(BOSTON) — Investigators probing the execution-style murder of a semi-pro football player have not ruled out New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez as a suspect, several law enforcement sources told ABC News.
Hernandez has been at the center of the investigation since the body of his friend Odin Lloyd, 27, was found shot in the back of the head in a clearing of an industrial park roughly a mile from the Patriots star’s million-dollar mansion in North Attleborough, Mass., Monday afternoon.
Police believe Lloyd was killed between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. Monday, but his body was not found until 5:30 p.m. by a teenage jogger, several law enforcement sources told ABC News on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the case.
“He [Hernandez] has not been ruled out. We are not calling him a suspect, but he is definitely not in the clear,” said one police official close to the investigation.
An attorney for Hernandez, Michael Fee, has not commented on the investigation but released a statement saying: “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.”
State Police searched the Hernandez home that he shares with his girlfriend Shayanna Jenkins, the mother of his infant daughter, with a warrant several times. Hernandez was seen going inside the house Wednesday with his mother and has not emerged since.
Jenkins’ sister, Shanea Jenkins, was dating Lloyd, who played for the semi-pro football team Boston Bandits, several law enforcement sources told ABC News.
Shanea Jenkins could not be found in the aftermath of her boyfriend’s murder, and investigators were concerned for her safety. Police were able to locate her on Wednesday, the sources said.
Investigators have also searched three Enterprise rental cars that were registered to the NFL star, including one that had its silver mirror knocked off. That vehicle, sources said, was recovered at an Enterprise location in Boston Wednesday, a day after police issued a BOLO [Be On The Lookout] for it. The sources said it had been dropped off abruptly sometime Tuesday with the broken mirror.
Another rental vehicle was recovered not far from Lloyd’s body. A third rental was stopped from pulling out of Hernandez’s driveway Tuesday by state police and its two occupants were questioned and released. Police were seen searching that car Tuesday night.
In another development in the case, ABC News has learned from investigative sources that Hernandez had partied with Lloyd at a Boston nightclub Friday night into Saturday morning. Police reviewed surveillance video Wednesday that was taken at that club.
Police are also investigating “other incidents of violence” that Hernandez is suspected of being involved in, two sources told ABC News.
Hernandez is being sued by a former friend who lost his eye after he claims the Patriots player shot him in the face in February. A lawsuit in that case stated that Hernandez “possessed a gun he was not legally licensed to have.”
In the lawsuit initially filed in federal court on June 13, attorneys representing Alexander Bradley, 32, said that Hernandez and several others were at Tootsie’s strip club in Miami on Feb. 13 when Bradley and Hernandez got into an argument. The group then left the club, and while driving towards Palm Beach, Hernandez’s gun discharged inside the vehicle.
“It fired, and a bullet went through my client’s arm and blew out his right eye,” attorney David Jaroslawicz told ABC News. “It has been enucleated — replaced with a prosthetic eye. He has also lost use of his right arm.”
The victim, however, apparently did not tell Palm Beach County sheriffs, who responded that the shooter was his friend Aaron Hernandez. The tight end’s name is not mentioned on the police report.
The Patriots have been tight-lipped about the investigation into Hernandez, who has spent the off-season recovering from a shoulder scope. A team official, Stacey James, said the team would not be commenting on the case citing on the ongoing investigation.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Meera Senthilingam, CNN
Lisa France, CNN
Madison Park, CNN
Kevin Liptak, CNN