June 21, 2013

Family seeks answers in death linked to Patriots' star

Police reportedly said Aaron Hernandez destroyed evidence connected to a Massachusetts homicide.

The Associated Press

NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. — At least one company yanked an endorsement deal from New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez on Friday as puzzled family members of a friend found slain a mile from Hernandez's home sought answers about how he died.

click image to enlarge

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez reacts during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Foxborough, Mass. in December 2012. State and local police spent hours at the home of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez on Tuesday as another group of officers searched an industrial park about a mile away where a body was discovered the day before.

AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File

click image to enlarge

Massachusetts State Police dig for evidence on Thursday at the site in an industrial park in North Attleborough, Mass., where the body of Odin Lloydwas found earlier this week.

AP / The Sun Chronicle, Mark Stockwell

Police have searched in and around Hernandez's sprawling home in North Attleborough, not far from where the Patriots practice, but a court clerk said that as of Friday afternoon no arrest warrants had been issued in the case. The Bristol County district attorney has not released any information, other than saying the death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd was being treated as a homicide.

A jogger found Lloyd's body in an industrial park Monday. Family members said Friday that Lloyd had been dating Hernandez's fiancee's sister for about two years. They said the two men were friends who were together the night Lloyd died.

Police in nearby Providence, R.I., said they had assisted Massachusetts state police and North Attleborough police with activity related to the Hernandez investigation at a strip club named Club Desire. It was unclear if they believed Lloyd and Hernandez might have been at the club in the days before Lloyd died. A reporter was escorted out of the club Friday afternoon before she could speak with employees or patrons.

Family members have said Lloyd, 27, was never in trouble.

"I want the person that killed my son to be brought to justice," said Lloyd's mother, Ursula Ward. "That's my first-born child, my only boy child, and they took him away from me. ... I wouldn't trade him for all the money in the world. And if money could bring him back I would give this house up to bring my son back. Nothing can bring my son back."

Family members said they had heard from Lloyd's girlfriend but not from Hernandez after Lloyd's death. They are anxiously awaiting an arrest in the case.

"We're just hoping for justice," cousin Marsha Martin said. "We don't want Odin to have died in vain."

Hernandez's attorney Michael Fee has acknowledged media reports about the state police search of his Hernandez's home but said he wouldn't have any comment on it.

Attleboro District Court clerk magistrate Mark E. Sturdy said three search warrants were issued in the investigation earlier in the week but have not been returned, meaning they're not public. He said no arrest warrants had been filed in state courts by the time court closed at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

Hernandez was gone from his home for most of the day Friday, including when two state police officers knocked on his door. He returned home with his attorney around 5 p.m.

Patriots spokesman Stacey James has said the team does not anticipate commenting publicly during the police investigation. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was waiting for the legal process to take its course.

CytoSport, a Benicia, Calif.-based company that makes Muscle Milk and other supplements for athletes, said Friday it was ending Hernandez's endorsement contract, effective immediately, because of the investigation.

The Patriots drafted Hernandez out of Florida in 2010. Since then, he has combined with Rob Gronkowski to form one of the top tight end duos in the NFL. He missed 10 games last season with an ankle injury and had shoulder surgery in April but is expected to be ready for training camp. Last summer, the Patriots gave him a five-year contract worth $40 million.

Hernandez said after he was drafted that he had failed a drug test while with the Gators and had been upfront with NFL teams about the issue.

Earlier this week, a man filed a lawsuit in South Florida claiming Hernandez shot him in the face after they argued at a strip club there.

Alexander Bradley's lawsuit accuses Hernandez of negligence, among other things, suggesting that the shooting may have been accidental. Bradley said he lost his right eye and suffers many other lingering effects from the shooting.

A spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County sheriff's office said Friday that investigators would need to speak with Bradley to move forward with a criminal investigation and cannot rely on the claims he made in his lawsuit. The spokeswoman, Teri Barbera, said Bradley repeatedly refused to cooperate in the criminal probe after he was shot in February, telling detectives he didn't know who shot him.

Hernandez's attorney did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

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