In a small, cramped, barren tomb of a jail cell, Aaron Hernandez called the final play of his life.
That’s the Bible verse Hernandez scrawled on his forehead just before he wrapped a sheet around his neck and, authorities say, hung himself from the window bars of his cell.
Hernandez wasn’t getting out of jail anytime soon. Even though he was acquitted in a double murder, he still was serving a life sentence for killing his friend, Odin Lloyd. Appeals were coming, and he had high powered lawyers by his side, but an appeal is a long, slow process in which murder raps are rarely overturned.
Call it the ultimate Hail Mary.
So instead of fighting for his freedom, Hernandez – once an all-world athlete with a multi-million dollar contract destined for stardom – decided to give up the game, and that doesn’t make sense to some.
“Especially after him getting acquitted of the double murder. That was a positive thing in our minds,” said Alex Cugno, who grew up with Hernandez in Bristol.
No one knows what drove the athletically gifted Hernandez to murder, and then commit suicide. What we do know is that he ruined the lives of one family, was accused (and acquitted) of laying waste to two more, and even had an unintentional impact on his older brother, who he dearly loved and admired. Combining that with a lifetime of drugs, lies and deception led former New England Patriot Jermaine Wiggins to call Hernandez this:
The Hernandez Family Were Well-known in Bristol
Aaron Josef Hernandez was born November 6, 1989 in Bristol, CT. Ironically, that’s the home of ESPN, which years later would show so many of his on-field highlights and off-field low lights.
His father, Dennis, was a high school custodian. His mother, Terri, a high school secretary. His older brother, Dennis Jonathon, who went by D.J., would eventually be the quarterback for the University of Connecticut Huskies.
The family was well known in Bristol, a community of 60,000 residents just 20 miles southwest of Hartford. Dennis Hernandez along with his twin brother, David, were three-sport stars who ruled the Bristol athletic field long before Aaron came along. Dennis was so good he was nicknamed “King.” The twins each got a scholarship to UConn to play football – but, according to a Rolling Stone report, their careers were cut short by petty crime. They never served time in jail, but they never finished their college careers, either.
Dennis and Terri provided for the family as best they could, but there were all sorts of money and personal problems. Terri once was busted for helping a local bookmaker because she wanted extra money for her family. DJ told Sports Illustrated: “She did it to provide for me and Aaron.” She was never charged in any crime.
Aaron’s relationship with his father is well documented.
They were as close as any father and son could be. Aaron was devoted to his father. He had several of his father’s favorite sayings tattooed on his arm, including, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
“The Hernandez family has had a great impact on Bristol,” the long-time Bristol Central High School Athletics Director Bob DeSantis said in a Sports Illustrated interview. “Their father—the earth, the moon, the sun and the stars set on those two kids. Unbelievable.”
So it’s no surprise everyone took it very hard when, in January 2006, Dennis died from complications from hernia surgery at 49.
Aaron told USA Today: “It was more like a shock. Everyone was close to my father, but I was the closest. I was with him more than my friends. When that happened, who do I talk to, who do I hang with? It was tough.”
Aaron the High School Football Phenom
At the time of his father’s death, Aaron was already well on his way to football stardom. As a sophomore in 2004, he caught 28 balls for 284 yards and five touchdowns and was so promising he was offered – and accepted – a scholarship to play football for his home state Huskies, with the promise of pairing with his quarterback brother.
“It was very, very hard, and he was very, very angry. He wasn’t the same kid, the way he spoke to me. The shock of losing his dad, there was so much anger,” said Hernandez’s mother.
He broke out as a junior, catching 67 passes for 1,807 yards and 24 touchdowns – and he was a force on defense, too, recording 72 tackles — 42 tackles for loss — 12 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four blocked kicks. He was named All-State First-Team, earned All-Conference honors, and named the Hartford Courant Player of the Year.
Other teams started noticing the young Aaron Hernandez, who was rated the No. 1 tight end in the country. He was a smiling, jovial young man who said trying to decide where to attend school made his head spin.
