Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison Wednesday in a deadly late-night shooting, sealing the downfall of an athlete who once had a $40 million contract and a standout career ahead of him.
Hernandez, 25, looked to his right, pursed his lips and sat down after the jury forewoman pronounced him guilty in the slaying of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old landscaper and amateur weekend football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee. The conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole and automatically triggers an appeal to Massachusetts’ highest court.
Hernandez’s mother, Terri, and his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, cried and gasped when they heard the verdict, and Lloyd’s mother also cried. Jenkins wept loudly on his mother’s shoulder. Hernandez, his eyes red, mouthed to them: “Be strong. Be strong.”
The former football pro was also found guilty on weapons charges. Jurors deliberated for 36 hours over seven days before rendering their verdict.
“The jury found that he was just a man who committed a brutal murder,” District Attorney Thomas Quinn said. “The fact that he was a professional athlete meant nothing in the end.”
For reasons that were never made clear to the jury, Lloyd was shot six times in the middle of the night on June 17, 2013, in a deserted industrial park near Hernandez’s home in North Attleborough.
Police almost immediately zeroed in on Hernandez because they found in Lloyd’s pocket the key to a car the NFL player had rented. Within hours of Hernandez’s arrest, the Patriots cut the former Pro Bowl athlete, who was considered one of the top tight ends in the game