The rise and fall of Aaron Hernandez peaked amid the glory of the NFL and ended in a New England jail cell, where authorities found the former University of Florida and New England Patriots football standout, and convicted murderer, dead Wednesday morning of an apparent suicide.
Hernandez’s circuitous route passed through Palm Beach County, a place authorities allege is tied to three separate, but related, acts of violence.
Authorities have said Hernandez moved through a world of crime, strip clubs and murder even as he shone in front of screaming sports fans. He made All-America, was named the best tight end in college football. and was an NFL Pro Bowler with a $40 million contract.
His double life came crashing down when authorities alleged that on June 15, 2013, he pumped six bullets into Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old landscaper and amateur weekend football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee, and left his body at an industrial park near Hernandez’s home south of Boston. Prosecutors suggested Lloyd knew about Hernandez’s role in an earlier double shooting.
Tossed off the Patriots within hours of his arrest, Hernandez would be convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. The term was shorter than most expected.
PALM BEACH POST AARON HERNANDEZ COVERAGE:
Hints to Hernandez’s alleged propensity for violence date back a decade.
In April 2007, the then-17-year-old University of Florida football star allegedly refused to pay for two drinks at a popular Gainesville bar and then punched the manager, who said later he declined to press charges after speaking with UF officials. Hernandez’s teammate, quarterback Tim Tebow — who later would win a Heisman Trophy — had tried unsuccessfully to head off the confrontation by paying the tab and walking Hernandez out.
The Connecticut native would leave UF in 2010 and be a fourth-round pick of the Patriots. Trouble would follow.
In the early hours of July 16, 2012, prosecutors allege, Hernandez pulled up next to a car in South Boston and fatally shot Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. Prosecutors would say Abreu had accidentally bumped into Hernandez near a bar’s dance floor and hadn’t apologized.
Alleged to have been in Hernandez’s car that night: Alexander Bradley, who later would say in court documents that he was in the front seat.
Months later, in February 2013, prosecutors allege, Hernandez and Bradley started the night at a high-end strip club in Miami Gardens, but after Bradley let on that Hernandez had shot and killed the two men in South Boston, the two were driving north through Palm Beach County when Hernandez turned off and into the parking lot of an industrial park just outside Riviera Beach.
Two men working nearby heard a shot and found Bradley, who survived but lost an eye. He would not cooperate with Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies, but in June 2013 would file a federal lawsuit claiming Hernandez shot him over his knowledge of the South Boston double murder.
Aaron Hernandez’s Palm Beach County ties weren’t done. Oscar Hernandez, Jr., of Belle Glade — no relation — was accused of shipping guns to Aaron Hernandez prior to the slaying of Odin Lloyd. Oscar later would plead guilty to lying to a grand jury, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and delivering weapons to a nonresident and would be sentenced to two years in prison.
On Feb. 3, 2013, Super Bowl Sunday, Hernandez had shown up at Oscar’s home, according to Oscar’s mother, who said the two might have met while her son attended Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville.
Soon after, in April 2013, Aaron deposited $15,000 into a bank account for Oscar, who bought a Toyota Camry.
Around the same time, investigators allege, associates of Aaron Hernandez bought a rifle and two handguns; the weapons, and the Toyota, were shipped to New England.
Later, one firearm was found in the Camry sitting in Aaron Hernandez’s garage in his North Attleborough, Mass., home; one in woods near Odin Lloyd’s body; and one in Rhode Island near where a New York Jets fan taunted Aaron Hernandez.
On Oct. 27, 2013, in about as disconnected a scene as any couch potato could envision, as Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey walked to the team bus at Gillette Stadium, following his team’s 27-17 loss to the Patriots, Massachusetts authorities handed him a summons to testify before a grand jury investigating his old Gator teammate, Aaron Hernandez.
Pouncey later would get into hot water for wearing a cap that read, “Free Hernandez.” It didn’t work.
Hernandez did have a rare victory Friday, when a jury acquitted him in the South Boston slayings. Just days later, Hernandez was dead.
“To my friend my brother! Through thick and thin right or wrong we never left each other’s side,” Pouncey said in an Instragram posting that featured a Hernandez photo and was posted hours after Hernandez’s death. “Today my heart hurts as I got the worse (sic) news I could have imagined. It was just a day ago we shared our last (conversation). I will forever miss you and love you bro. we will meet again rest easy!”
This story was compiled from Palm Beach Post research and Post and wire service archives.