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Aaron Josef Hernandez (November 6, 1989 – April 19, 2017) was an American football tight end in the National Football League (NFL) and convicted murderer. A productive player during his three seasons with the New England Patriots, his career came to an abrupt end after his arrest and conviction for the murder of Odin Lloyd. Recognized as an All-American at the University of Florida, Hernandez was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Alongside teammate Rob Gronkowski, he formed one of the league's most dominant tight-end duos, becoming the first pair of tight ends to score at least five touchdowns each in consecutive seasons for the same team. He made one Super Bowl appearance in XLVI.
Hernandez with the Patriots in 2011
|No. 85, 81|
|Born:||(1989-11-06)November 6, 1989|
|Died:||April 19, 2017(2017-04-19) (aged 27)|
|Height:||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|Weight:||245 lb (111 kg)|
|High school:||Bristol Central|
|NFL Draft:||2010 / Round: 4 / Pick: 113|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
Aaron Josef Hernandez (November 6, 1989 – April 19, 2017) was an American football tight end in the National Football League (NFL) and convicted murderer. A productive player during his three seasons with the New England Patriots, his career came to an abrupt end after his arrest and conviction for the murder of Odin Lloyd.
Recognized as an All-American at the University of Florida, Hernandez was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Alongside teammate Rob Gronkowski, he formed one of the league's most dominant tight-end duos, becoming the first pair of tight ends to score at least five touchdowns each in consecutive seasons for the same team. He made one Super Bowl appearance in XLVI.
During the 2013 off-season, Hernandez was arrested and charged for the murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional player who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancée. Following his arrest, he was immediately released by the Patriots. Hernandez was found guilty of first-degree murder in 2015 and sentenced to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center. While on trial for Lloyd's murder, he was also indicted for the 2012 double homicide of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, but was acquitted after a 2017 trial.
Days after being acquitted of the double homicide, Hernandez was found dead in his cell. His death was ruled a suicide. His conviction for Lloyd's murder was initially vacated under the doctrine of abatement ab initio because Hernandez died during its appeal, but was reinstated in 2019 following an appeal from prosecutors and the Lloyd family.
Aaron Josef Hernandez was born in Bristol, Connecticut, and raised on Greystone Avenue. He was the son of Dennis Hernandez, of Puerto Rican descent, and Terri Valentine-Hernandez, of Italian descent. As an adult, Hernandez remembered his mother throwing his father out of the house on multiple occasions, but always letting him back in. The couple married in 1986, divorced in 1991, and remarried in 1996. In 1991, they filed for bankruptcy. Hernandez would later say there was constant fighting going on in the home. Both parents would be arrested and involved in crime during their lives.
Hernandez had an older brother, Dennis Jonathan Jr., known as D.J. Their father pushed them to excel, including through sports, but was often abusive towards both the boys and their mother. Publicly, their father projected an image of someone who had some run ins with the police but turned his life around to become a good father and citizen.
Hernandez's father died in January 2006 from complications from hernia surgery when Hernandez was 16. According to his mother, Hernandez was greatly affected by his father's death, and he acted out his grief by rebelling against authority figures. Those who knew him said he never got over his father's death.
Hernandez became estranged from his mother following his father's death, and largely moved in with Tanya Singleton, his older cousin. Following Dennis' death, the family learned that Terri and Singleton's husband, Jeff Cummings, had been having an affair. After the affair became public Singleton and Cummings divorced, and Cummings moved in with Terri. This "enraged" Hernandez. It was while he was living with Singleton that Hernandez became more involved with a criminal crowd.
In a jailhouse conversation, Hernandez accused Terri of failing to obtain medication for his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which he said caused him to struggle in school. In another call, he told her, "There's so many things I would love to talk to you [about], so you can know me as a person. But I never could tell you. And you're gonna die without even knowing your son."
The beatings Hernandez's father gave him and his brother were sometimes for no reason at all or were alcohol related, but often came when their father believed they were not trying hard enough in school or athletics. D.J. and Hernandez lived in constant fear of their father, but they also revered him. Hernandez once came to school with a black eye that his coach believed came from his father. His father also once punched Hernandez's youth football coach after a dispute about coaching methods.
Hernandez was sexually molested as a child. An older child forced Hernandez to perform oral sex on him beginning when Hernandez was six years old and continuing for several years. A college girlfriend said that "he never dealt with [the sexual abuse]. It led to issues in his sexuality."
Hernandez attended Bristol Central High School. He played for the Bristol Rams football team as a wide receiver until becoming a tight end, and also played defensive end. As a senior, he was Connecticut's Gatorade Football Player of the Year after making 67 receptions for 1,807 yards and 24 touchdowns on offense and 72 tackles, 12 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and four blocked kicks on defense.
The 1,807 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns were state records. Hernandez's 31 career touchdowns tied the state record. He also set the state record for receiving yards in a single game with 376, the seventh-best in national high school history; he set a national high school record for yards receiving per game with 180.7. Hernandez was considered the top tight-end recruit in 2007 by Scout.com. Hernandez was not known for working hard as a child, but by high school, when he was nearly 6'2" tall, he would be working harder than anyone else on the team.
Hernandez was popular in school. He first began dating his eventual fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, during high school. The two had known each other since elementary school. He also smoked a large quantity of marijuana, smoking before school, practices, and games. His social life also included "a sizable amount of drinking" in addition to the marijuana.
At first, Hernandez committed to play at the University of Connecticut with his brother D.J., but ultimately chose to play for the University of Florida under head coach Urban Meyer. Meyer flew to Bristol and convinced Hernandez's principal to allow him to graduate more than a semester early. This allowed Hernandez to move to Florida, join the team, and learn the playbook shortly after his 17th birthday. The Boston Globe would later opine that
There was no way, except physically, he was ready for this. The young man who came to Gainesville wasn't academically prepared or emotionally grounded for college life, according to previously undisclosed college records and recordings of phone calls Hernandez later made from jail. He had graduated high school more than a semester early — not because he was a great student but because he was a great football player. ... The athletic gifts were obvious, but behind them was an angry teenager struggling with an abusive upbringing, a growing dependence on drugs, and questions about his own sexual identity.
