FALL RIVER, Mass. — Aaron Hernandez once seemed to be a man with a bright future. At age 23 he had a Super Bowl appearance under his belt and a $40 million contract as a star tight end with the New England Patriots. He and his fiancée had started a family, living in a mansion in the Boston suburbs with their 8-month-old daughter.
This week, prosecutors will paint a different picture of Hernandez: they will portray him as a killer who orchestrated the shooting of semiprofessional football player Odin Lloyd.
Hernandez was arrested days after Lloyd’s bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial park near his North Attleborough mansion. He has pleaded not guilty and, after more than two weeks of jury selection, his trial is expected to kick off in earnest this week with opening statements.
The case will be laid out in the courtroom just as Hernandez’s old team prepares for Sunday’s Super Bowl, the Patriots’ first appearance since 2012, when Hernandez caught a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLVI. The Patriots cut him less than two hours after he was arrested.
Hernandez, now 25, is also charged with killing two men in Boston in 2012 because he felt disrespected after one of them spilled a drink on him at a nightclub. He pleaded not guilty after being charged in those shootings in May, and the case has not yet gone to trial.
Lloyd, 27, played for the Boston Bandits football team and was dating the sister of Shayanna Jenkins, Hernandez’s fiancee. Prosecutors say he and Hernandez were friendly and had been at a nightclub together a couple of days before he was killed.
Prosecutors have said Hernandez and two friends from his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut, picked up Lloyd at his home in Boston’s Dorchester section around 2:30 a.m. on June 17, 2013. Those men, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, have also pleaded not guilty to murder charges and will be tried separately.
From Dorchester, prosecutors say the four men drove to North Attleborough in a rented Nissan Altima, stopping along the way to buy bubble gum at a gas station. An hour after he left his house, prosecutors say Lloyd was dead, shot multiple times by a .45-caliber Glock. They have not said who pulled the trigger, but say Hernandez orchestrated the killing. The murder weapon has never been found.
Prosecutors have said toll booth, video surveillance, GPS and cellphone records clearly place Hernandez in the car with Lloyd at the time of his murder, and have said video from the security system inside Hernandez’s own home shows him walking through his house with a gun minutes after the killing.
Thumbnail photo via Steve Senne/The Associated Press