Off the Field

Living With Aaron Hernandez: The Murder Suspect’s Troubled Life Off the Field

A picture has emerged of a hot-tempered young man whose life away from the football field included blow-ups with his fiancée and friends, ugly bar fights, and regular police encounters. By Christine Pelisek.

Last March, a distraught Shayanna Jenkins made a frantic 911 call to the Hermosa Beach Police Department at 8:16 p.m. indicating that her fiancé had cut his wrist.

When officers arrived at the luxury townhouse, located a block away from the beach, they first thought the 23-year-old man—later identified as New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez—had tried to kill himself. But the young woman explained that the couple had a fight and he cut himself on glass.

“He was mad and punched a window,” said Hermosa Beach Police Department Lt. Tom Thompson. “He had been drinking. He was injured, so she called paramedics.”

Officers later asked Jenkins if the incident was “domestic.” Hernandez, who was living in the ritzy beach community at the time for training and physical therapy, told them that he punched the window “due to being mad about something else.”

Police were called back to the young couple’s townhouse a week later when a neighbor heard yelling and “things being thrown around” in the house. Officers reported that it was “verbal only” and "female will pack some stuff, male half left and will come back later."

“We showed up and it looked like he had left,” said Thompson. “Obviously there were some issues.”

Hernandez claimed he would change his ways after he became a dad on November 6, 2012, when his high school sweetheart, Jenkins, whom he met at Bristol Central High School five years earlier, gave birth to their baby daughter. They quickly became engaged and moved into a $1.3 million mansion in North Attleboro, Massachusetts.

“I’m engaged now and I have a baby. So it’s just going to make me think of life a lot differently and doing things the right way,” he told NESN shortly after his daughter’s birth. “Now, another one is looking up to me. I can’t just be young and reckless Aaron no more. I’m gonna try to do the right things, become a good father and [have her] be raised like I was raised.”

A promise, it became clear, he couldn’t keep. Instead, a chilling picture has emerged of a hot-tempered young man whose life away from the football field included blow-ups with his fiancée and friends, regular encounters with the police, and on at least one occasion an ugly bar fight. (Hernandez allegedly punched a bar employee after he refused to pay a tab for two drinks. Patriots teammate Tim Tebow told police that he intervened and attempted to resolve the dispute.)

Last week, the beleaguered ball player was charged with the June 17 murder of 27-year-old Lloyd Odin, whose bullet-ridden body was found by a jogger in an industrial park less than a mile from the home Hernandez shared with Jenkins and their 8-month-old daughter.

Evidence is mounting. Among other things, authorities say they have video footage of Hernandez and his two alleged accomplices, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, picking up Lloyd at his Boston home early the morning of his death and then driving into the industrial park where his body was later found. After the killing, police say they have video of Hernandez walking back into his mansion with what appears to be a .45 Glock in his hand.

Police say Hernandez knew Lloyd through Jenkins’s younger sister Shaneah, who was reportedly dating the semi-pro linebacker with the Boston Bandits. The four often made plans together, according to the Boston Globe. Lloyd was killed, investigators say, because he talked to the wrong people at a nightclub and Hernandez could no longer trust him.

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Authorities also discovered that Hernandez kept a secret two-bedroom apartment in nearby Franklin, Massachusetts. Inside the condo, investigators discovered boxes of firearm ammunition of the same type used in the slaying of Lloyd, a hooded white sweatshirt Hernandez allegedly wore the night of the killing, and the cranberry-colored baseball cap with “society” written backward that he was seen wearing outside a Boston nightclub a few days before the slaying.

As the investigation continues, Boston police are looking to see if Hernandez can be linked to a double murder in Boston's south end on July 15, 2012, when a gray SUV opened fire on a vehicle, killing two Florida men.

Since his arrest, Jenkins, 24, and a former high school track star, has taken down her Facebook page and has gone into hiding. However, smiling photos of her and Hernandez holding their adorable baby girl and eating hamburgers at a Jenkins family barbecue just days before the shooting still circulate on the Internet, as does a photo of a younger Hernandez holding a Glock.

At one of Hernandez’s hearings last week, Jenkins arrived wearing thick black sunglasses. She quietly sobbed in the back of the courtroom when the judge denied bail for the former football player.

Her role in the unfolding drama, if any, is unclear. At a hearing last week, prosecutors said Jenkins had been cooperating with investigators until she received a call from Hernandez. What she told the police is unknown, as is if any of the information she told them led to his arrest. There is also the possibility that she knew nothing about his role in the slaying or his previous run-ins with the law.

“[Investigators] did speak to her but the conversation ended when she was informed not to speak to them,” said Bristol County District Attorney’s office spokeswoman Yasmina Serdarevic. “They did speak to her until she got the call.”

Asked if Jenkins was considered a suspect in the case, Serdarevic said she wouldn’t comment about an ongoing investigation, but, she said “at this time there are no charges logged against [her].”

Now, Hernandez, who had signed a five-year contract last summer with the Patriots worth $40 million and wore number 81 on his jersey, remains in custody in a 7-foot-by-10-foot cell at Bristol County jail, where he has been held since June 26 when he was escorted from his mansion in handcuffs and charged with first-degree murder and weapons violations. Inmate No. 174594 hasn’t been allowed any visitors yet.

“He hasn’t had any visitors except attorney visits,” said Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson. “He is entitled to have five people on the list if he chooses, but they have to be prescreened, and if they are clear they are eligible for a visit.”

Hodgson says Hernandez stayed in the medical unit for four days when he first arrived because of his “drastic lifestyle change” but is currently in his own cell until they figure out where to place him. Hodgson said his first meal behind bars was American chop suey, green beans, and a piece of bread.

“I told him he would be treated no better or no worse than the other inmates,” said Hodgson. “He is now a number. He went from going into a stadium with a uniform, a number, and being revered, and now he is getting a much bigger number in a different kind of uniform and no one will be cheering for him. It is not what he will be used to.”

But, so far, he seems to be “mentally stable and by all accounts he is integrating very well,” said Hodgson. He even had a welcoming party when he arrived. “There were people outside with signs that read ‘We love you,’ Hodgson said.

Hodgson says he runs a tight ship and doesn’t allow smoking, weights, coffee, fried food, television—or weddings.

Some have wondered if the couple had plans to tie the knot, in an attempt to potentially prevent her from testifying against him at a trial. Because of her initial cooperation with the police, there is a possibility that she could be called to testify about the guns he kept in his house, his whereabouts that night, and if she spoke to him after he arrived home in the early hours of June 17 with a gun in hand.

Hodgson says that Hernandez has never asked to get hitched but if he does he won’t be allowed to. “We don’t do weddings or baptisms or anything like that,” he said. “I have had a policy like that since I started as sheriff 16 years ago. It is not something we feel we need to reorganize our schedules for.”