A Brief Guide to the Homicide Investigation That’s Engulfed Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez

Trying to make sense of the drama surrounding the New England football star? We've got answers for all the burning questions.

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Boston Globe / Boston Globe via Getty Images

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez earned a Pro Bowl appearance in 2011.

Football fans and New England residents are undoubtedly aware of the turmoil surrounding Aaron Hernandez this week. For everyone else, here’s a primer on the developments that have turned a Massachusetts homicide investigation into a national news story.

Who is Aaron Hernandez?

Aaron Hernandez is a 23-year-old professional football player for the New England Patriots. He attended college at the University of Florida and was drafted in the 4th round by New England following his junior year.

Is he one of the team’s stars?

Hernandez is considered one of the best and most versatile tight ends in the National Football League, having amassed 18 touchdowns and nearly 2,000 receiving yards during his three professional seasons. Together with Rob Gronkowski (who often makes offseason headlines, albeit for very different reasons), they form the NFL‘s best tight end tandem.

Okay, then what has landed Hernandez in the news so far removed from football season?
According to ABC News, Hernandez has yet to be ruled out as a suspect in the “execution-style” killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd in Massachusetts.

How was the victim, Odin Lloyd, connected to Hernandez?

Lloyd, a resident of Dorchester, Mass., reportedly dated the sister of the mother of Hernandez’s daughter. His body was found one mile from Hernandez’s home in North Attleboro, Mass. on Monday night.

Why haven’t police ruled out Hernandez as a suspect?

In short, a whole bunch of reasons. First, there’s the 2013 Chevrolet Suburban with Rhode Island license plates that, according to the Sun Chronicle, was discovered near where Lloyd’s body was found. The vehicle was rented in Hernandez’s name. Police are looking for a silver side-view mirror that may have broken off from the SUV, but have not given any further hints as to how it is tied to the case.

According to MyFoxBoston.com, a source told law enforcement officials that Hernandez, Lloyd and two other men were at a bar in Boston together and that although a text message from Lloyd confirmed that the four all left together, only three men returned to Hernandez’s home.

That does sound a bit ominous, but still not much more than circumstantial. Is there any other evidence linking Hernandez to the homicide?

Nothing that isn’t circumstantial. Law enforcement sources state that police are trying to determine why house cleaners were hired to scrub Hernandez’s home on Monday. Hernandez also allegedly “destroyed his home security system” and had his attorneys hand over his cellphone to authorities—after it had been smashed to pieces.

Anything more?

Here’s what MyFoxBoston.com reported last night:

FOX 25’s Bob Ward’s sources have confirmed that there is video evidence of Hernandez and two other men wearing hooded sweatshirts walking into Hernandez’s home within minutes of neighbors hearing gunshots.

Neighbors say they heard the gunshots between 3 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. Monday morning, but did not report it to police right away.

Just about an hour before Hernandez was caught on video walking into his home, Hernandez was seen at Lloyd’s home in Dorchester.

Again, highly circumstantial, but it does demonstrate why police have been interested in Hernandez.

Have police determined any potential motive for the killing?

If they have, they haven’t shared it with the public yet.

Have there been any major developments in the last 12 hours?

On Friday morning, WBZ NewsRadio 1030 reported that police issued an arrest warrant for Hernandez for obstruction of justice in connection with the homicide investigation. Later Friday morning, USA TODAY Sports issued a conflicting report stating that a clerk in the Attleboro District Court claims no such warrant was ever issued.

So what would an obstruction of justice warrant mean for Hernandez?

It’s likely that an obstruction charge would stem from the fact that both Hernandez’s home security system and cellphone were destroyed. An arrest warrant for obstruction would not directly tie him to the homicide itself, though it also wouldn’t rule out the possibility of further warrants being issued for Hernandez in connection with Lloyd’s killing.

Does Hernandez have any history of off-field incidents?
Alexander Bradley recently refiled a lawsuit in Florida against Hernandez alleging that in February, the tight end shot Bradley in the arm in Miami—the suit further alleges that the bullet traveled from Bradley’s arm to his head, causing him to lose his right eye. That said, no criminal charges were ever filed and there is no indication that any report of the incident mentioned Hernandez. Some media outlets have been quick to mention rumors of Hernandez’s marijuana use during his time in at the University of Florida, where he failed at least one drug test prior to the 2010 NFL Draft, but it’s a stretch to say that has anything whatsoever to do with the events of this week.

How has Hernandez behaved since initially being connected to the homicide?

Aside from allegedly destroying his security system and cell phone, some of Hernandez’s behavior has seemed unusual this week. On Thursday he hopped in his white SUV and headed for Gillette Stadium, even though no coaches or executives were at the stadium, while being trailed by a slew of reporters and a news helicopter. Hernandez was not permitted to enter the facility, so he got back into his car and drove to his lawyer’s office. Predictably, a football player tied to a homicide investigation driving a white SUV while being followed by a helicopter invited unflattering comparisons to O.J. Simpson.

Has Hernandez or his lawyer made any statements to the press?

Hernandez has not, but his attorney, Michael Fee, released this statement: ““It has been widely reported in the media that the state police have searched the home of our client, Aaron Hernandez, as part of an ongoing investigation.  Out of respect for that process, neither we nor Aaron will have any comment about the substance of that investigation until it has come to a conclusion.”

Where does all of this go from here?

That’s not entirely clear at the moment, but there are a few things we can deduce. First, if there is an arrest warrant, police will have to arrange when and where Hernandez will turn himself into authorities. Then police could use the obstruction charge as leverage to compel Hernandez to offer more information or simply use the time to gather additional evidence. Even if reports of the warrant prove to be premature, the one thing we can all safely assume is that this story is far from over.