Meyer was aided in the recruitment by Steve Addazio, a Connecticut native, and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Addazio and Meyers told Hernandez that they believed he had the potential to play in the NFL. Hernandez's principal later said that the two were persuasive and heavily pressured Hernandez, but in retrospect that it was a mistake to allow him to graduate early. Hernandez was not academically prepared for college and had to take remedial courses at Santa Fe Community College. Many of his teammates, particularly those who Meyer convinced to come to Gainesville early, did likewise.
Between practices, games, team meetings, and other events, Hernandez put 40 to 60 hours a week into football, nearly year round. He would later say that he was high on drugs every time he took the field.
As a freshman in 2007, Hernandez started three games for the Florida Gators. He finished the season with nine receptions for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Though he excelled his freshman year, he was benched in the season opener of his sophomore year due to a failed drug test. Following that, he started 11 of 13 games during the 2008 season in place of the injured Cornelius Ingram, and finished the season with 34 receptions for 381 yards and five touchdowns. In the 2009 BCS National Championship Game against the Oklahoma Sooners, Hernandez led the Gators in receiving yards with 57 on five receptions, as the Gators defeated the Sooners 24–14 to win their second BCS championship in three seasons.
As a junior in 2009, and after leading the team in receptions with 68 for 850 yards and five touchdowns, Hernandez won the John Mackey Award given annually to the nation's best tight end. He was also a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection and was recognized as a first-team All-American by the Associated Press, College Football News and The Sporting News. During his final game, he threw the ball into the stands to celebrate a touchdown. The excessive display risked a personal foul penalty, but sportswriters saw an athlete with little to lose personally if he chose to into the NFL instead of returning for another year of collegiate football.
Meyer had wanted to throw Hernandez off the team for his chronic marijuana use, but relented after an appeal from Tebow. However, after Hernandez's junior year Meyer told him that he would not be welcome back for a fourth year and that he would have to try to get picked up by a professional team in the 2010 NFL Draft. Hernandez finished his college career with 111 receptions for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. Florida coaches aligned Hernandez with Maurkice and Mike Pouncey. He reportedly grew close with the twins after rooming with them and staff considered the Pounceys a positive influence on Hernandez.
Hernandez was always trying to be "the life of the party," according to a teammate. His classes his first year included bowling, theater appreciation, wildlife issues, and a course entitled "plants, gardening and you." During his first semester, he largely earned Bs. He made the conference honor roll during his sophomore year, but as a junior got a D in a class on poverty and did not complete his second attempt at an introductory statistics class.
On January 6, 2010, Hernandez announced his decision to forgo his remaining eligibility and enter the 2010 NFL Draft. Hernandez attended the NFL Scouting Combine, but was unable to perform any physical drills after tearing a muscle in his back during the offseason. On March 17, 2010, Hernandez participated at Florida's pro day and performed all of the combine drills. His time in the 40-yard dash would have ranked fourth among all tight ends at the NFL Combine. Hernandez also performed 30 reps of 225 lbs on the bench press and would have been the top performance of all tight ends, surpassing Dennis Pitta's top performance of 27 reps.
NFL analyst Mike Mayock stated "off the field concerns" and concerns over his size were hurting Hernandez's draft stock, but believed Hernandez would still be drafted in the second round. At the conclusion of the pre-draft process, Hernandez was projected to be a second round pick by the majority of NFL draft experts and scouts. He was ranked as the third best tight end prospect in the draft by Bleacher Report, was ranked the fourth best tight end by NFL analyst Mike Mayock, and was ranked the fifth best tight end by DraftScout.com.
|Ht||Wt||Arm length||Hand size||40-yard dash||10-yd split||20-yd split||20-ss||3-cone||Vert jump||Broad||BP|
|6 ft 2 3⁄8 in
|32 1⁄4 in
|9 3⁄4 in
|4.64 s||1.65 s||2.71 s||4.18 s||6.83 s||33 in
|9 ft 3 in
|All values from Florida's Pro Day.|
The New England Patriots selected Hernandez in the fourth round (113th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft. The previous day, the Patriots drafted Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski. Hernandez was the sixth tight end drafted in 2010. Despite being considered a top tight end prospect, it was reported multiple teams chose not to draft him because "he was a problem." Hernandez's draft stock fell due to multiple off-the-field issues during college, rumors of multiple failed drug tests, and character concerns. After his arrest, it was discovered that multiple teams elected to remove Hernandez off their draft board entirely due to character concerns, including the Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals, and Miami Dolphins. The Patriots signed free agent Alge Crumpler and drafted Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski after they overhauled the tight end positioned by releasing Benjamin Watson and opting to not re-sign Chris Baker and backup Michael Matthews.
On April 27, 2010, The Boston Globe reported from multiple sources that Hernandez admitted to scouts and team representatives that he had a history of marijuana use during interviews at the NFL Combine and had failed multiple drug tests while in college. Later that day, the Patriots released a statement from Hernandez, who said he had failed only one drug test while in college and was candid about it to interested teams at the NFL Scouting Combine. He wrote a letter to every team offering to be tested every other week during his rookie season.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft later stated, after Hernandez's arrest, that the Patriots drafted him after he gained their trust and stated they had "absolutely nothing to worry about" in a letter sent to Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio before the draft.
I am writing in regards to some of the feedback I am receiving from my agents, Florida coaches and other NFL personnel. These sources have indicated that NFL teams have questions about my alleged use of marijuana. I personally answered these questions during the pre-draft process, but understand that NFL teams want to conduct thorough due diligence before making the significant financial investment inherent in a high draft pick. I have no issue with these questions being asked, but thought that it made the most sense to communicate with you directly regarding this issue so you would not have to rely upon second-hand information.
Any information I volunteer to you about my past will be looked at with great skepticism as I am trying to get drafted as high as possible by a NFL team. As such, I thought that the best way to answer your questions and your concerns was to make a very simple proposition. If you draft me as a member of the New England Patriots, I will willfully submit to a bi-weekly drug test throughout my rookie season (8 drug tests during the 2010 regular season). In addition, I will tie any guaranteed portion of my 2010 compensation to these drug tests and reimburse the team a pro-rata amount for any failed drug test. My agents have explained that a direct forfeiture provision in my contract along these lines would violate the CBA rules. However, I have instructed them to be creative in finding a contract structure that would work or in the worst case scenario, I would donate the pro-rata portion of my guaranteed money to the team's choice of charities. My point is simple - if I fail a drug test, I do not deserve that portion of the money.
I realize that this offer is somewhat unorthodox, but it is also the only way I could think of to let you know how serious I am about reaching my potential in the NFL. My coaches have told you that nobody on our Florida team worked harder than me in terms of workouts, practices or games. You have your own evaluation as to the type of impact I can have on your offense. The only X-factor, according to the reports I have heard, is concerns about my use of recreational drugs. To address that concern, I am literally putting my money where my mouth is and taking the financial risk away from the team and putting it directly on my back where it belongs.
In closing, I ask you to trust me when I say you have absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to me and the use of recreational drugs. I have set very high goals for myself in the NFL, and am focused 100% on achieving those goals. So, test me all you want during my rookie yearâ€¦all of the results will be negative while I am having an overwhelmingly positive impact on the field.
Sincerely Aaron HernandezUniversity of Florida
The Boston Herald
(Letter releases on July 9, 2013)
On June 8, 2010, the New England Patriots signed Hernandez to a four-year, $2.37 million contract that includes a signing bonus of $200,000. The terms of his contract limited Hernandez's signing bonus to $200,000, which was less than half the signing bonus received by Patriots fourth-round pick (118th overall) placekicker Stephen Gostkowski in 2006. The Patriots declined to give Hernandez the expected $500,000 signing bonus as a precautionary measure. To compensate for the smaller signing bonus, he received a contract that included a series of roster and workout bonuses up to an additional $700,000. If Hernandez reached all bonuses and escalators he could receive an annual salary comparable to a third-rounder, but would have to "walk the straight and narrow line to do so".
Throughout training camp, Hernandez competed to be a starting tight end against Alge Crumpler, Rob Gronkowski, and Rob Myers. Hernandez had an impressive preseason, alongside Rob Gronkowski. Their preseason performance would ultimately foreshadow their future success as one of the top tight end tandems in league history. Head coach Bill Belichick named Hernandez the third tight end on the Patriots depth chart, behind Alge Crumpler and Rob Gronkowski. Hernandez was used as the receiving tight end option with Crumpler inserted for plays that required blocking. Hernandez started the 2010 season as the youngest player on any active roster in the NFL.
He made his professional regular season debut and first career start in the New England Patriots' season-opener against the Cincinnati Bengals and recorded one reception for 45-yards during their 38–24 victory. On September 19, 2010, Hernandez caught a season-high six receptions for a total of 101 receiving yards during the Patriots' 28–14 loss at the New York Jets in Week 2. Hernandez became the youngest player since 1960 to have more than 100 receiving yards in a single game. In Week 3, Hernandez led all Patriots receivers with six catches for 65-yards during a 38–30 win against the Butfalo Bills. Hernandez also had his first career carry for a three-yard gain against the Bills in Week 3. On November 7, 2010, Hernandez caught five passes for 48-yards and scored the first two touchdowns of his career during a 34–14 loss at the Cleveland Browns in Week 9. Hernandez caught his first career touchdown on a two-yard pass by Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady during the second quarter. His second touchdown of the game was scored on a one-yard pass by Tom Brady in the fourth quarter.
On December 19, 2010, Hernandez made four catches for 31-yards and caught two touchdown passes in the Patriots' 31–27 win against the Green Bay Packers in Week 15. His two touchdown performance earned him the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week. Hernandez was inactive for the last two games of the regular season (Weeks 16–17) due to a hip injury. He finished his rookie season in 2010 with 45 receptions for 563 receiving yards and six touchdown receptions 14 games and seven starts. Hernandez and Gronkowski began having success as the Bill Belichick increased the use of two-tight end sets to capitalize on their exceptional receiving ability. Together, they combined for 87 receptions for 1,109 receiving yards and 16 receiving touchdowns.
The New England Patriots finished the 2010 season first in the AFC East with a 14–2 record and earned a first round bye. On January 16, 2011, Hernandez started in his first career playoff game and caught one pass for a four-yard gain as the Patriots lost 28–21 against the New York Jets in the AFC Divisional Round.
On February 21, 2011, it was reported that Hernandez had undergone hip surgery after injuring it in Week 15. Hernandez entered training camp slated as a backup tight end and competed to be the secondary tight end against Alge Crumpler and Lee Smith.
During training camp, wide receiver Chad Johnson arrived in a trade from the Cincinnati Bengals. Hernandez immediately let Johnson, who then legally had the last name "Ochocinco" based on his uniform number, have the No. 85, choosing to go back to his college number of No. 81, which was worn on 2010 by wide receiver Randy Moss, but became available after Moss was traded to the Minnesota Vikings in 2010. Johnson and Hernandez both claimed no compensation was arranged and the transaction was a kind gesture between teammates and nothing more. Hernandez's attorney later recounted the number change in the a biography about Hernandez titled Unnecessary Roughness: Inside the Trial and Final Days of Aaron Hernandez. His attorney, Jose Baez, claimed Hernandez saw an opportunity after the arrival of Chad Johnson and offered No. 85 to Johnson for $75,000. It was claimed by Baez that Johnson countered with a $50,000 offer that Hernandez accepted. The money was reportedly used to finance a wholesale marijuana purchase by Hernandez for his cousin's husband, T.L. Singleton, who later payed Hernandez back $120,000 for the loan.
Head coach Bill Belichick named Hernandez the secondary starting tight end to start the regular season, alongside primary tight end Rob Gronkowski. Belichick continued to increase the use of the Patriots "12 personnel" and began using Hernandez as an H-back lined up in the slot to dictate pass coverages. He started in the New England Patriots' season-opener at the Miami Dolphins and caught seven passes for 103-yards and scored on a one-yard touchdown pass by Tom Brady during the third quarter of a 38–24 victory. The following week, Hernandez made seven receptions for 62-yards and a touchdown before exiting in the third quarter of the Patriots' 35–21 win against the San Diego Chargers due to a knee injury. He was diagnosed with a sprained MCL and was inactive for he next two games (Weeks 3–4). On December 19, 2011, Hernandez caught a season-high nine passes for 129 receiving yards and scored one touchdown during a 41–23 victory at the Denver Broncos in Week 15. On December 28, 2011, it was announced Hernandez was voted to the 2012 Pro Bowl as an alternate. Hernandez was perceived as a snub for the Pro Bowl by many analysts who argued he was more deserving than San Diego Chargers' tight end Antonio Gates. He finished the season with a career-high 79 receptions for 910 receiving yards and seven touchdown receptions in 14 games and 12 starts. Hernandez ranked 15th among all players in receptions in 2011 and fifth among tight ends. New England Patriots' wide receiver Wes Welker finished first in the league with 122 receptions and tight end Rob Gronkowski finished fifth among all players with 90 total receptions in 2011. Hernandez also finished 31st in the league with 910 receiving yards and tied for 21st with seven touchdown receptions.
According to NBC Sports, Hernandez and Gronkowski were the first pair of tight-ends in NFL history to catch at least five touchdowns each in consecutive seasons for the same team. In 2011, they also set NFL records for yardage, receptions, and touchdowns by tight ends on one team, combining for 169 receptions, 2,237 yards, and 24 touchdowns. The previous records for receptions and yards by multiple tight ends on a single team were set in 1984 by the San Diego Chargers, who used four tight ends to combine for 163 receptions and 1,927 yards; The success of the Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski tandem revolutionized the tight end position. Multiple teams attempted to recreate the success of the Patriots' "12 Personnel" that used two-tight end sets. Hernandez was considered to be the top H-Back in the league in 2011 and the tandem of Hernandez and Gronkowski widely regarded as one of the top offensive tandems in the league. The combination of Hernandez and Gronkowski tied for the most touchdown receptions in 2011 with the Green Bay Packers' wide receiver tandem of Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings. They also had the most receptions of any offensive tandem in 2011 and finished fourth in receiving yards among all offensive tandems. Hernandez and Gronkowski were by far the top tight end combination in 2011. Their 2,237 receiving yards finished first among all tight end tandems in 2011 with the Carolina Panthers' tight end combination of Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen coming in second with 995 combined receiving yards.
The New England Patriots finished first in the AFC East with a 13–3 record and earned a first round bye. On January 14, 2012, Hernandez made four receptions for 55-yards and one touchdown in the Patriots' 45–10 win against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional Round. Hernandez also had a 42-yard carry against the Broncos on the Patriots' first offensive drive of the game. The following week, the Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens 23–20 in the AFC Championship Game. Hernandez caught seven passses for 66 receiving yards during the game. On February 5, 2012, Hernandez started in Super Bowl XLVI and caught eight passes for 67-yards and made a 12-yard touchdown reception as the New England Patriots lost 21–17 to the New York Giants.
On August 27, 2012, the New England Patriots signed Hernandez to a five-year, $39.58 million contract extension that includes $15.95 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $12.50 million. The $12.5 million signing bonus was the largest signing bonus ever received by an NFL tight end. His $40 million total was the second-largest contract extension ever given to a tight end, after teammate Rob Gronkowski's $53 million. Hernandez gave $50,000 of that bonus to a charity named for the late wife of the Patriots owner.
Hernandez was sidelined during the Patriots' Week 2 game against the Arizona Cardinals with a high ankle sprain and missed several weeks. On December 10, during the Monday Night Football game against the Houston Texans, Hernandez recorded 8 receptions for 58 yards and two touchdowns. Hernandez's last NFL appearance was the 2012 AFC Championship game on January 20, 2013, against the Baltimore Ravens.
Hernandez was not popular with his fellow Patriots, and had few friends in the locker room. Quarterback Tom Brady was overheard after a game telling Tim Tebow, Hernandez's quarterback in college, that he was trying to steer Hernandez in the right direction but called him "a lot to handle." Tebow had previously tried to help Hernandez and enlisted Brady for the same purpose. Hernandez was, however, known as one of the hardest working members of the team.
Other Patriots said that Hernandez was often seeking attention, and at times seemed "unhinged." Coach Bill Belichick was running out of patience with Hernandez by June 2013, and threatened to throw Hernandez off the team. After his arrest for the murder of Odin Lloyd, Belichick prohibited Hernandez's name from being spoken in the locker room. Gronkowski has also repeatedly declined to answer any questions about Hernandez in interviews, even going so far as to walk out on interviews when Hernandez's name was brought up.
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Hernandez began dating Shayanna Jenkins in 2007. They had been friends since they were in elementary school and were high school sweethearts. They had a daughter, who was born in 2012. They became engaged in the same month their daughter was born. That month, Hernandez purchased a 8,130 square foot (755 m2) four-story home with an in-ground pool in North Attleborough, Massachusetts, for $1.3 million, where the family lived together. Jenkins moved in with Hernandez in 2011, during his second season with the Patriots. After she discovered him cheating on her she moved out, but returned in the summer of 2012. During Hernandez's trial for the murder of Odin Lloyd, it came out that Hernandez came on to and kissed the nanny who took care of their daughter. Jenkins testified in court that she wanted to make their relationship work, and that it required her to compromise on some of his behavior. She told police that she cooked and cleaned and she knew her role.
Following Hernandez's death, a high school teammate described a secret sexual relationship between the two that lasted for years. While in prison, Hernandez came out as gay to his mother, lawyer, and an ex-girlfriend. His attorney, George Leontire, said his client "clearly was gay" and described the "immense pain that it caused him" and the self-hatred that came from growing up in a culture that was anti-gay. After listening to more than 300 recorded phone calls, the Boston Globe reported that Hernandez was "prone to going on homophobic rants". However, in a recorded phone call, Hernandez admitted he was attracted to men and said it made him "angry all the time". Prosecutors threatened to raise the issue of his sexuality during the 2012 drive-by shooting trial, a prospect that frightened Hernandez.[importance?] He wished to keep his sexuality a secret. Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez stated that "Aaron was very much a man to [her]" and that she "saw no indication that he was gay or homosexual." She stated, "I wish I had known how he felt, just so we could have talked about it. I wouldn't have disowned him. I would have been supportive."
D.J. described Hernandez as growing increasingly paranoid as an adult, believing the Federal Bureau of Investigation and others were out to get him. D.J. said that Hernandez slept with a large knife by his bed and collected a number of weapons for protection. After the 2013 shooting of Alexander Bradley, Hernandez hired a friend from Bristol to serve as his bodyguard 24 hours a day. Shortly thereafter, Hernandez approached Patriots coach Bill Belichick "in a state of deepening paranoia," saying he feared for his family's safety. Hernandez's agent testified that Hernandez requested the meeting because he was in fear for his life. He said that Hernandez requested a transfer to a team on the other side of the country, but that the request was denied. Also in 2013, in April, Hernandez purchased a used car with two handguns and two rifles inside. Hernandez also purchased a Chevrolet Suburban that had been outfitted as an armored car. When being driven, he refused to travel in cars without tinted windows for fear that one of his enemies might see him. Teammates said that Hernandez was prone to wild mood swings and became more agitated as time went on. He was said to go from being hyper-masculine to talking about cuddling with his mother. As a Patriot, he continued to smoke large quantities of marijuana and to use other drugs, including cocaine.
After his death, researchers at Boston University studied his brain and diagnosed him with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). They said Hernandez's CTE, which is caused by repeated head trauma, was the worst case they had ever seen in someone so young. They suggested that the CTE, which results in poor judgment, inhibition of impulses or aggression, anger, paranoia, emotional volatility, and rage behaviors, may explain some of Hernandez's criminal acts and other behavior. Dr. Sam Gandy of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York said "It's impossible for me to look at the severity of CTE and Mr. Hernandez's brain and not think that that had a profound effect on his behavior." Hernandez had two confirmed concussions since he began playing football at eight years old, but the Boston Globe believes "he undoubtedly took other punishing hits to the head that were never recorded." Hernandez suffered from migraines in prison, and had trouble with memory.
In 2012, Hernandez told his agent that he got his respect through weapons. After his death, his high school teammate and lover said that being drafted by the Patriots "was the worst thing the NFL could have done" because it put him back into close proximity to the criminal friends he had in Connecticut. As a Patriot, Hernandez hired two of his friends from Bristol, both of whom had criminal records, as assistants. One of them, Alexander S. Bradley, was his drug dealer. As Hernandez's assistant, Bradley's other duties including calming Hernandez down during fits of rage and paranoia, and obtaining weapons for him.
By his own admission, Hernandez became jumpy in nightclubs, and had a history of taking offense at minor slights. He also said that he believed people were trying to physically challenge him and were looking to fight him.
Acquaintances described Hernandez as a follower who put himself in jeopardy by hanging out with a dangerous crowd. Boston Police detectives once questioned Hernandez outside of a Boston bar. Hernandez kept a second apartment a secret from his fiancée and used it to store drugs and weapons.
On April 28, 2007, according to a police report in Gainesville, Florida, 17-year-old Hernandez consumed two alcoholic drinks in a restaurant with Tebow, refused to pay the bill, and was escorted out by a restaurant employee. As the manager walked away, Hernandez "sucker punched" him on the side of the head, rupturing his eardrum.
The police responded at 1:17 a.m. Hernandez called Coach Urban Meyer, and Meyer called Huntley Johnson, the team's unofficial defense lawyer. The victim later told police that he had been contacted by lawyers and the team and that a settlement was being worked out, something the team denied. The police department recommended charging Hernandez with felony battery, but the incident was settled out of court with a deferred prosecution agreement.
On September 30, 2007, five gunshots were fired into a car containing Randall Carson, Justin Glass, and Corey Smith while they were waiting at a Gainesville traffic light after having left a nightclub. Carson, a back-seat passenger was uninjured, and told police that the shooter was a "Hawaiian" or "Hispanic" male with a large build weighing about 230 lb (100 kg) and having many tattoos. He picked a photo of Hernandez out of a police lineup.
The police told Meyer's personal assistant that they wanted to see Hernandez and two teammates immediately. Detectives "kept pushing coaches" to bring the players to the station, but they did not arrive for four hours. In the interim, the players spoke with Johnson, the attorney who often represented players. The other players cooperated with police, but Hernandez invoked his right to counsel and refused to talk to police. When police walked into the room to speak to Hernandez, the last of the players to be interviewed, they found him with his head down on the table and sleeping, a posture they said was unusual for someone in the middle of a homicide investigation.
No charges were filed at the time but, due to his 2013 arrest and subsequent conviction for the murder of Odin Lloyd, Massachusetts authorities contacted police in Florida to try to determine whether Hernandez may have had a role in the 2007 shooting. Detective Tom Mullins, who was assigned to reinvestigate the shooting, concluded that Hernandez was not the triggerman. Although Carson initially identified Hernandez as such, other witnesses that night described the shooter as looking like a black male, possibly with cornrows. When Mullins re-interviewed Carson, Carson rescinded his statement of the shooter matching Hernandez and said he never saw Hernandez at the scene, but assumed he was the shooter because "they had words earlier at the club."
At 3:45 a.m. on April 30, 2011, police responded to a fight in front of Hernadez's rented townhouse in Plainville, Massachusetts. A high school friend had been pulled over earlier in the evening after driving Hernandez home from a Boston bar. The driver was weaving in and out of lanes and traveling at 120 miles per hour in a work zone and on a highway with a speed limit of 55 miles per hour. The Massachusetts State Trooper who pulled the car over did not arrest the driver because he recognized Hernandez in the passenger seat. The Plainville police also recognized Hernandez, and told the two to go indoors.
Hernandez was investigated in connection with a double homicide that took place on July 16, 2012, at the Cure Lounge in Boston's South End. Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu, 29, and Safiro Teixeira Furtado, 28, both immigrants from Cape Verde and living in Dorchester, were killed by gunshots fired into their vehicle. Witnesses testified that Hernandez's silver SUV pulled up next to the victims and someone from his car yelled "What's up now, niggers?" Someone from the car then fired five shots, killing the two immigrants. Police immediately identified Hernandez, who was then playing for the Patriots, in the club's security camera footage, but thought it was a coincidence that the NFL star happened to be at the club that evening.
On May 15, 2014, Hernandez was indicted on murder charges for the killings of de Abreu and Furtado, with additional charges of armed assault and attempted murder associated with shots fired at the surviving occupants in the vehicle. The trial began March 1, 2017. The prosecution case was strongly based on testimony by Alexander Bradley, a known drug dealer who had been feuding with Hernandez since the NFL player allegedly shot him in the face and left him to die. Hernandez and Bradley each claimed the other person pulled the trigger.
Jose Baez, Hernandez's attorney, argued that the proposed motive was implausible, and Hernandez was a suspect of convenience to close two unsolved murders. Bradley alleged that Hernandez was angered after the victims spilled a drink on him at a nightclub several hours before the shooting and killed them in retaliation. Security camera footage confirmed Hernandez was in the club for less than 10 minutes. In that time he calmly posed for a photo with a fan, and left by himself — contradicting Bradley's testimony that he departed with Hernandez. Furthermore, Baez characterized the police investigation as extraordinarily sloppy (e.g., the victims' bodies were kept in their bullet-riddled vehicle as it was towed away from the shooting scene, a major protocol violation) with no physical evidence tying Hernandez to the murders.
According to the Boston Globe, there is "powerful evidence that he was at the scene and played a role in their deaths." On April 14, 2017, Hernandez was acquitted of the murders and most of the other charges but found guilty of illegal possession of a handgun.
In January 2013, Hernandez and Bradley partied at Cure again. At 2:20 a.m., Bradley was pulled over on the Southeast Expressway doing 105 miles per hour. According to the State Police he was "wobbly drunk." Hernandez tried to get his friend out of trouble by saying, "Trooper, I am Aaron Hernandez. It's OK." Bradley was arrested for drunk driving.
In February 2013, Hernandez, Alexander Bradley, and several others visited a Florida strip club where they rang up a $10,000 bill. Hernandez began to worry about two men sitting across from them, thinking they were plainclothes Boston police officers. Bradley later recalled telling Hernandez that they were probably tracking the pair as part of their investigation into the double murder outside the Cure Lounge.
Hernandez and Bradley had a troubled relationship at this point. Bradley claimed that on February 13, 2013, during the same trip, he woke up in a car with Hernandez pointing a gun at his face. The next morning police found Bradley lying in a parking lot and bleeding from a bullet hole between his eyes. Bradley survived, but lost his right eye. He did not cooperate with police, but instead sought revenge.
The pair would trade more than 500 text messages in the next three months and would trade threats of death and extortion. Bradley told Hernandez that he had "semiautomatic weapons, bulletproof vests, and a crew that ran six deep." Hernandez's agent tried, unsuccessfully, to settle the matter quietly. Bradley demanded $5 million to keep his silence, and Hernandez countered with $1.5 million. Bradley then asked for $2.5 million. Hernandez did not respond, but instead went to see his lawyer.
On June 13, 2013, Bradley filed a civil lawsuit for damages against Hernandez in a Florida federal court. Bradley withdrew the suit four days later, giving the two a chance to work out a settlement without the media knowing about it. On September 3, 2013, Hernandez's lawyers filed a postponement request in federal court until his murder charges were resolved. They said it would be legally unfair to Hernandez to permit the lawsuit to continue while he was on trial in the shooting death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd. In February 2016, Hernandez reached a settlement with Bradley over the lawsuit. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
On May 11, 2015, Hernandez was indicted for witness intimidation in relation to the 2013 shooting of Bradley, since Bradley was reportedly a witness to the 2012 Boston double homicide. The intimidation charge for Hernandez carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
This charge was included in the trial that began March 1, 2017, for the 2012 Boston double homicide. During the trial, it was revealed Bradley texted his lawyer this about the shooting in a deleted text message: "Now u sure once I withdraw this lawsuit I wont be held on perjury after I tell the truth about me not recalling anything about who shot me."
Hernandez was later acquitted of the charge of witness intimidation by a jury on April 14, 2017. They also acquitted Hernandez of all other charges in the murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, except for finding him guilty on one count of illegal possession of firearms.
Hernandez traveled to California with his fiancée and their young daughter in 2013 to have shoulder surgery. While there, Jenkins called the police twice in less than a week, claiming that Hernandez was drunk and violent. In the first incident, Hernandez put his hand through a window. Hernandez's brother and friends later said that there were drugs and guns in the rented apartment, but police determined that Jenkins and the child were not in danger and never searched the premises. D.J. found Hernandez alone on the roof of the building one night, looking defeated and rubbing the barrel of a gun against his face.
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole|
|Date||June 17, 2013|
On June 18, 2013, the police searched Hernandez's house in North Attleboro for several hours in connection with an investigation into the shooting death of a friend, Odin Lloyd. Lloyd's body was found in an industrial park about a mile from Hernandez's house with multiple gunshot wounds to the back and chest.
The Massachusetts State Police obtained a search warrant after evidence surfaced that Hernandez had intentionally destroyed his home security system. A cell phone belonging to Hernandez was turned over to police "in pieces" and Hernandez allegedly hired a "team of house cleaners" the same day Lloyd's body was discovered, raising additional suspicion.
Police arrived at Hernandez's home the next morning. His agent advised him to go outside to speak to them to ask why they were there, and the police asked him about Lloyd. Hernandez told his agent that there was nothing to worry about.
The following day, Hernandez met with head coach Bill Belichick. The coach asked Hernandez "point-blank" if he had anything to do with the murder, and Hernandez responded "absolutely not." According to Belichick, the conversation lasted less than five minutes. Hernandez also assured Patriots owner Robert Kraft that he was innocent.
On June 20, 2013, the Boston Herald reported the Patriots had "barred" Hernandez from Gillette Stadium. According to NFL.com, Kraft decided to have Patriots staff ask Hernandez to leave because he did not want Gillette to be "the site of a media stakeout". The Boston Globe reported that Kraft, Belichick (who is also effectively the Patriots' general manager), and other members of the team's management had decided, given Hernandez's history, to cut ties with Hernandez if he was arrested on any charge related to the case. Reportedly, this decision was made a week before Hernandez's arrest.
On June 26, 2013, Hernandez was handcuffed by police and taken into custody. The Patriots released Hernandez from the team about 90 minutes later, before officially learning the charges against him. Their press release stated:
A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss. Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation. We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.
Two other men were also arrested in connection with Lloyd's death: Carlos Ortiz on June 27, 2013; and Ernest Wallace on June 28, 2013. Ortiz revealed to the police that Hernandez had secretly rented an apartment in Franklin, Massachusetts. A subsequent search of the apartment, according to the Associated Press, "turned up ammunition and clothing that police believe could be evidence in the murder case against him".
On August 22, 2013, Hernandez was indicted by a grand jury for the murder of Lloyd. On September 6, 2013, he was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. He was held without bail but reserved the right to request bail later. On September 27, 2013, Hernandez's fiancée Shayanna Jenkins was indicted on a perjury charge in connection with Lloyd's killing.
On April 15, 2015, Hernandez was found guilty of murder in the first degree, a charge that in Massachusetts automatically carries a sentence of life in prison without a possibility of parole; he also was found guilty of five firearm charges. A motive for the murder was never definitively established, but police investigated the possibility that Lloyd may have learned of Hernandez's homosexuality and Hernandez was worried that Lloyd may out him to others.
Immediately following the conviction, Hernandez was temporarily transferred to the Massachusetts Correctional Institution – Cedar Junction, a maximum-security intake facility to begin serving his sentence. (It is located 1.5 mi (2.4 km) from Gillette Stadium where he formerly played for the NFL.) He was transferred to serve the remainder of his life sentence at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, a maximum-security facility adjacent to the medium security Massachusetts Correctional Institution – Shirley.
Hernandez's arrest and subsequent termination by the New England Patriots resulted in financial and other consequences.
Hernandez's release from the team meant he automatically forfeited his 2015–18 salaries, totaling $19.3 million, which were not guaranteed. The Patriots voided all remaining guarantees, including his 2013 and 2014 salaries, on the grounds that those guarantees were for skill, injury, or salary cap room, and did not include being cut for "conduct detrimental to the best interests of professional football." The Patriots planned to withhold $3.25 million of Hernandez's 2012 signing bonus that was due to be paid in 2014, and to recoup the signing bonus already paid.
Within hours of Hernandez's arrest, the team's official pro shop at Patriot Place removed all his memorabilia and merchandise and removed these items from its website also. The Patriots ProShop exchanged about 2,500 previously sold Hernandez jerseys for other jerseys, destroying and recycling the Hernandez jerseys for a loss of about $250,000. The NFL salary cap allows teams to pro-rate signing bonuses over the life of a contract or a five-year period, whichever is shorter. By cutting Hernandez, the Patriots accelerated all of Hernandez's remaining guaranteed money into the 2013 and 2014 salary caps: the team took a $2.55 million hit in 2013, and another $7.5 million in 2014.
Since Hernandez had not completed his fourth season in the league, the Patriots were required to place him on waivers after releasing him. He went unclaimed. After Hernandez cleared waivers on June 28, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that, while charges against Hernandez are pending, the NFL would not approve any contract signed by Hernandez until Goodell held a hearing to determine whether Hernandez should face suspension or other action under the league's Personal Conduct Policy. In prison phone calls, Hernandez expressed distress at his treatment by Belichick and the Patriots.
CytoSport and Puma canceled their endorsement deals with Hernandez. EA Sports announced that Hernandez's likeness would be dropped from its NCAA Football 14 and Madden NFL 25 video games. After visitor complaints, a prize-winning photo of Hernandez from his rookie season, depicting him triumphantly high-stepping into the end zone in front of Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields, was removed from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Panini America, a sports memorabilia and trading-card company, removed stickers of Hernandez from approximately 500,000 sticker books which had not yet been sent to collectors. The company replaced the stickers, as well as trading cards, with cards depicting Tim Tebow.
The University of Florida removed Hernandez's name and likeness from various locations at its football facilities, including a stone that had his name and "All American" inscribed upon it. Bristol Central High School, also removed all his awards and gave them to his family. Pop Warner removed his name from a list of award recipients.
Hernandez gave power of attorney to his agent, and instructed him to provide his fiancée with $3,000 a month and to help her find more affordable housing. He also set aside $500,000 for his fiancée and their daughter, and $120,000 for a close friend. After his arrest, his vacant house fell into "extreme disrepair" with burst pipes and mold.
