by John W. Taylor
Aaron Hernandez excelled in high school athletics. He has been portrayed as the best athlete to ever come out of Bristol, Connecticut. Off the field, he appeared physically older than other high schoolers, but socially far younger. In 2006, at the age of 16, his father died, and this may have exacerbated an already angry disposition lingering below the surface.
Hernandez attended the University of Florida where he played football. According to various accounts, Hernandez got into considerable trouble while in college, including allegedly failing multiple drug tests. In 2007, Hernandez was involved in an incident outside a bar where someone fired a gun into a car after an altercation. One of the victims described the shooter as “Hispanic or Hawaiian, with lot of tattoos on his arms,” which matched Hernandez. He refused to cooperate and requested an attorney. Hernandez never gave a statement. No charges were filed and his name failed to show up in any police report. Regardless, the shooting was well-known in Florida. During the same year, Hernandez also supposedly ruptured a man’s eardrum during a fight, but he managed to avoid any direct consequences associated with this incident as well. His tumultuous behavior was an open secret.
On the field, Hernandez continued to outperform those around him. He was the starting tight end on Florida’s 2008 National Championship football team. In 2009, he was named first-team All-American and also received the John Mackey Award, which is awarded to the nation’s top collegiate tight end. Hernandez demonstrated the acumen necessary to warrant a first-round draft in the NFL. Unfortunately, NFL scouts knew about his off-the-field incidents and behaviors. On his pre-draft psychological report, Hernandez received the lowest possible score, one out of 10, in the category of “social maturity.” The report also noted that he enjoyed “living on the edge of acceptable behavior.” As a result, he was not selected until the fourth round of the NFL’s 2010 draft.
The Patriots selected Hernandez as the 113th pick in the draft. Hernandez was still available because the other NFL teams avoided him. They chose not to take him. The Patriots landed first-round talent in the fourth-round. Hernandez played in the NFL from 2010 through 2012. He compiled 910 yards in 2011 and 18 touchdowns over his three-year career. He was a pro bowl alternate in 2011, and helped the New England Patriots reach the Super Bowl. During Super Bowl XLVI, Hernandez scored a touchdown and led the team in receiving yardage.
Prior to the Patriot’s drafting Hernandez, he wrote them a letter offering to put his rookie salary at risk if he failed any drug tests for marijuana. When the Patriots drafted him, they tied a huge portion of his contract to him being on time, attending meetings, and generally not causing problems. Surprisingly, he avoided trouble. Then he signed a $40 million contract with a $12.5 million signing bonus, and problems ensued. Within months of signing the deal, police arrested him for murder. In response, the Patriot’s owner, Robert Kraft, was quoted as saying the organization was “duped” by Hernandez.
The Patriot’s organization had a reputation for rehabbing athletes with troubled pasts. They believed they could do the same with Aaron Hernandez. Prior to his arrest for murder, Hernandez allegedly used PCP and carried a gun everywhere he went. He missed workouts and was close to getting cut from the team. The Patriots were not fooled; they believed they could manage the risk, but their calculations were wrong. They pled ignorance rather than acknowledge their significant error in judgment.
On July 16, 2012, Aaron Hernandez and friends partied inside Boston’s Cure Lounge. Reportedly, an individual unknown to Hernandez bumped into him causing him to spill his drink. Hernandez felt disrespected. Hours later, multiple shots were fired from a sports utility vehicle into the vehicle where the individual who bumped into Hernandez was riding. Two of the individuals in the car, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, were killed.
Hernandez’s friend, Alexander Bradley, was allegedly in the car with Hernandez when he killed de Abreu and Furtado. Whether it was to eliminate him as a witness or due to a different dispute, Hernandez supposedly shot Bradley seven months later. According to Bradley, Hernandez shot him in the face and then dumped him in an alley for dead. Bradley lived, but refused to tell police who shot him. Though he refused to cooperate with law enforcement, he filed a civil suit against Hernandez for shooting him. He wanted to be paid.
In the early morning hours of June 17, 2013, Hernandez and two of his friends, Carlos Ortiz, and Ernest Wallace Jr., rented a silver Nissan Altima. They picked up Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Aaron Hernandez’s fiancée. The group drove to a secluded field in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. Lloyd seemed to know he was in trouble, as he texted his sister several times alerting her to his concern. A short time later, Odin Lloyd was dead from multiple gun shots.
A mountain of evidence led the police directly from Odin Lloyd’s murder to Aaron Hernandez. DNA, blood evidence, surveillance tapes, text messages, and eye-witness testimony provided a comprehensive timeline and sequence of events that pointed to Hernandez’s killing of Lloyd. Prosecutors postulated that Lloyd’s murder resulted from his knowledge of previous murders committed by Hernandez. Hernandez had reason to believe that Lloyd had told people about his role in the de Abreu and Furtado murders. Hernandez needed to neutralize this potential threat.