His friends say Hernandez was a jokester always looking to make someone laugh in high school.
“The guy would do anything to crack us up,” said Brandon Beam, who played against Hernandez in practice during their high school days. “Stuff his lunch in his mouth in a single bite, or take a booger that was hanging out and eat that shit.”
As his stock took off, the highly-touted recruit would change his mind after a recruiting trip during that junior season, and just three months after his father died. Hernandez flipped, and he committed to Florida.
So much for playing in Storrs, the home of UConn, about an hour from his home.
His family was devastated.
“When Aaron committed to Florida, his mother called me, and I distinctly remember she was sobbing on the phone,” Shawn Courchesne, a former reporter at the Hartford Courant during his time in high school told Sports Illustrated. “She was so upset that he was not going to UConn.”
Courchesne explained that if Aaron went to UConn, his brother could take him under his wing and look after him.
And right about that time the bottom started falling out for Hernandez. A complicated family life resulting in never-ending drama and grief. Several reports say his mother cheated on his father Dennis with an abusive drug dealer named Jeffrey Cummings, who happened to be married to Dennis’ niece. After Dennis’ death, Terri married Cummings after his divorce was final. (She divorced Cummings after he held her down and slashed her face with a knife, the Hartford Courant reported. There are conflicting reports on whether they’re back together).
Aaron Started Hanging With the Wrong Crowd
With Cummings in the house, Aaron started hanging out at his uncle’s place near the projects, and he came into contact with the town’s underbelly — unsavory characters and small-time crooks who would end up being the kind of influences he didn’t need and eventually made up some of his inner circle. Years later, a photo would surface of a smiling Hernandez flashing what appeared to be the signs of the notorious Bristol Bloods street gang.
“I don’t know when Aaron slipped into involvement with nefarious characters,” Courchesne said. “ I don’t think it was when his father was around because I was always under the impression that his father was the insulation from that crowd.”
Hernandez Becomes a Florida Gator
Still grieving for his father, rebelling against his mother, and making friends he didn’t need to make, Hernandez prepared to head to college.
In Florida, there was no such safety net, and without it, problems soon followed.
Aaron Hernandez left Bristol and its temptations behind at the tender age of 17, but with his close friends also came trouble.
In Gainesville Fl., he got into a fight with a bouncer at an off-campus bar before he was 18. He was charged as a juvenile because of his age and received deferred prosecution. He was questioned in a double shooting in Gainesville, but was never named a suspect. The Washington Post reported that he was cleared in that case. Then, in 2008, he tested positive for marijuana and was suspended for the season opener.
One of those Bristol friends, Ernest Wallace, a grown man 18 years older than Hernandez, ended up with him in Gainesville.
Hernandez was able to fight past the character questions with his play on the field. As a freshman, he wasn’t ready to compete against the nation’s top players in the nation’s top conference, so he committed himself to getting better.
By his sophomore season, he was started to fill out to what would be a 6’2″, 245-pound frame. He caught 34 passes for 381 yards, and then, as a junior in 2009, exploded. He caught 68 passes for 850 yards. He became a main weapon for quarterback Tim Tebow, and they helped lead Florida to the National Championship, a 24-14 victory over Oklahoma.
Hernandez was an All-American who won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end. He declared for the 2010 NFL draft, and should have been a first-round pick.
Things appeared to be going so well, his mother, Terri, said, “He my Aaron again.”
Everyone in the NFL Knew About Hernandez and His Issues
Character questions dogged him. The NFL’s brilliance at uncovering information about its prospective athletes is, arguably, second to none.
“He had multiple positive (drug) tests, so he either had issues or he’s dumb,” an unnamed executive told the Boston Globe. “One or two tests? Fine. But four, five, six? Come on, now you’ve got an addiction. He’s not a bad kid. He just has an issue.’’
And Hernandez’s former coach at Florida, Urban Meyer, had an ominous message for Bill Belichick, the coach of the Patriots.
“Obviously, Coach Belichick’s a friend of mine. Very honest, I just said, ‘You just need to keep an eye on him,'” Meyer, now the head coach at Ohio State, said on the Dan Patrick Show. “Unfortunately you can’t lock them up and keep them away from their homeboys. I guess that’s what happened.”
It was far easier for his buddies to get to Foxboro, which is just 119 miles – or less than two-hour drive – from the streets of Bristol than it was to make the trek down to Florida.
And they succeeded.
The Instability of Aaron Hernandez
Sports Illustrated recounted that his hangers on included a convicted drug dealer with a lengthy criminal record who helped coordinate Hernandez’s schedule, and another shady character who said he feared for his family’s safety.
In addition to the childhood friends, there were other red flags. Scouts throughout football warned that something wasn’t quite right about Hernandez. For example, an NFL scout shared a scouting report on Hernandez with the Boston Globe that included this:
“Self-esteem is quite low; not well-adjusted emotionally, not happy, moods unpredictable, not stable, doesn’t take much to set him off, but not an especially jumpy guy.”
Another college scouting director told USA Today: “He was a con guy. Very believable. Spoke well. A lot of things inside of you hoped you’d turn him around, but people that I talked to said they didn’t trust him, that he’d burn you.”
And, the Wall Street Journal reported that Hernandez’s psych profile gave him the lowest possible score on social maturity. His responses “suggest he enjoys living on the edge of acceptable behavior and that he may be prone to partying too much and doing questionable things that could be seen as a problem for him and his team.”
The Patriots knew what they were getting, and took precautions to protect their investment.
Floyd Reese, who was a senior football adviser for the Patriots when the team drafted Hernandez, told MMQB:
“When we structured his first contract, his rookie contract, we probably had 75 percent of the money in the contract set up so that he would only make it if he stayed out of trouble, didn’t miss meetings, was always there doing the right thing. And for the period of the original contract, he lived up to every bit of it.”
That he did. In 2010, as 21-year-old rookie, he caught 45 passes for 563 yards. He followed that in 2011 with 79 receptions for 910 yards, and when the Patriots went to the Super Bowl , the entire town of Bristol celebrated. His mother was even honored at a local elementary school, and sat in the front row, teary eyed, as her son delivered an inspirational message as the youngsters screamed, “Let’s go Aaron.”
“Keep your head high, stay focused, and be happy. One thing I want to say is I’m glad I was able to talk to you guys … Have a great future and make sure you listen to all of your teachers and do good in school and hopefully the best happens for all you guys.”
On February 5, 2012, the Patriots lost, 21-14, to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI . Tom Brady rode Hernandez in that game, targeting him 14 times. Hernandez caught eight passes for 67 yards – both team highs for that game – and scored a touchdown. Afterwards, an emotional Hernandez summed up the loss like this:
Did Hernandez and Friends Do It?
On July 16, 2012, two men were killed in a drive-by shooting. Five months after that dramatic Super Bowl loss, the families of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado suffered their own heartbreak. The duo left the Cure Nightclub and were shot and killed in Boston.
Police and the victims’ families were dumbfounded. Neither man had ties to gangs or drugs, In addition to the two dead men, there were three other passengers in the back seat – one was shot in the arm. They described a silver SUV with Rhode Island plates rolling up next to them and opening fire.
“My son, he was a good boy; he never hurt anyone, so why did this happen to him?” Maria Teixeira, 58, Furtado’s mother, told the Boston Globe.
Six weeks after the two men were killed, the Patriots handed Hernandez the largest signing bonus ever for any tight end — $12.5 million – as part of a seven-year, $39.5 million contract.
He appeared humble:
“You know there’s a good chance you’re set for life if you handle it the right way,” he said. “It seems so surreal. If it really true? There’s a lot more to give back. All I can do is play my heart out for them, make the right decisions and live like a Patriot.”
After he signed the contract, he wrote a check for $50,000 to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund, and the team owner, Robert Kraft, said:
“I just think he’s a super player and really a first-class guy.”
In 2012, Hernandez only played 10 games because of an ankle injury, but still caught 51 passes for 483 yards. Against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game, Hernandez caught nine passes for 83 yards. No one knew that, with 1:26 left in the game, when he caught a short pass from Brady at the 28-yard line and muscled to the 21 for a first down, we would never see him on the football field again.
That’s because the wheels came off.
Odin Lloyd and The Downfall of Aaron Hernandez
He was born the first of three children in St. Croix and spent some time in Antigua before moving to Dorchester, a Boston neighborhood. He was a star in high school who could have played in college, but didn’t have the money to enroll. That lack of cash was a constant. He rode a bicycle to whatever job he had at the time; when he played semi-pro football for the Boston Bandits, he often couldn’t afford the $75 registration fee.
Lloyd and Hernandez knew each other through two sisters from Bristol – Shayanna and Shaneah Jenkins. Hernandez and Shayanna were high school sweethearts who ended up having a child together; Lloyd – an easy going semi-pro football player — began dating Shaneah.
Hernandez and those two friends from Bristol, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, picked up Lloyd from his home in a rented silver Nissan Altima in the early morning hours of June 17, 2013.
Was Lloyd worried? It sure seemed that way.
When in the car, Lloyd texted his sister, who was inside the home:
“Did you see who that was?” Lloyd asked?
“Who,” his sister replied.
“NFL,” he said in the text. “Just so you know.”
Lloyd would be found dead, in an industrial park, his body riddled with bullets, five shell casings at his feet.
The Drugs and Unraveling of Hernandez
Rolling Stone reported he was doing PCP, and had become so paranoid he began carrying a gun. His behavior became so erratic the Patriots reportedly warned him he was one step away from being cut. And, he started surrounding himself with criminals while cutting off his teammates.
Against the backdrop, he started muttering that he couldn’t trust Lloyd anymore.
Why he couldn’t is open for debate. Early reports said Hernandez was furious that Lloyd struck up a conversation with two men he didn’t like at Club Rumors, the Boston hangout, and viewed that as a sign of disrespect. In the double murder trial of de Abreu and Furtado, prosecutors said Lloyd was killed because he knew too much about the double slayings. After Hernandez’s suicide, another theory came out – Lloyd knew that Hernandez was bi-sexual and the macho NFL player was afraid Lloyd would divulge that information.
“You remember Odin,” Hernandez asked his older brother D.J. (who now goes by Jonathon) in a phone call.
“I just want you to know, because you’re my brother and I love you: He was found, and they’re trying to investigate, and my name is being thrown around,” Aaron said.
The paranoia theme resonated heavily through his trials. Alexander Bradley, a one-eyed drug dealer who said Hernandez shot him in the face because he couldn’t trust him either, testified Hernandez didn’t want to use iPhones because conversations could be easily heard.
And Bradley said, in a hearing, “Oftentimes, he thought he was being followed by a helicopter or tailed by police.”
After Lloyd’s death, one of Hernandez’s friends told Rolling Stone: “Don’t matter what it’s about: Aaron’s out of his mind. He’s been twisted on dust now for more than a year, which is when all of this crazy shit started.”
Hernandez himself seemed to understand he was spiraling out of control. He met with Bill Belichick, the Patriots head coach, at the NFL Combine in February of 2013 to ask for a trade because he felt his life was in danger, and that Bradley, the drug dealer, might try to kill him. Belichick, according to WBTS-TV, the NBC-TV affiliate in Boston, told Hernandez to get another apartment and lay low, and offered to help him with other security measures.
Bradley lost an eye when he was shot in the face a week before the Combine, on February 13, 2013. But at the time, he wouldn’t say who shot him, though he filed a civil suit against Hernandez in June of that year.
One day after Lloyd’s death, police searched Hernandez’s home.
They checked his surveillance footage and found gaps in the tape. They asked for his cell phone, and found that it had been smashed.
Then video surfaced that made a connection – that silver Altima was spotted in front of Lloyd’s house, and then more footage showed Hernandez getting out of the car at his home. His own surveillance footage showed him at his home with a dark object in his hand, and prosecutors tried to convince the jury he was holding a gun.
Aaron Hernandez was arrested on June 26, 2013, and just two hours later, the New England Patriots released him.
Just like that he lost the multi-million contract he had signed just a year earlier.
Robert Kraft, meeting with reporters in Boston, said: “No one in our organization was aware of any of these kind of connections. If it’s true, I’m just shocked,” Kraft said. “Our whole organization has been duped.”
“He swore on his baby’s life he was telling the truth,” The Patriots director of security Mark Briggs would later say at his trial.
Authorities also eventually linked him to the drive-by shooting in Boston.
He traded this, his $7 million mansion, with 7,100 square feet, five bedrooms and six baths …
… for this:
A cell at the Bristol County Jail House of Correction in North Dartmouth, Ma. He lived in a 7×10 foot cell with no air conditioning. He was allowed two books from a library, but was otherwise crammed in that cell for 23 hours a day. And this is what he could expect to eat:
Back home in Bristol, residents were dumbfounded.
Then, the kicker – his buddy, Ortiz, forgot about the rules of the street when self-preservation kicked in. He told authorities that Wallace said Hernandez told him he killed Lloyd.
The Guilty Verdict
On April 15, 2015, the jury found Aaron Hernandez guilty in the death of Odin Lloyd.
His two Bristol buddies, Wallace and Ortiz, would also be found guilty on lesser charges in the case. Wallace was found guilty as an accessory to murder, and Ortiz pled guilty to the same charge. Each received 4.5-7 years in prison.
Lloyd’s mother gave a heart-wrenching victim impact statement at Hernandez’s sentencing hearing.
“Odin was the backbone of the family,” his mother said, in remarks to the court. “Odin was the man of the house. He was his sister’s keeper. Odin was my first best gift I ever received. I thank God every second, and every day of my son’s life that I spent with him.”
“The day I laid my son Odin to rest, I felt my heart stop beating for a moment,” Ward said, her voice catching. “I felt like I wanted to go into that hole with my son, Odin.”
She would later say, “I always wished I was there, to take those bullets for Odin.”
The judge sentenced Hernandez, just 23 years old, to life in prison.
Hernandez was a Delusional Manipulator
Hernandez was taken to MCI Cedar Junction, a holding facility where he would wait until he was transferred. The small, dull quarters had no privacy and a shared toilet. Hernandez had a uniform of grey scrubs and canvas shoes (no laces) and received one dull razor, seven pair of underwear and a pen.
Gillette Stadium was just a mile and half away, but it might as well of been a million.
He had his share of prison battles and rules violations while at Bristol.
In November of 2013, he got in trouble for threatening a guard. In February, 2014, he was involved in a prison fight, and a grand jury eventually indicted him on several charges.
Then in May 2014, he was disciplined after he served as a lookout in a prison fight.
After his stint at MCI, he was sent to the maximum security Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Ma., about an hour west of Boston. While there, he was allowed three visits a week, for one hour at a time.
A man known for his tattoos, Hernandez got some new ones while on the inside that raised eyebrows. There was this one, that had an ominous message:
In August 2015, he was involved in another fight with an inmate while at Baranowski.
Fighting in prison isn’t anything new. In many cases it’s a survival technique; in others, it’s a way to foster identity and command respect.
Michelle Butler’s outstanding scholarly work, “What are you looking at: Prisoner confrontations and the search for respect” reads as if it was written for Hernandez. Among the highlights of her 19-page research paper, published in the British Journal of Criminology:
- Prisoners tend to behave aggressively over incidents of disrespect, threats and challenges to their identity. In particular, behaviors which threaten male prisoners ’masculinity can prompt them to behave aggressively as they attempt to conform to prisoner norms of masculinity and obtain status amongst their male peers.
- …individuals who are secure in their identity are believed to be less inclined to use aggression as a (defense) mechanism, as their positive relationships with others provide them with a sense of self-worth and self-confidence…
- …violent men tend to engage in confrontations as they attempt to distract their attention away from feelings of psychological anxiety and return a sense of power and agency to the self…
- …insults and incidents of disrespect are believed to ‘ trigger ’aggressive behavior…
Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, the Bristol County Sheriff, seemed to echo some of her findings:
“I found him to be a very skilled manipulator and someone who is probably the best I’ve ever seen at using his charm to get whatever it is that he needs. His trigger, to me, has something to do with disrespect…“
Aaron Hernandez and His “Illogical Sense of Being Disrespected”
Disrespect seemed to be a main theme running through Hernandez’s life.
In a court filing in the Lloyd case, prosecutors said Hernandez felt disrespected by his former friend, Alexander Bradley, so he shot him in the face and blinded him in one eye (Hernandez was never charged, but Bradley filed a civil suit and detailed the shooting during the double-murder trial).
Prosecutors, in his double murder trial, said Hernandez felt disrespected when Daniel de Abreu bumped into him at a Boston nightclub, and Hernandez spilled his drink. The prosecutor in the case, Patrick Haggan, told jurors in closing arguments that Hernandez had an “illogical sense of being disrespected.”
And while in prison, he seemed to deteriorate, mentally anyway. In a rambling, three-page letter to a fan who wrote him asking for his autograph – and obtained by TMZ — he told her she should kill herself.
“Tie a cinderblock to your ankles and jump in a deep body of water!
Make a noose, tie it from the railing of a second level staircase, put your neck through it, make sure its very tight and jump!
Buy the most powerfall (sic) firecrackers in the world that’s possible to buy, tie it to your face with duct tape, light it and wait for your head to explode.”
He also lashed out at Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who took a chance on him, trusted him, heaped him with praise – until the real Hernandez burst out of his shell and showed his true colors.
“Fake (expletive) non loyal Kraft who told me he loved me every time he seen me but obviously shows his word ain’t (expletive),” Hernandez wrote in one of his jailhouse tirades.
So it could very well be that, on April 14, 2017, when he was found not guilty of the de Abreu and Safiro Furtado murders, he found a modicum of respect from a jury who barely had heard of him, or hadn’t heard of him at all, saw him as nothing more than a man on trial for his life.
As his not guilty verdict was being read, for one of the few times during any of his trials, he showed some emotion when his face scrunched up, as if we was about to shed a tear.
But the verdict wasn’t all that clean. In a damning assessment, the jury forewoman, Lindsey Stringer, told the Boston Globe:
“I want to be very clear that a verdict of ‘not guilty’ does not mean that we declared Aaron Hernandez innocent … There were basically differences of opinion on the level of potential involvement”
Immediately after the verdict, Hernandez was hustled back to his tiny cell. Maybe he played chess — which he took up behind bars — or went back to his books. He’d become a voracious reader behind bars, soaking up the words like a sponge does water. One of his favorite books — “The Secret,” a best selling self-help book. Rhonda Byrne, the author, starts the foreword like this:
“A year ago, my life had collapsed around me. I’d worked myself into exhaustion, my father died suddenly and my relationships with my work colleagues and loved ones were in turmoil. Little did I know at the time, out of my greatest despair was to come the greatest gift.”
The Death of Aaron Hernandez
Hernandez’s fiancee and mother to his baby girl, Shayanna Jenkins – who had taken his last name, even though they weren’t married – was the last person to talk to Hernandez, their call ending at 8 p.m. on April 18.
The next known fact is that a guard doing a cell check found Hernandez at 3:05 a.m. with a sheet wrapped around his neck. There have been reports that Hernandez smoked a powerful synthetic marijuana before he died, or that he put soap on the floor to make it slippery and harder to escape the hanging. An autopsy report confirmed the synthetic drug use, but the report about the soap has not been confirmed.
He was found with John 3:16 scrawled on his head, and a bible next to his limp body that was open to this bible verse:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Three Suicide Notes Found in His Cell
One of the notes was reportedly written to his four-year-daughter; one to his fiancee; and while the report didn’t mention the recipient of the third note several media sources have reported it was to his gay prison lover; others have insisted it was written to his attorney. The notes will be released to his family.
Was Aaron Hernandez Bi-Sexual?
The inmate at the center of the bi-sexual rumors, Kyle Kennedy, 22, called Hernandez a “great friend” and made the remarks through his attorney, Larry Army., Jr. But he would not go further in discussing their relationship:
“I miss my friend,” Kennedy said in the statement issued through Army. “I’d like to send my condolences to his fiancee, his mother and his daughter. I would ask the media to respect the privacy of my family. This is a private matter that doesn’t concern them.”
Newsday delved deeper in Hernandez’s supposed bisexuality. The newspaper reported that Hernandez had a male lover in high school who was forced to testify before a grand jury in the Odin Lloyd death; that right before his arrest he moved money into accounts for his daughter, fiancee, and the high school friend; and that now, authorities are investigating whether his sex life could have been a motive for Lloyd’s murder. In other words, Lloyd knew, and Hernandez was afraid he’d out him.
And, there’s one other wrinkle involving Kennedy. His lawyer said that, weeks before his death, Hernandez wrote his friend a letter that said:
“I think I’m going to hang it up.”
Aaron Hernandez’s Life and Death, One of Many Contradictions, Left Pain Everywhere.
The wounds cut deep in Bristol. Hernandez, the favored son and Super Bowl hero, will always have a place in the hearts of the people there. His friends have been ripped apart by the murders and his suicide, and have been badly hurt by the angry messages and tasteless memes people have left on social media. The jokes and memes are too despicable to repeat.
On her Facebook page, Hernandez’s cousin, Davina, even warned about someone she called a scammer trying to collect money for Aaron’s arrangements.
And while the internet trolls came out to denigrate the dead, these voices – ones who might not expect – had another message:
Ursula Ward, the mother of Odin Lloyd said said during the victim impact statement: “I forgive the hands of the people who had a hand in my son’s murder, even before or after… And I pray and hope that someday everyone out there will forgive them also.”
Ernesto Abreu, the father of Daniel de Abreu, told the Boston Globe: “I’m not happy about his death. It’s actually a shame. Any loss of life is a shame. I believe in leaving things in God’s hands.”
The family buried Aaron Hernandez on Monday, April 24. It was supposed to be a small, private gathering, but people showed up to voice support for the family.
“My heart immediately broke for D.J. and his mother and the rest of his family that truly loves Aaron,” Kristen St. John, a family friend, told the New York Daily News. “It’s a sad day for the city of Bristol. My heart breaks for Shayanna, too. She stuck by him. Poor Avi will have to carry this with her her whole life. His name is not going to be forgotten.”
After the funeral, one of Hernandez’s attorneys gave a brief statement.
“The family of Aaron Hernandez wishes to thank the public for its thoughtful expressions of condolences,” Ronald Sullivan told reporters outside the funeral home.
Later, about 100 people from Bristol gathered for a candlelight vigil at a local football field. They counted to three, and released 60 balloons in the air.
Now, those closest to Aaron Hernandez are left to pick up the pieces of their lives. His older brother D.J. was a graduate assistant coach for the University of Iowa, but quit the job. He wanted to become a head coach but couldn’t get an interview because no school wanted the distraction as the murder case worked its way through the system. He worked as a roofer for a while, but is now the head coach of Ledyard (CT) High School, a school just over an hour away from his old Bristol stomping grounds.
His mother, Terri, who wailed screaming in her living room as cops hauled away her youngest son in handcuffs, has now lost a husband and a son. His baby girl won’t really know him, and the final picture she may have anywhere near him is this, in which he’s blowing her a kiss in court:
And for those on the outside looking in, there will always be doubt.
Jannell Commeau, who said she went to school with Hernandez, told WTIC-TV, “Nobody thinks he really did it. I don’t think he really did it. I don’t think he would’ve killed himself. You just do not do that when you just got found innocent. You don’t do that.”
Just 11 days after the double murder in Boston, a Boston Globe reporter asked Hernandez how his summer was going. His response, in part:
… You just have to be careful about what you do. If you’re out there and being reckless and doing some crazy stuff, then that’s your own stupidity.”