The Boston Globe described Hernandez as being "strangely content" while in jail, an attitude that confounded his fiancée. He told his mother that "I've been the most relaxed and less stressed in jail than I have out of jail." He was, however, punished on multiple occasions for breaking prison rules, including screaming and banging on his cell door. Over the course of his four years behind bars, he increasingly turned to the Bible and became more religious. The Globe said that prison officials "seemed to turn a blind eye to Hernandez's drug use [and] neglected to safeguard their famous inmate."
Hernandez could speak to Jenkins on the phone, and often did twice a day, but she was facing perjury charges related to his arrest. He only saw his daughter when Jenkins' mother brought her to visit. He reconnected with his mother, from whom he had been estranged for many years, while in prison.
While being held at the Bristol County Jail, Hernandez was kept in a segregated unit, an "especially grim section" that normally housed the mentally ill and violent. He asked to move out of segregation, but Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson would not allow it. Hernandez believed that Hodgson exploited his incarceration for publicity.
After his conviction for the murder of Lloyd, he was transferred to the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, a maximum security prison where inmates typically spend 20 hours a day in their cells. In the two years he spent in the prison, he was disciplined dozens of times. His lawyer says he was taunted relentlessly by guards. While in prison, Hernandez continued to work out and anticipated returning to the NFL.
Two days before his death, reporter Michelle McPhee appeared on the Kirk and Callahan show where she and the two hosts used innuendo to imply that Hernandez was gay. It has been suggested that this outing may have played a role in Hernandez's suicide.
On April 19, 2017, at 3:05 a.m. EDT, five days after Hernandez was acquitted of the 2012 Boston double homicide of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, correction officers found Hernandez hanging by his bedsheets from his window in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Lancaster, Massachusetts. He was transported to UMass Memorial Hospital-Leominster, where he was pronounced dead at 4:07 am. He had been smoking K2, a drug associated with psychosis, within 30 hours of his death.
State Department of Correction spokesman Christopher Fallon first said no suicide note was found in Hernandez's single-occupant cell. Shampoo was found covering the floor, cardboard was wedged under the cell door to make it difficult for someone to enter, and there were drawings in blood on the walls showing an unfinished pyramid and the all-seeing eye of God, with the word Illuminati written in capital letters underneath. On April 20, 2017, investigators reported that three handwritten notes were next to a Bible opened to John 3:16 and that "John 3:16" was written on his forehead in ink.
Baez reprinted the contents of the notes in his 2018 book Unnecessary Roughness. One short letter was addressed to Baez, thanking him for securing the not guilty verdict in the Furtado-Abreau homicide and anticipating an appeal in the Odin Lloyd case, in addition to asking Baez to pass along thanks to specific musicians whose songs Hernandez found inspiring. The other two notes were addressed to Hernandez's fiancée and daughter. In contrast to the straightforward letter to Baez, the lawyer described the other notes as written in a disjointed and markedly "ominous" tone. The letter to his daughter was described by the Boston Globe as "strange, rambling, mystical, and tender". In these notes Hernandez described entering a "timeless realm" and announced he would see his family in heaven.
Prison officials had not observed any signs that Hernandez was at risk for suicide, so he had not been put on around-the-clock watch. Upon completion of the autopsy by the medical examiner, the death was officially ruled a suicide by hanging. At the request of his family, Hernandez's brain was released to Boston University to be studied for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease found in people who have had a severe blow or repeated blows to the head, including football players who suffer concussions. His lawyer-agent, Jose Baez, quickly disputed any claim of suicide and stated that he would initiate his own investigation of the death. However, in 2018 Baez wrote that he was suspicious of the suicide announcement given Hernandez's optimistic demeanor after the not guilty verdict, but later came to believe Hernandez had taken his own life with CTE being a major contributing factor.
In September 2017, researchers at the Boston University CTE Center released a statement diagnosing Hernandez as having brain injuries consistent with CTE, stage 3 out of 4, at the time of his death. The statement noted that "CTE is associated with aggressiveness, explosiveness, impulsivity, depression, memory loss and other cognitive changes." In interviews, the neuropathologist called Hernandez's brain a classic case of the pathology. After release of the statement, Hernandez's fiancée and daughter sued the Patriots and the NFL for causing Hernandez's death and depriving his daughter of her father's companionship, arguing that Hernandez's NFL career had caused "the most severe case of [CTE] medically seen" in a person at his age. Baez writes that he saw symptoms consistent with CTE from his earliest meetings with Hernandez: Hernandez sometimes showed keen insight and observational skills, while other times he had gaps in memory that were highly unusual for a young person. The suit on behalf of Hernandez's daughter was dismissed in February 2019 because the deadline to opt out of a class action suit against the league had been missed.
On April 25, 2017, lawyers for Hernandez filed a motion at Massachusetts Superior Court in Fall River to vacate his murder conviction. The request was granted May 9, 2017; therefore Hernandez technically died an innocent man, due to the legal principle of abatement ab initio. Under Massachusetts law, this principle asserts that when a criminal defendant dies but has not exhausted all legal appeals, the case reverts to its status "at the beginning"—the conviction is vacated and the defendant is rendered "innocent." At the time of his death, Hernandez was in the process of filing an appeal for his 2015 conviction in the murder of Odin Lloyd.
As of May 9, 2017[update], the date of the judge's ruling to vacate, the Bristol County district attorneys stated they planned to appeal the ruling all the way to the Massachusetts Supreme Court if necessary. The family of Odin Lloyd was disappointed with the ruling, but their attorney didn't believe it would affect the wrongful-death civil suit which the family has filed.
On March 13, 2019, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reinstated Hernandez's conviction and ended the practice of abatement ab initio in the state. The Court ruled that Hernandez's conviction would stand, but the trial record would note that his conviction was "neither affirmed nor reversed"; the appeal was rendered moot because Hernandez died while the case was on appeal.
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