Though Hernandez and his accomplices made dozens of mistakes before, during, and after Lloyd’s murder, Hernandez also overtly attempted to destroy evidence. Before the police could get a warrant to view his home security surveillance tapes, Hernandez destroyed six hours of recordings around the time of Lloyd’s murder. He also handed his cell phone to the police smashed into little pieces. In spite of his attempts, the police collected loads of additional incriminating evidence against Hernandez. On April 15, 2015, the jury found Hernandez guilty of first-degree murder and five weapon’s charges. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
After convicting Hernandez of Lloyd’s murder, prosecutors re-visited the Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado murders. Witnesses saw Hernandez and his friend, Alexander Bradley, leave the club in a silver Toyota 4Runner with Rhode Island license plates, following the vehicle containing de Abreu and Furtado. After multiple shots were fired, witnesses saw the same SUV speeding away. The Toyota 4Runner turned up later in a garage of Hernandez’s uncle.
According to the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office, police found the murder weapon in the trunk of a car belonging to a woman with ties to Hernandez. After prosecutors granted him immunity, Alexander Bradley testified that Aaron Hernandez fired five shots into the vehicle containing de Abreu and Furtado. According to Bradley, after Hernandez fired the shots, he uttered, “I think I got one in the head and one in the chest.” Though the evidence appeared to paint a clear and logical explanation of what happened to de Abreu and Furtado, the jury did not buy it. They found Hernandez not guilty on April 14, 2017. Though no one from the jury commented on the decision, most likely, they failed to believe the prosecution’s star witness, Alexander Bradley. The defense appeared to have successfully weakened Bradley’s credibility by presenting text messages where he mentioned concerns regarding perjuring himself.
Since 2007, Aaron Hernandez has been charged with, or linked to, the shootings of six people in four incidents. Three of the victims were gruesomely murdered. After entering the NFL, Hernandez posted pictures of himself online with a gun and donning gang colors. He threatened to kill a teammate. Hernandez’s girlfriend, Shayanna Jenkins, called the police after he put his fist through a window, but he was not charged with anything. When police finally arrested Hernandez for murder, the people around him and in the Patriot’s organization could only feign shock. His behavior had been building for years. Miraculously, Hernandez’s countless indiscretions and crimes had been mostly shielded from the public, but not from those close to him.
Aaron Hernandez was not someone with simply an anger issue. He did not erupt immediately and impulsively in violence. He was a calculating killer who schemed and trapped his victims before brutally killing them in cold blood. Those around Hernandez claimed he suffered from paranoia, but it is not clear how that affected his violent tendencies. Drugs taken by Hernandez may have contributed to his behavior, and there has been speculation he may have suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (“CTE”), due to repeated football-related head trauma. However, neither possible drug use nor unsubstantiated brain injuries fully explain the barbaric and systematic approach Hernandez took when disposing of his adversaries. Hernandez’s football skills, fame, and money likely delayed him from suffering the consequences of his violent crimes, but the lack of accountability only seemed to exacerbate his violent tendencies. He was a ticking time tomb. And he finally turned his rage inward.
On April 19, 2017, Aaron Hernandez killed himself, just five days after a jury acquitted him of double murder. He allegedly wrote “John 3:16” in red marker on his head and opened his Bible to the same verse. Hernandez gave no indication to those close to him that he was contemplating suicide or even depressed. Only conjecture is left to understand his final act, but it appears his conscience may have gotten the best of him.
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Bishop, Greg, “Hernandez Among Many Who Found Trouble at Florida in the Meyer Years,” The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/sports/ncaafootball/hernandez-among-many-arrested-at-florida-in-the-meyer-years.html, July 6, 2013.
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Wilson, Ryan, “Former Patriots adviser admits team knew Aaron Hernandez had issues,” CBS Sports, http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/former-patriots-adviser-admits-team-knew-aaron-hernandez-had-issues/, April 17, 2015.
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“Aaron Hernandez found with Bible verse written on forehead, reports say,” FoxNews.com, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/04/20/hernandezs-lawyer-says-family-looking-for-answers-after-death.html, April 20, 2017.
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John W. Taylor writes in the true crime genre at www.truecrimewriting.com. He has written short pieces and articles on the death of Marilyn Monroe, JFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others. John wrote and published Umbrella of Suspicion: Investigating the Death of JonBénet Ramsey and Isolated Incident: Investigating the Death of Nancy Cooper in 2012 and 2014, respectively.
John is the host of the true crime podcast “Twisted,” which can be found at www.twistedpodcast.com. It is available through iTunes, Stitcher, and Libysn. He currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina.