Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has been indicted by a grand jury on two charges of first-degree murder in the killings of two people in Boston’s South End in 2012.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley announced the charges against Hernandez in a press conference on Thursday morning.
Conley also discussed the investigation into the slayings of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, who were shot to death on July 16, 2012 while stopped at a traffic light.
“For us this case was never about Aaron Hernandez,’’ Conley said. “This case was about two victims who were stalked, ambushed, and senselessly murdered on the streets of the city they called home.’’
Conley described the circumstances of the shootings of Abreu and Furtado as a “chance encounter’’ between Hernandez and the victims at Cure Lounge, a club in the Theatre District.
According to Conley, the victims arrived at the club around 12:30 a.m., which was “by coincidence’’ about the same time that Hernandez and another individual entered the club.
“Our investigation has not uncovered any evidence that these two groups were known to each other, but their chance encounter inside the club triggered a series of events that ended in the murders,’’ Conley said.
After Abreu and Furtado left the club around 2:00 a.m., an SUV driven by Hernandez pulled up next to the victims’ car and Hernandez fired multiple times from the driver’s side into the passenger’s side of the other vehicle, Conley said. Hernandez allegedly pulled the trigger at the corner of Shawmut Avenue and Herald Street.
Abreu, the driver, suffered multiple gunshot wounds, including a fatal wound to the chest, Conley said. Safiro, the front seat passenger, also suffered multiple gunshot wounds with a fatal wound to the head.
Investigators later recovered the car and weapon that Hernandez used, Conley said.
Initial reports at the time of the killings tied Abreu and Furtado to a Cape Verdean gang based in Dorchester, but Conley said “nothing could be further from the truth.’’ The two men were not part of a gang and were not tied to any violent crimes, Conley said, calling that characterization “unfair to their memory and their families.’’
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said that Abreu and Furtado were “two young, innocent victims’’ whose lives were taken far too early.
Hernandez was also indicted on three charges of armed assault with intent to murder and one count of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon. Conley said the charges reflect the shots fired at the three surviving victims, who were in the car with Abreu and Furtado.
“Two backseat passengers escaped physical injury and fled on foot,’’ Conley said. “A third remained in vehicle with his friends, suffering a gunshot wound to his arm.’’
Hernandez is also being charged with unlawfully possessing a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver.
“The grand jury remains open so it is possible that other charges could be had,’’ Conley said during the press conference. “We are quite confident in our evidence, that’s why we asked the grand jury to vote on it this morning, that Aaron Hernandez is the principal [in the shooting].’’
His cousin Tanya Singleton was also indicted and faces a criminal contempt of court charge for refusing to testify in September 2013 before a grand jury investigating the murders. She was arraigned today in a Fall River court and will face trial in August.
The additional charges against Hernandez, who is already accused in the June 2013 murder of Odin L. Lloyd, put an additional burden on Hernandez’s defense team, David Frank, the managing editor of Massachusetts Lawyer Weekly, wrote on Twitter.
One would think the new indictment against Aaron Hernandez would slow down his Bristol County case. Changes a lot for the defense— David Frank (@davidfrankmlw) May 15, 2014
Hernandez will appear in Suffolk Superior Court in the next few days to enter a not guilty plea on the new murder indictment.— David Frank (@davidfrankmlw) May 15, 2014
Hernandez is expected to be arraigned early next week, where officials plan to release more details on the double homicide.
Hernandez had played for the Patriots until June 2013, when he was arrested on live television in his North Attleborough home on charges related to Lloyd’s murder. Hernandez played the entire 2012-2013 season, after the two murders in the South End occurred.