BRISTOL-- In opening statements Thursday during the Aaron Hernandez trial, his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut was mentioned more than once.
Many in town are still mesmerized by the former Patriots' star and are following his murder trial closely. The Riverside restaurant in downtown Bristol had many patrons watching the opening of the trial.
"Right now he looks cool, calm and collected, I think he feels he's innocent or could appreciate what he really did," said Bristol resident Herb Wedler.
"It's fascinating because he's from our hometown, he was a big all star in football and everyone looked up to him," said Monica Gomez, a 2010 Bristol Central High School graduate.
In his opening remarks, Hernandez's attorney, Michael Fee, referred to Bristol as a tough place where people and police don't always trust each other.
Aaron's family no longer lives at the Greystone Avenue home where he grew up. A neighbor told Fox CT that Hernandez's mother moved out months ago.
Bristol Sports Hall of Fame President Jack Hines knows the Hernandez family. "For those of us who know the family, we feel for them, to a certain extent because they in many ways are victims, too," Hines said.
Herb and Trudi Wedler have lived in Bristol for years. Like many, they've followed the football star's career, and every step of the former Patriot's legal battles; as have their three grown children. "We've gotten together and all we talk about it, these are different generations. We watched him, we watched him grow," said Trudi Wedler.
Many feel the Hernandez's legal troubles have cast a shadow upon the city of Bristol.
"There was a time where people would say you're from Bristol, that's the home of ESPN. Now they remember. It's the home of ESPN and also the home of individuals like Aaron who've had their share of troubles," Hines said.
Hines added that whether Hernandez is eventually found guilty or not guilty, the city may rest easier when the case ends. "In a strange way there's some closure in a way that the case is finally being heard," Hines said.