Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is facing a charge of murder. He’s being held without bail as the investigation into the death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd continues to unfold. The body of the 27-year-old was found on June 17 in North Attleborough, Mass. not far from Hernandez’s home. Shortly after his arrest on Wednesday, New England released Hernandez, who had signed a 5-year, $40 million dollar contract extension last summer.
Bill Littlefield spoke with Tom E. Curran, who covers the Patriots and the NFL for Comcast Sports New England.
BL: On Wednesday, Hernandez appeared in Attleboro District Court for his arraignment. He and the victim, Odin Lloyd had been friends. They were allegedly together on the night Lloyd was shot to death. The Bristol County District Attorney laid out a lengthy description of Hernandez’s travels that night. What stood out to you about the courtroom proceedings?
TC: A couple of things. First off, the charge of first-degree murder when most of us had speculated and thought for about a week’s time, “Nah, no way Aaron Hernandez could be the lead dog in what appears to me a murder.” Lloyd texting at 3:23 [a.m. on the night of his death] and saying to his sister: You know who I’m with, right? NFL. And then the taillights of Hernandez’s rental car being seen entering an industrial park. A neighbor saying they heard gunshots ring out between 3:23 and 3:27. And then the industrial park video surveillance camera seeing Hernandez’s rental car pull out.
BL: Hernandez’s lawyer pointed out that the evidence the district attorney presented was circumstantial. That’s how he characterized it. Do you expect that to change in the coming months before Hernandez goes to trial?
TC: If you get an eyewitness, i.e. one of the other individuals who is alleged to have been in the car with Hernandez to testify, then the circumstantial goes out the window. And if the murder weapon is found then also goes the circumstantial evidence, I believe. Right now, it is circumstantial certainly, but that that timeline and other details the D.A.’s office pointed out were pretty damning, I thought.
BL: According to multiple media reports, investigators are now trying to determine if Hernandez was involved in a double murder last year when two men in a car were shot after leaving a Boston nightclub. What do you know about that case?
TC: That case I had heard rumored during the week, Bill. As I tried to gather evidence, I heard that, ‘Hey, before this is over, you may hear Hernandez’s name linked to other murders.’ By the end of the week, that was the case. My suspicion is that somehow the individuals who were involved the night that Odin Lloyd died may have been the same types of individuals or the same individuals involved last July 13 in [Boston's] Theatre District when two men were killed.
BL: Tom, since this story broke, there have been a lot of reports indicating teams passed on Aaron Hernandez in the 2010 NFL draft because of red flags about his character, including failed drug tests while at Florida. Were there other red flags during his three years with the Patriots?
TC: Not that were apparent to the media. Interestingly though, you’ll hear teammates lament the kind of guy he was. For instance, Matt Light, retired left tackle of the Patriots, said this week to the Dayton Daily News, [in essence]: Nothing that Aaron Hernandez stands for or is about is anything that I endorse. … My question is: Teams are billion-dollar companies. I understand drafting someone who might have a history of things and wondering if you can bring him around in your system. But if these acts were going on and teammates in his own locker room were saying, ‘he’s not really a good guy,’ shouldn’t that player have an awful lot of company from security and people watching his every movement?