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Tattoo artist testifies in Aaron Hernandez trial

 A screen showed a photo of the tattooed hand of defendant Aaron Hernandez (lower left) in court Wednesday.
A screen showed a photo of the tattooed hand of defendant Aaron Hernandez (lower left) in court Wednesday.Elise Amendola/AP/POOL

Aaron Hernandez obtained tattoos of gun muzzles, a revolver cylinder, a shell casing, and the phrase “God Forgives” about nine months after he allegedly killed two men in a 2012 drive-by shooting in Boston, a witness said Wednesday.

The witness, a California-based tattoo artist named David Nelson, testified out of the jury’s view in Suffolk Superior Court in the double murder trial of Hernandez, a former New England Patriots star.

Nelson said he drew the tattoos at Hernandez’s request in Hermosa Beach, Calif., in March 2013. He drew the tattoos on Hernandez’s right arm, adding a wisp of smoke over one muzzle and five bullets in the revolver cylinder, with one chamber empty, Nelson testified. The phrase “God Forgives” was written backwards.


Hernandez, 27, has pleaded not guilty to charges of killing Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in a drive-by shooting in Boston’s South End in the early morning hours of July 16, 2012.

He allegedly fired five shots into the victims’ BMW with a 104-year-old revolver. The defense claims at least six shots may have been fired, possibly from more than one gun, and that another man was the killer.

But Suffolk County prosecutors contend the tattoos Hernandez requested from Nelson amount to an admission of guilt, which the defense vigorously denies.

George Leontire, a lawyer for Hernandez, sharply questioned the tattoo artist. He noted that Nelson initially told police he did not think he had drawn the God Forgives tattoo.

Nelson testified Wednesday that “the client, Aaron” asked for five bullets with one empty chamber in the revolver cylinder.

But Leontire referred Nelson to a transcript of an earlier police interview when detectives asked him if Hernandez had requested a six-shot cylinder for the revolver.

Nelson told police, “I don’t know if that mattered or if he was specific about that.”


“The witness is lying,” Leontire told Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Locke while Nelson remained on the stand. He also asked Nelson, “Do you know what perjury is?”

Prosecutor Mark Lee informed Locke that Hernandez took a photo of the God Forgives tattoo on his phone on April 2, 2013, suggesting Nelson could have drawn it based on the timeline.

Locke is expected to rule Thursday on whether Nelson can testify before the jury.

Jurors on Wednesday did hear from Boston police analysts who examined the alleged murder weapon and vehicle used in the double slaying.

Prosecutors say Hernandez was riding in the front passenger seat of his Toyota 4Runner when he fired the fatal shots. Defense attorneys allege the driver, Alexander Bradley, shot the victims over a drug deal.

Hernandez is also charged with shooting Bradley in February 2013 to silence him about the killings. Bradley, who is currently jailed in Connecticut for shooting up a Hartford club in 2014, will testify for prosecutors under an immunity deal.

Aaron Hernandez, left, accused of murdering two people in the South End in 2012, spoke with his defense attorney Jose Baez during court proceedings Monday.
Aaron Hernandez, left, accused of murdering two people in the South End in 2012, spoke with his defense attorney Jose Baez during court proceedings Monday. Chris Christo/Boston Herald/Pool

On Wednesday, Boston police crime lab analyst Amy Reynolds testified that a single blonde hair was recovered from the 4Runner.

The hair was 3 centimeters long, Reynolds said, and she couldn’t determine whether it was human hair.

Samples of possible gunshot residue were also taken from the 4Runner for analysis, according to other testimony, but the tests were negative.

Another Boston police analyst, Kristen Tolman, said no usable fingerprints were found in the 4Runner, which appeared to have been cleaned or wiped down.


Defense lawyer Jose Baez said on cross examination that investigators would expect to find Hernandez’s prints in his own 4Runner.

Prosecutors objected when Baez asked Tolman if someone who didn’t own the vehicle might wipe it down to conceal that they had been in it. Locke sustained the objection.

Investigators found the 4Runner in a garage at the home of Hernandez’s cousin in Bristol, Conn., in June 2013.

Hernandez is already serving a life sentence for the June 2013 fatal shooting Odin Lloyd. An appeal of his conviction in that case will be heard later.

Testimony in the double murder trial resumes Thursday.

An earlier version of this story contained an error regarding testimony about gunshot residue evidence. Samples of possible residue were taken from the 4Runner for analysis, but the tests were negative.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.