By ERIKA NIEDOWSKI, Associated Press
NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) _ State police returned to the home of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez on Wednesday, two days after a body was found about a mile away.
Two troopers knocked on the door of Hernandez’s sprawling house in an upscale subdivision Wednesday morning, but no one answered. The night before, police spent hours there as another group of officers searched an industrial park where the body was found Monday. No more details about the body have been released.
Sports Illustrated, citing an unidentified source, reported that Hernandez was not believed to be a suspect in what was being treated as a possible homicide. The magazine said police had spoken with Hernandez.
State police referred questions to Bristol District Attorney Sam Sutter’s office, which declined to comment.
Sports Illustrated reported that the link between Hernandez and the case was a rented Chevrolet Suburban with Rhode Island plates that police had been searching for. The Associated Press could not independently confirm the report.
“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,” Hernandez attorney Michael Fee said in a statement. “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.”
Later Wednesday, at least seven state troopers searched both sides of a road just off the street where Hernandez lives. The officers used thin poles to pull back plants and search through undergrowth along the road.
Hernandez is represented by the Athletes First agency, which said it has no comment “on the Aaron Hernandez situation.” His mother said by phone from Connecticut on Tuesday she had no knowledge of a case involving him.
“I am aware of the reports, but I do not anticipate that we will be commenting publicly during an ongoing police investigation,” Patriots spokesman Stacey James said.
Hernandez returned home during the early afternoon Wednesday, wearing a Patriots sweatshirt, red hat and carrying what looked like a sports drink. He did not speak to a crowd of media staked out about 100 feet away.
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.
On Tuesday night, some police officers stood on the front steps of Hernandez’s home and others could be seen inside. Some walked around the driveway and in the garage with flashlights. Before wrapping up their work for the night, one officer took a box out of the massive house.
North Attleborough is south of Boston on the Rhode Island state line, not far from the Patriots’ stadium in Foxboro.
In 38 games, the 6-foot-1, 245-pound Hernandez has 175 receptions for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns. 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. The Patriots have not said which shoulder was operated on.
Last summer, the Patriots gave Hernandez a five-year contract. It was worth $40 million, according to reports, and came just months after the team locked up Gronkowski, through 2019.
“Aaron’s improved a lot,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said at the time. “He’s worked hard, he’s improved a lot in all phases of the game _ the passing game, the running game, protection and his overall versatility. He’s doing a good job for us.”
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Associated Press Writer Bridget Murphy contributed to this report.