Aaron Hernandez was once a star player for the New England Patriots. However, his troubled upbringing – including with an allegedly abusive father – may have set the tragic trajectory for his life and downfall.
Hernandez’s alleged hidden gay lifestyle – and his inability to come to terms with it – contributed to his almost Shakespearean downfall, or so the narrative goes in a new Netflix series on his life and death and in a lengthy Boston Globe profile that preceded it. The Netflix documentary series is called Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez, and it streams on January 15, 2020.
Many people remember the tragic trajectory of Hernandez’s life: The once promising athlete and 4th round draft pick with a $40 million contract who was eventually convicted of murdering the boyfriend of his fiancee’s sister, a man named Odin Lloyd, and who also became embroiled in a series of other shooting and homicide accusations. Hernandez committed suicide, and analysis showed he’d suffered from severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The ending of Aaron Hernandez was bizarre. He’d sketched references to the Illuminati on his prison wall in blood. He scrawled a Bible verse on his forehead.
Two years later, Hernandez was convicted of killing Odin Lloyd. The former footballer was sentenced to life in prison, but was found dead in his jail cell on April 19, 2017. His death was ruled a suicide.
“An investigation into the death by the State Police Detectives assigned to the District Attorney’s Office and Department of Correction investigators found cardboard jammed into the door tracks of his single-inmate cell to impede entry into the cell,” Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said in a statement. “There were no signs of a struggle, and investigators determined that Mr. Hernandez was alone at the time of the hanging.”
Hernandez was the son of Terri and Dennis Hernandez. His dad passed away in 2006 at the age of 49.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. His Dad, Dennis Hernandez, Died Following Complications of Hernia Surgery
Dennis Hernandez died in 2006 while undergoing a routine hernia surgery. According to Rolling Stone, Dennis’ doctors said he had an “infection” that was found while he was lying on the operating table.
“During surgery to repair the hernia, the bulging tissue is pushed back in. Your abdominal wall is strengthened and supported with sutures (stitches), and sometimes mesh. This repair can be done with open or laparoscopic surgery. You and your surgeon can discuss which type of surgery is right for you,” according to Medline Plus.
There are a few risk factors that go along with hernia surgery, including (but not limited to) damage to nerves or organs. Additionally, anesthesia has its own risk factors, including difficulty breathing and blood clots. It’s unclear exactly what happened to Dennis or if any of these risk factors played a role in his death.
“Dennis was employed at Bristol Eastern High School and took great pleasure in watching his sons play sports and attending their games. He also greatly enjoyed being with his family and friends,” read his obituary, in part.
Dennis was survived by his wife, Terri (Aaron’s mom), his son, Dennis “DJ” Hernandez (Aaron’s only brother), his three siblings, and a few nieces and nephews.
2. Aaron Was Deeply Affected by His Dad’s Death & Many of His Tattoos Represented His Father
Aaron was just 16 years old when his dad passed away. The two were extremely close, and Dennis’ death was really hard on Aaron.
“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 told USA Today back in 2009, while he was playing football at the University of Florida.
That pain turned into anger, and Aaron started acting out, according to his mom.
“It was a rough process, and I didn’t know what to do for him. He would rebel. 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,” Terri Hernandez told USA Today.
Although he found ways to cope with his dad’s death (he read the Bible with his football coach), the pain and anger was rooted deep inside of him, and has been blamed for Aaron’s missteps throughout his life.
Over the years, Aaron decided to honor his dad by way of tattoos. According to the report, Aaron’s ink markings were symbolic — they “[told] his life story.”
“‘On this side, everything is good,’ he says, starting from his right shoulder. There’s a tattoo representing God’s hands, a nod to his big brother and to his father and the day he died. There’s the sun representing all the good days he had with his dad. Beneath those rays are clouds and rain. ‘It all ends in heaven,’ he says, now near his wrist, pointing to the angels.”
“Then there’s his left arm. ‘There’s Jesus’ hands on the cross, and that’s about the pain we all go through,’ he says. There’s his father’s favorite quotes. The phrase ‘self made.’ A spider web. ‘Spiders create their own path. I make my own decisions, don’t blame anyone,’ he says. There’s a tribute to his mom and dad, a football. On it goes, not a patch of skin unadorned.”
3. His Mom, Terri, Worked as an Illegal Bookie & Faced Charges
One of Aaron’s biggest supporters throughout his life was his mom, Terri. Back in 2001, an investigation conducted by the Connecticut State Police uncovered that Terri was being paid $300 per week working as an illegal bookie for restaurant owner Marty Hovansian. She had been taking bets and keeping track of the books in an undercover gambling operation.
She was never prosecuted, however.
“She wasn’t the brains of the operation,” said attorney William Gerace, who defended Hovanesian, at the time. “She was collateral.”
A few years later, Terri lost her husband. Her life has been filled with hardships and loss. After her son was arrested, her nephew, Thaddeus Singleton III, was killed in a car crash. A few weeks later, Terri’s brother, Robert Valentine, was killed when he crashed his moped.
Terri has worked as an administrative secretary at the South Side School in Bristol, Connecticut, for several years.
4. His Mom Remarried Landscaper Jeffrey Cummings, Who Was Accused of Stabbing in the Face
Before her husband died, Terri may have already moved on from her marriage. According to Rolling Stone, Terri had been seeing landscaper Jeffrey Cummings, a man with a pretty sketchy past, behind her husband’s back. The two met through the family — Cummings was married to Dennis Hernandez’s niece, Tanya (she ended up remarrying the aforementioned Thaddeus Singleton III).
Cummings was a well-known drug addict who had been in trouble with the law over the years and had previously faced charges relating to drugs and domestic violence.
Shortly after Dennis Hernandez’s death, Cummings moved in with Terri. According to the Boston Globe, the two tied the knot in Las Vegas in 2009. It is not believed that Aaron attended the wedding ceremony.
Less than a year later, an altercation between Cummings and Aaron’s mom landed her in the hospital. After a night of drinking, Cummings attacked Terri, cutting her face open with an 8-inch knife, according to the Hartford Courant. He was arrested and sent to prison for two years. During that time, Terri filed for divorce.
There has been some back and forth about the current status of their relationship. Some say that Terri took him back in 2012 — after he was released from prison. However, some friends told Rolling Stone that — as of 2013 — the two were no longer an item.
5. His Mom Was in Court During His Murder Trial & Believed He Was Innocent
Terri Hernandez was in court for most of her son’s hearings — and she believed that he was innocent. After his arrest, Terri told the Bristol Press that her son would be “cleared of all…charges.”
“All I can say is that he will be cleared of all these charges in the end, just let it play out until the end,” she told the outlet.
In 2015, there was some drama in court when Terri was allowed to kiss her son’s hand during the proceedings.
“During a morning break, Hernandez’s mother, Terri, leaned toward her son sitting at the defense table and asked permission from a court officer to touch him. He said yes, and she grabbed his hand, then kissed it. Hernandez gave a broad smile, then rubbed his eyes as his aunt and uncle wiped away tears. He then thanked the officer. Such contact between prisoners and the public is usually not allowed,” CBS News reported at the time.
Odin Lloyd’s family was very upset by this gesture, later telling the media that they no longer had a son to kiss.
When Hernandez was convicted, Terri broke down in tears, hugging her son’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins.