Tragic former NFL tight end Aaron Hernandez left behind a single child when he committed suicide in a Massachusetts prison cell: Tiny Avielle Janelle Hernandez, his daughter with his long-time girlfriend and fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins.
Viewers of a new Netflix documentary into Hernandez’s downfall are treated to adorable audio of Avielle speaking to her father in prison. However, what happened to Avielle? Where is Aaron’s daughter now?
Today, the child is 7 years old. She lives with her mother in Rhode Island, and she has a new half-sister Giselle. Shayanna frequently posts pictures of herself with Avielle on her Instagram page. You can see some of them throughout this article. Shayanna has indicated on Instagram that she sees a lot of Aaron in Avielle. Despite the fact that Aaron was sent to prison for murdering Shayanna’s sister’s boyfriend, Shayanna clearly retains a great deal of affection for Hernandez.
Here’s what you need to know:
Aaron Hernandez Left a Suicide Note for His Daughter That Said, ‘Daddy Will Never Leave You’
Hernandez’s downfall was almost Shakespearean; the once promising athlete and 4th round draft pick with a $40 million contract was eventually convicted of murdering the boyfriend of his fiancee’s sister, a man named Odin Lloyd. He was also accused of a string of other violent acts. After his death, brain analysis showed he’d suffered from severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Aaron Hernandez committed suicide on April 19, 2017 while serving a prison sentence for Lloyd’s murder. The Office of Investigative Services was notified that inmate Aaron Hernandez was “found unresponsive” and suspended from a ligature in Cell 57 of the G2 Housing Unit at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center (SBCC.) On the wall in the cell “were several drawings and John 3:16 written in a substance consistent with blood. Under the drawings was a Bible open to John 3:16, with the 16th verse marked in blood. Next to the Bible were 3 hand written notes.” John 3:16 reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. … For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (You can read more about the death scene here.)
In the cell, authorities also found three notes. One of the suicide notes was to Avielle, and one of them was to her mother, Shayanna Jenkins, whose relationship with Hernandez dated to childhood (despite the fact he also had on-and-off relationships with men.)
In the letter to Avielle, Hernandez wrote, “Daddy will never leave you! I’m entering to the timeless realm in which I can enter into any form at any time because everything that could happen or not happened I see all at once! Life is eternal—believe!!!” He also wrote: “Love, repent, and see me/yourself in everyone because that’s what the truth is! I’ll see you all in the heavens awaiting you all with the same love.”
To Shayanna, Hernandez wrote, in part, “You have always been my soul-mate and I want you to love life and know I’m always with you. I told you what was coming indirectly! I love you so much and know [you] are an angel,” Hernandez wrote. “We split into two to come change the world! Your characteristic is that of a true angel and the definition of God’s love! Tell my story fully but never think anything besides how much I love you.”
A Judge Ruled Avielle Couldn’t Sue the NFL for Her Father’s CTE
After Aaron died, leaving a measly estate of about $50,000, Shayanna tried to sue the NFL for millions of dollars. That’s because analysis of Aaron’s brain uncovered a severe case of CTE – the most severe case researchers had ever seen in someone his age.
The $20 million suit alleged the League was “fully aware of the damage that could be inflicted from repetitive impact injuries and failed to disclose, treat or protect him from the dangers of such damage,” according to ENews.
“Aaron Hernandez succumbed to the symptoms of CTE,” the suit continued. “As a result of the defendants’ conduct and the injury experienced by Aaron, Avielle Hernandez was deprived of the love, affect, society and companionship of her father while he was alive.” The suit was thrown out by a judge based on her determination that Hernandez was basically retired at the time, so his heir, Avielle, didn’t qualify.
Boston University conducted the research into Hernandez’s brain after his suicide. The university said in a news release that its expert found that Aaron Hernandez “suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) to a degree never before seen by BU researchers in such a young person.”
His brain was “riddled” with stage 3 CTE to a degree “that we’ve never seen…in our 468 brains, except for individuals very much older,” Ann McKee, director of BU’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, told a news conference in 2017. “Individuals with similar gross findings…were at least 46 years old at the time of death.”
Hernandez was 27.
According to Boston University, “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma (often athletes), including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head that do not cause symptoms. CTE has been known to affect boxers since the 1920’s (when it was initially termed punch drunk syndrome or dementia pugilistica)…The repeated brain trauma triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau.”
“Especially in the frontal lobes, which are very important for decision-making, judgment, and cognition, we could see damage to the inner chambers of the brain,” McKee said. “This would be the first case we’ve ever seen of that kind of damage in such a young individual.”
See more photos of Aaron’s brain here.
Avielle Has a New Half Sister
In May 2019, Shayanna took to Instagram to announce that she was pregnant with a new child. She eventually gave birth to another girl, Avielle’s half sister.
“Many of you have had speculated that I may be expecting another miracle which is very accurate , I wanted to take time and process and post when I was ready to. I wanted to have a moment for myself alone with my daughter … we are beyond excited about the new addition and chapter we will soon begin,” Shayanna wrote on Instagram.
“I couldn’t be a luckier woman to have such a perfect little girl that’s prepared to become the best big sister , and even more blessed to welcome another babygirl to our home . BabyG we are very excited to meet you !!! Mommy and sissy will continue to wait patiently for your arrival. I thank everyone for the continued support and appreciate the respect for our privacy that has been shown . ?”
There were unfounded rumors that Shayanna was impregnated with Aaron’s sperm, but they weren’t true. Rather, it was revealed that she had a new love interest named Dino Guilmette. According to Radar Online, Dino is Shayanna’s fiance. He is a former boxer from Rhode Island. You can read more about his background here.
Guilmette told Radar Online, “I’m going to have my hands full but I’m happy about it. I’m excited. It’s my daughter. She will have two sisters. I have another daughter from a previous relationship and then there’s Shayanna‘s daughter with Aaron. It’s very exciting.”
Shayanna Jenkins Frequently Writes About Avielle on Instagram, Saying the Girl Has Aaron’s Energy & Personality
On the anniversary of Aaron’s suicide, Shayanna took to Instagram to offer a tribute, and she gave some details of Avielle in that post.
“Today we think of you with heavy hearts and positive memories ! Although you aren’t here physically Avielle and I speak about you often and keep you in close spirit,” she wrote.
“The energy and personality Avielle has is totally you ! They say it takes a village and that’s very true, I’ve had a great support group overall … however I’d like to especially appreciate the men in Avielles life that have been the guidance she needs and more – she may not know it yet but you all have a huge impact on her life and Aaron wouldn’t want it any other way!!! Because of the emotional support you all have shown and provided – this day pushes me to be stronger and accomplish what Aaron May have wanted to. We love and miss you very much! May you continue to Rest In Peace.”
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