Families of 2 victims in Aaron Hernandez case finally get some answers

Eric Adelson

Safiro Furtado was taking the first steps of the classic American journey. He arrived in the U.S. early in 2012 from the tiny nation of Cape Verde on a work visa, settled in Dorchester, Mass., and started to get to know a foreign world.

He had some family around him and made friends. There was a restaurant down the street that served a familiar fried yucca, there was a soccer field a half-mile away where he could play the sport he loved. He had a foundation for a new life. He had a home.

Then, on July 16 of that year, he and a man named Daniel Abreu were out at a Boston club. They left after midnight with some friends. Their car came to a red light and a 4Runner pulled up alongside. Moments later, in a hail of bullets, Furtado and Abreu were dead.

For months there were no answers. Furtado, who was 29, was a hard worker and a caring young man. What kind of trouble could he have gotten into? His family would sit on the porch steps of his Dorchester home, day after day, and wonder.

On Thursday, nearly two years after Furtado's death, there is finally real hope that all the wondering will end. Aaron Hernandez, a former football player for the New England Patriots, has been indicted for the murders of both Furtado and Abreu. Hernandez's attorney has said he will enter a not guilty plea at an upcoming arraignment. The Suffolk County grand jury believes it was Hernandez who pulled the trigger and ended two American dreams.

"This is a very hard time for all of us," Susan Vincente, a cousin of Furtado, told the Boston Globe on Thursday afternoon. "Right now, I can't even talk."

This isn't much of a blessing for the families involved; their loved ones are gone. But it's still important. People in the neighborhood had no idea why Furtado and Abreu died, and it was easy to assume something nefarious. There were several questions, both frustratingly probing and sadly vague. What were they doing out that late? Whose car was it? How would they have become involved with Hernandez? Was it gang related?

Those questions and assumptions come all too easily when the victim is poor or an immigrant. Not only could he not answer for himself but those around him couldn't answer either. They couldn't make the speculation go away because they had no idea. They ardently defended their family member, but the sad truth is, they didn't know him all that well either. Furtado was just getting started in the U.S. He barely spoke English.

Last year, when Yahoo Sports visited the family on their stoop in Dorchester, Furtado's loved ones seemed suspended in time. They sat and talked like they did when Furtado was there. They played with the neighborhood children Furtado would play with.

"Who died?" one asked.

Across the street, there was an old man in a chair with a mesh bag full of soccer balls. He used to walk with Furtado to the field, almost every day. There would be no soccer on that day.

"I remember him sitting here on the steps," said Isadora Centeio, one of Furtado's cousins. "It's difficult to sit outside. I can feel his presence."

Most of Furtado's relatives refused to give interviews on that day. There was little trust of the media, little trust of the cops, and a little less trust of America in general. If someone in a lavish area was shot and killed, and if there were no immediate answers as to why, it would be all over the news and there would be a rush to fact-find. Here, there seemed to be little alacrity. If it weren't a famous American who killed this anonymous Cape Verdean, the news media would not have shown up at all.

But on this Thursday, nearly two years later, there is hopefully a little less despondency in Dorchester. Now, when children ask about the photo the family has kept of Furtado, with his shaven head, the button-down shirt and the expressionless face, there is a more complete story they can hear. He died at the beginning of what should have been a great American story. That story ended in Mt. Hope, the graveyard for the area's indigent where a young man is buried. Safiro Furtado's memory lives on though, a little bit clearer after all this time.