, Conley said.
A grand jury heard testimony from more than 24 witnesses and examined more than 80 pieces of evidence before returning the indictments, Conley said. He said Hernandez's notoriety played no role in the investigation.
"This was never about Aaron Hernandez," he said. "This case was about two victims who were stopped, ambushed and senselessly murdered on the streets they called home."
The Patriots had no comment.