BOSTON - Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was indicted Thursday in a double murder that took place nearly two years ago.
The 24-year-old Hernandez is already facing murder charges in the June 17, 2013 death of 27-year-old Boston semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. Lloyd was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.
Daniel de Abreu, 29, and Safiro Furtado, 28, both of Dorchester, Mass., were gunned down July 16, 2012 as they sat at a traffic light in Boston's South End shortly after leaving Cure Lounge with three friends. A silver SUV with Rhode Island plates was reportedly seen speeding away from the drive-by shooting.
Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said Thursday that a grand jury voted to indict Hernandez on two counts of first-degree murder. He was also indicted on charges of armed assault with intent to murder and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon.
Conley said Abreu and Furtado were "ambushed and executed as they drove home" in the early hours of July 16, 2012. He said three other men were in the car with Abreu and Furtado at the time of the shooting. One was struck, but not killed, and the other two escaped physical injury.
During a news conference Thursday, Conley walked reporters through a sequence of events that he says took place on the night Abreu and Furtado were killed.
He said Abreu and Furtado arrived at Cure Lounge, by coincidence, at the same time Hernandez and another individual were entering. Conley said there is no evidence that Hernandez knew the victims before that night.
"This chance encounter triggered a series of events that culminated in these murders," the District Attorney said.
When the victims later left the lounge in their car, Conley said, Hernandez, unbeknownst to the victims, followed them in his SUV.
When the victims' car stopped at a red light, Hernandez's SUV pulled up beside them and that is when Hernandez fired a .38-calibur revolver multiple times from the drivers' side of his vehicle into the passenger side of the victims' vehicle, Conley continued.
"For us, this case was never about Aaron Hernandez. For us, it was about two victims who were stopped, ambushed and senselessly murdered on the streets of the city they called home," Conley said.
A silver SUV reportedly matching the description of the car Boston police were seeking in connection with the double-homicide, was towed from Hernandez's uncle's home in Bristol, Conn., at the request of police on June 28, 2013.
Conley said Thursday that the weapon used in the shootings was recovered last June from a woman with ties to Hernandez.
Hernandez's attorneys, Charles Rankin and James Sultan, issued a joint statement following news of the indictment saying, "It is one thing to make allegations at a press conference, and another thing to prove them in a courtroom. Unlike the District Attorney, we are not going to try this case in the media. Under our system of justice, Aaron Hernandez is innocent of these charges and he looks forward to his day in court."
Also Thursday, the grand jury also returned an indictment against Tanya Singleton, Hernandez's cousin, for criminal contempt of court, stemming from her refusal to testify before the grand jury investigating the double murders.
This January, the Hartford Courant reported that a search warrant indicated that surveillance video from the night of the July 2012 killings shows Hernandez in an SUV believed to be involved in the double murder.
The warrant did not suggest a motive for the killings and did not indicate whether there was evidence that Hernandez was the man who pulled the trigger, according to the paper.
It did, however, say surveillance footage showed Hernandez and Alexander Bradley at the same nightclub in Boston as Furtado and Abreu the night of their killings, according to the paper. Bradley has a civil lawsuit pending against Hernandez, alleging Hernandez shot him in the face after they argued outside a Miami nightclub in early 2013.
Bradley was jailed last fall after he allegedly avoided authorities who tried to subpoena him to appear before a grand jury probing the 2012 double homicide.
The search warrant obtained by the Courant sought to access recordings of phone calls Bradley made from prison after a Department of Corrections official told authorities that Bradley was heard discussing details of the Boston double homicide investigation on those calls.
Authorities only began tying Hernandez to the double homicide investigation after he was charged in Odin Lloyd's murder. The warrant reportedly indicated that authorities received a phone call on June 22, 2013 that led them to investigate the former NFL star in connection with the 2012 case.
The call is said to have come from an employee of Rumor nightclub in Boston, a club that Hernandez and Lloyd reportedly visited two days before Lloyd's death and the location at which prosecutors say the two men had a disagreement that eventually led to Lloyd's shooting, the paper reported.
The caller claimed to have overheard a conversation that indicated Lloyd's death and the Boston double homicide were related, the warrant reportedly indicated.
D.A. Conley said Thursday that Hernandez will likely be tried first in Bristol County for the murder of Odin Lloyd and then will face trial in the double murder case. His arraignment on the new charges is expected to take place sometime next week.