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Aaron Hernandez

Aaron Hernandez Indicted for Double Murder in Boston

Image: Aaron Hernandez chats with his lawyer Charles Rankin as he appears for a pre-trial hearing at Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River

Aaron Hernandez chats with his lawyer Charles Rankin as he appears for a pre-trial hearing at Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts February 7, 2014. A Massachusetts judge on Friday denied a request by prosecutors for recordings of phone calls made from prison by the former National Football League star, who is awaiting trial in a 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. Jonathan Wiggs / Boston Globe Pool via Reuters file

Heading home after a night of clubbing, a carload of men in a black BMW were stopped at a red light in Boston's theater district when a silver SUV appeared alongside them and a hail of .38 caliber bullets came flying through the window — killing the driver and passenger.

On Thursday, nearly two years after the deadly drive-by, prosecutors announced a grand jury has finally indicted an accused triggerman: former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.

After Hernandez allegedly squeezed off shot after shot from a Smith & Wesson revolver that night in July 2012, he went on to play another season in the NFL. His 51 receptions and five touchdowns helped the Patriots win the AFC East.

It wasn't until June 2013, after he was arrested for another cold-blooded murder case — the execution of semipro football player Odin Lloyd — that Hernandez became a suspect in the drive-by double homicide.

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Hernandez's lawyers accused prosecutors of trying the 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," they said in a statement.

Suffolk County District Attorney Conley said Hernandez's celebrity had nothing to do with the charges: two counts of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and weapons possession.

"This was about two victims who were stalked, ambushed and senselessly murdered," he said.

Authorities said that Hernandez did not know Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Teixeira Furtado, the two Cape Verde immigrants gunned down after a visit to a South End nightclub where they crossed paths with the gridiron star and a pal.

Instead, it was a "chance encounter" at Cure Lounge that "triggered a series of events that culminated in these murders," Conley said.

No further information about the interaction at the club was provided. But a search warrant made public in January revealed that surveillance cameras taped Hernandez and a pal — identified in court papers as Alexander Bradley — leaving the club, getting into a silver Toyota 4Runner, and then later circling the victims' group.

The five friends in the BMW took off, but "unbeknownst to them, Hernandez followed them traveling in an SUV," Conley said.

"When the victims' car stopped at a red light ... the SUV pulled up beside the victims' car on the right. Aaron Hernandez then fired a .38-caliber revolver multiple times from the driver's side of his vehicle into the passenger side of the victims' vehicle,'' Conley said.

The two men in the front were both hit several times; one died of a chest wound and the other was killed by a bullet to the head. A third man was shot in the arm but survived, and two others fled unharmed.

No arrests were made at the time, and officials said Thursday that initial reports that the victims were gang members were flat-out wrong.

"Neither of them were involved in gangs, guns or violent crimes at any time," Conley said.

Investigators say the same could not be said of Hernandez, who was signed by the Patriots to a $40 million contract despite worries about his off-the-field conduct.

In February 2013, seven months after the drive-by, he allegedly shot out Bradley's eye during an argument outside a Miami club. Bradley, who later sued Hernandez, has been jailed since February 2014 in connection with a shootout at a Hartford, Connecticut, bar.

Then, in June, Hernandez allegedly orchestrated the murder of Lloyd because he was upset Lloyd had spoken to some people he didn't like, authorities said. Lloyd's bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial park not far from Hernandez's home in North Attleborough, Massachusetts.

Image: Odin Lloyd
The body of Odin Lloyd, 27, was found in 2013 in an industrial park in North Attleborough, Mass., about a mile from the house of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. Lloyd family via AP

The Patriots sacked Hernandez after his arrest. He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and gun charges in Lloyd's death. His lawyer did not respond to a request for comment about the new charges.

Hernandez is being held without bail at the Bristol County House of Correction in Dartmouth, Mass.

Just this month, he was indicted for an alleged jail assault in February and an alleged threat to "do bodily harm" in November.

A host of Hernandez's associates and relatives have been questioned or charged — the latest is his cousin, Tanya Singleton, who was indicted on contempt charges for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating the July 2012 double slaying despite an offer of immunity.

Singleton, 37, had already been charged with criminal contempt of court and of being an accessory to murder after the fact in connection with Lloyd's murder.

Police have said a silver SUV rented in Hernandez's name was found at Singleton's home in Bristol, Connecticut.

Image: Tanya Singleton
Tanya Singleton, cousin of former New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez, speaks with defense attorney Peter Parker during a bail hearing at Superior Court Thursday, Oct. 24, 2103, in Fall River, Mass. Dominick Reuter / AP