By Richard Valdmanis
BOSTON (Reuters) - Former National Football League star Aaron Hernandez has been charged with murder in connection with the July 2012 shooting of two men in Boston, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said on Thursday.
The former tight end for the New England Patriots is already in jail awaiting trial on charges he and two accomplices shot a man to death last June. The Patriots released Hernandez from the team hours after his arrest in that case.
Conley said of the new charges that Hernandez used a handgun to "ambush and execute" Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, two Cape Verdean nationals, after they had left a Boston nightclub and were driving home on July 16, 2012.
"Unbeknownst to them, Hernandez followed them traveling in an SUV. When the victims' car stopped at a red light ... the SUV pulled up beside the victims' car on the right. Aaron Hernandez then fired a .38-caliber revolver multiple times from the driver's side of his vehicle into the passenger side of the victims' vehicle," Conley said.
He said Abreu died from a bullet wound to the chest and Furtado died from one to the head. Three other people in the car with them survived, he said.
Conley said that investigators had found no evidence that Hernandez knew Furtado or Abreu before they met at the nightclub. He also dismissed earlier media reports the victims were involved in gang activity.
"Neither of them were involved in guns, gangs or crime of any kind," Conley said.
Hernandez's arraignment on the charges, which also include assault and firearms violations, has not yet been scheduled. His attorney was not immediately available to comment.
Investigators linked Hernandez to the double-murder after their investigation of the death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, who was found shot to death in an industrial park near Hernandez's house in South Attleboro, Massachusetts, last June. Hernandez was previously charged in Lloyd's murder and is being held at the Bristol County Jail awaiting trial.
"From last June forward, there were a number of significant developments in the investigation, including the recovery of the car Hernandez used in the murders, and which he later hid in a relative's garage," he said.
The murder charges are a setback for the NFL. Despite efforts to protect itself from controversy, the league has been dragged into a string of scandals by players stretching from O.J. Simpson's murder trial in 1995 to more recent cases involving dog fighting, injury bounties, spying and gambling.
Hernandez had been seen as a rising star in the league and had a contract with the Patriots worth about $40 million.
(Reporting by Richard Valdmanis; editing by Nick Zieminski and G Crosse)