The investigation into the July 16, 2012, fatal drive-by shooting of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado had gone cold by the time the bullet-riddled body of Odin Lloyd was discovered in North Attleborough nearly a year later.
Police quickly linked New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez to Lloyd’s slaying, charging him a week later with first-degree murder.
Now police say Hernandez is also responsible for the drive-by shooting, firing the shots that killed Abreu and Furtado.
Court documents released Thursday show that days after Hernandez’s arrest in Lloyd’s killing, a tipster phoned police, advising them to look into the NFL star’s ties to the unsolved drive-by. Within days, police recovered the vehicle and unearthed video footage allegedly showing Hernandez stalking the victims. Two months later, they recovered what they believe to be the weapon.
There is “probable cause to believe that Aaron Hernandez was operating the suspect vehicle used in the shooting homicides of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado and may have been the shooter,” detectives wrote in a June search warrant affidavit, which persuaded a judge to allow investigators to examine an SUV seized from the Bristol, Conn., home of Hernandez’s uncle for gunshot residue and search a duffel bag they believed contained the clothing Hernandez wore on the night of the double homicide.
“Gunshot residue may still exist in the vehicle, since there is reason to believe that the vehicle has remained untouched and stored in an enclosed garage for close to a year,” investigators wrote.
The document did not reveal what police found in the search. That would normally be disclosed on a search warrant return, a separate document that has not been released.
Investigative documents paint a narrative of the shooting, in which the two victims were gunned downed after a night of partying at a popular Boston nightclub.
Police say video from both inside and outside the club shows Hernandez and an accomplice — believed to be Alexander Bradley, a friend of Hernandez — entering Cure nightclub, directly behind the victims. Ten minutes later, after Hernandez is seen quickly throwing back two drinks, he and Bradley are seen leaving the club and returning to a silver SUV about 1:17 a.m.
The victims left the club around 2:10 a.m., and video shows Hernandez’s silver SUV circling the block as the victims make their way to their BMW.
Moments after the victims enter their car, they pull up to a stoplight.
Two men who were driving in the area at the same time told police that a silver SUV pulled up next to them at a red light. They told police they saw a Hispanic man with short dark hair driving and a black man with braids in the passenger seat. The men said the SUV ran the red light and sped up to the next intersection, where the BMW was stopped.
Moments later, the men told police, someone in the SUV fired shots into the BMW before speeding off.
That account matched one provided to police by another man, who was riding in the BMW with the victims of the shooting. He told police the BMW was at a stop light when a silver SUV pulled up next to them on the passenger side. Moments later, gunshots rang out, killing Abreu and Furtado.
Attorneys for Hernandez and Bradley did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Police are in the process of obtaining recordings of jailhouse phone calls made by Bradley, which they believe may shed light on what he knows about the slayings. Bradley is being held in Connecticut for ignoring a grand jury summons related to the case.
Assertions made in the affidavit again raise the possibility Hernandez played the 2012-13 football season — during which he tallied 51 receptions for five touchdowns in just 10 games and pocketed nearly $10 million in salary and bonuses — after killing two people.
Legal experts have said that prosecutors have a strong circumstantial case against Hernandez in the Lloyd killing and that the case against him in the double homicide seems to be building.
However, defense attorneys not involved in either case said Hernandez’s defense team has several options.
“What is missing is real, solid evidence that proves Hernandez committed these crimes,” said Barry Slotnick, who successfully defended Bernhard Goetz, the “subway vigilante” who in 1984 shot and wounded four teens who attempted to mug him in New York City.
Slotnick and other attorneys say that as a celebrity, Hernandez may be able to successfully argue that he was set up to take the fall by someone jealous of his fame or wealth.
Slotnick said much of the prosecution’s case in either shooting could rely on the testimony of other suspects, whose credibility could be questioned.
“You’re dealing with informants who may not be the most credible in the world,” Slotnick said.
Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story misstated the nature of the injuries Bernhard Goetz inflicted in a 1984 shooting in New York. Goetz wounded four teens who tried to mug him. The article also misspelled Goetz’s first name.