BRISTOL, Conn. — Connecticut State Police divers took turns Monday scouring murky and algae-
laden Pine Lake, looking for evidence that may connect former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez to the June 17 slaying of Odin L. Lloyd, who was shot to death with a .45-caliber weapon.
The search started at 9:30 a.m., and ended about 4 p.m., with no apparent discovery of evidence.
Police were working off a week-old tip that evidence in connection with the case could be found at the lake, according to law enforcement officials at the scene, who declined to elaborate about the search in Hernandez’s hometown. At least two Massachusetts State Police investigators were assisting.
Four divers in scuba gear took turns crawling on their hands and knees from the bank of the 55-acre lake until they were deep enough to swim, then disappeared underwater.
Bubbles from their breathing apparatus tracked their progress as they worked in a grid pattern, proceeding gingerly about 50 feet from the bank and returning, guided by a rope. A trooper on land helped mark the territory they had covered.
The divers carried a metal detector into the water and had lights affixed to bands around their foreheads. By the end of the day, they had searched about half of the 200 yards along the northern bank of the lake, which runs parallel to Pine Street and is just south of Route 72.
As with almost every other scene of police activity associated with the Hernandez case, a knot of reporters took up space behind yellow police tape and watched the search. Residents from nearby started showing up, and traffic slowed as passersby gawked.
“I am just blown away that this sort of thing is happening in this community; it’s like Mayberry,” said Robert Spann, a longtime member of the Pine Lake Beautification Committee, which has about a dozen members.
The committee has tried for decades to get a parking lot at the lake and a walking trail around the perimeter. There is a “Challenge Course” tucked away at the lake’s southern end, with several physically demanding obstacles.
“I would hate for this place to be linked to that case. I don’t know why anyone would choose to do something like that, if there was any evidence dumped here,” Spann, 51, said.
He said the lake was dredged about five years ago and that it descends 16 feet at its deepest.
According to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation, the search is part of the continuing investigation into the slaying of Lloyd, who prosecutors in Bristol County, Mass., allege was murdered in a North Attleborough industrial park in a shooting orchestrated by Hernandez.
Hernandez is a Bristol native and still has relatives living here, including his mother and an uncle whose home is on Lake Avenue, not far from the pond. Last month, authorities searched the uncle’s house and impounded a sport utility vehicle found in the garage that Boston police suspect may have been used in a 2012 double homicide in Boston.
Hernandez “was a Bristol Central High School star,” said Gary Bard, who lives in nearby Plainville but visited the lake after hearing on the radio about the ongoing search.
“A local kid who made it big only to fall,” Bard said. “I know that it’s innocent until proven guilty, but things aren’t looking too good right now.”
A woman who is married to Hernandez’s uncle stood on the bank of the lake and watched the search. She declined to be interviewed, saying only that the family has made a pact not to speak to reporters.
Two other men arrested in connection with the case, Carlos Ortiz, 27, and Ernest Wallace, 41, both lived in Bristol. Both are being held in jail in Massachusetts, Ortiz on a firearms possession charge and Wallace on a charge of being an accessory after the fact to murder. Hernandez and Ortiz are being held without bail. Bail for Wallace was set last week at $500,000.