The most damning evidence that helped prosecutors prove ex-NFL player Aaron Hernandez guilty of murder

A Massachusetts jury on Wednesday found ex-NFL player Aaron Hernandez guilty of first-degree murder.

Hernandez, 25, formerly a tight end for the New England Patriots, stood accused of killing semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd, 27, whom Hernandez knew socially, in 2013. Hernandez also faces separate double-homicide charges from 2012, potentially linked to Lloyd’s death.

In opening statements at the start of the trial, the prosecution, led by assistant district attorney Patrick Bomberg, laid out its argument — that Hernandez and two of his associates drove Lloyd to an industrial park close to Hernandez’s house and then shot him six times.

Through a variety of physical evidence — including video surveillance of Hernandez the morning of the killing — the state successfully argued that Hernandez “orchestrated” Lloyd’s death.

The whole situation allegedly began with a text exchange.

Text Messages

The screenshot above shows text messages from Hernandez (labelled as “Dis N—a”) on Lloyd’s phone. The whole conversation, permissible as a result of a search warrant against Hernandez, reads:

Hernandez (9:05 pm): “I’m coming to grab that tonight u gon b around I need dat and we could step for a little again”

[no answer]

Hernandez (9:34 pm): “Waddup.”

Lloyd (9:37 pm): “Aite, where.”

Hernandez (9:39 pm): “idk it don’t matter but imma hit u when I’m dat way like Las time if my phone dies imma hit u when I charge it which will be in a lil.”

Lloyd (10:00 pm): “Aite idk anything goin on”

Hernandez (10:13 pm): “I’ll figure it out ill hit u on way.”

Lloyd (12:22 am): “We still on.”

The exchange implied that Hernandez had invited Lloyd out that night. Hernandez’s defence, led by Michael Fee, however, tried to spin the conversation as proof of a close friendship between the men in hopes the jury would question Hernandez’s motive for the crime.

Video Surveillance

The image above shows a Nissan Altima, rented in Hernandez’s name, outside Lloyd’s house at 2:33 a.m. on June 17, the day of Lloyd’s death. Hernandez allegedly picked Lloyd up, and the prosecution showed a series of text messages Lloyd sent to his sister indicating he was with someone referred to as “NFL” before he died.

Aaron Hernandez arriving home

Screenshot from court

Shortly after that, video surveillance shows Hernandez returning home, without Lloyd. Hernandez apparently lives a “two-minute drive” from the industrial park where Lloyd’s body was found.

Aaron Hernandez with gun

Screenshot via court

The screenshot above, from Hernandez’s personal home-surveillance footage, showed Hernandez walking through his house, shortly after returning without Lloyd, carrying a dark shape in his hands. The prosecution wanted the jury to believe it was a gun — a Glock, even more specifically.

Although police never recovered the weapon used to shoot Lloyd, five .45-calibre shell casings were found at the scene of the crime. The investigation also found that the same firearm, with characteristics consistent with a Glock, fired all the shots, according to Bomberg. Another casing, found in the Nissan Altima that Hernandez rented, even showed evidence of the former Patriot’s DNA.

More evidence linking Hernandez to the crime emerged after opening statements, as well.

During the trial

The image from the trial above shows blue bubble gum stuck to the shell casing of a .45 calibre handgun, which matched several shell casings police bagged near Lloyd’s body, North Attleboro police detective Michael Elliott told the court.

Elliot also testified that a rental car company worker told him she had thrown away several items from a Nissan Altima rented in Aaron Hernandez’s name. Police then searched the trash bin and found the blue bubble gum attached to a shell casing.

Keelia Smith, the manager of the North Attleboro Enterprise, testified that she found the items and threw them away. She also told the court that Hernandez, at some point, offered her a piece of blue bubble gum.

Prosecutors had proof that Hernandez bought Blue Cotton Candy Bubblicious bubble gum at a gas station hours before Lloyd’s death.

The trial image above shows North Attleboro Police Detective Daniel Arrighi looking into a paper bag with a towel found near Odin Lloyd’s body.

Surveillance footage taken the night of Lloyd’s death showed one of Hernandez’s alleged accomplices (who face their own trial) at a gas station with the same towel around his neck.

The failed defence

In criminal trials, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution, meaning the jury had to find Hernandez guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Motive for the crime makes up a significant portion of that argument, and during the trial, the defence tried to stir up doubt about Hernandez’s reasons for committing the crime.

At the time, Hernandez had a sizable football contract with the New England Patriots and was making wedding plans with his girlfriend Shayanna Jenkins. On top of that, the defence said, Hernandez and Odin were close friends who smoked marijuana and chased women together. Lloyd, known as the “blunt master,” even rolled weed for Hernandez, Fee mentioned casually during opening statements.

“In June of 2013,” Fee said, “Aaron Hernandez was planning a future, not a murder.”

Despite his defence’s best efforts, Hernandez will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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