Aaron Hernandez, the fallen NFL star turned convicted murderer, had an older brother named Jonathan “DJ” Hernandez. In recent years, Jonathan has given extensive interviews about the brothers’ childhoods and on Aaron himself. He’s also written a book.
What happened to Jonathan Hernandez? Where is DJ now? He is living in Tampa, Florida with his wife, Karen, and their two kids, and they present a happy, settled life on her Instagram page.
Aaron Hernandez died in 2017 in a Massachusetts prison cell. He committed suicide by hanging. It was the end of a tragic trajectory: Aaron had started out as a football phenom on the field of a Bristol, Connecticut high school, became a college standout, and then was awarded a $40 million contract by the New England Patriots. But he ended up in a tiny prison cell as a convicted murderer, and he was accused of a series of other violent acts. A new Netflix documentary explores the causes of this sad downfall, and it argues that Aaron’s childhood, with an abusive father, and his struggles with his sexuality, might have contributed. In addition, it turned out that Aaron Hernandez had the worst case of CTE that researchers had ever seen in someone his age.
Here’s what you need to know about Jonathan Hernandez, the other son of Dennis and Terri Valentine Hernandez:
DJ Hernandez Changed His Name to Jonathan, Created a Roofing Company, Had Two Kids, Became a High School Football Coach & Wrote a Book
Jonathan has done a lot in the last few years. In May 2019, Jonathan Hernandez became a father for the second time. According to RadarOnline, the boy’s name is Landon Airo Hernandez. At the time, Jonathan announced the boy’s birth on his Instagram page, but that page no longer exists.
Jonathan is married to wife Karen, the mother of his son and also his daughter, who was born earlier, according to RadarOnline.
Karen Hernandez’s Instagram page says, “Parker & Landon’s Momma// In love with my best friend, Dennis John// Skincare enthusiast // Adventurer // lover of breakfast for dinner.” She’s an independent skincare consultant.
The family lives in Tampa, Florida.
In 2017, according to a lengthy interview Jonathan gave to Sports Illustrated, he was working on roofs in Wylie, Texas, where he owned a roofing company called High Rise Roofing. The story said that Jonathan generally didn’t tell his clients that he used to be called DJ Hernandez, and that he was Aaron’s brother. The name DJ came from Jonathan’s given name: Dennis John. Shortly after that, in the same year, Jonathan was announced as the Ledyard High School football coach in Connecticut. He has a master’s degree in educational counseling.
A year later, though, Jonathan resigned the position at Ledyard, citing personal reasons. “Jonathan worked hard over the last year in his role as head football coach,” Athletic Director Jim Buonocore told The Day. “We are sad to see him leave us, but we understand that family and personal obligations come first. We appreciate his efforts during his time spent with us and wish Jonathan and his family the best in the future.”
According to the Better Business Bureau, in 2019, High Rise Roofing appeared to be out of business. Online records show that, today, he lives in the Tampa, Florida area. In 2018, he created an LLC in Pawcatuck, Connecticut.
In 2018, Jonathan gave an interview to CBS about Aaron. “I loved him. I love him… the whole thing is just so tragic,” he said. He was living in Tampa, Florida then already and had written a book called “The Truth About Aaron: My Journey to Understand My Brother.”
Jonathan once could have had a football career. In 2013, according to SI, Aaron’s brother was working as a graduate assistant at Iowa. He was 27, with a failed marriage. Jonathan was the older brother by three years. According to SI, DJ had trouble finding a full-time job in football coaching after Aaron’s arrest. “They don’t want the negative publicity,” he told SI. “Which is completely fine. I understand. [But] I couldn’t get anything. I was trapped.”
Jonathan’s Harper Collins biography reads, “Jonathan Hernandez was a starting quarterback at Bristol Central High School, where he was named the Connecticut’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2003. He went on to play at the University of Connecticut, where he became a 2x team captain and earned his Master’s degree in educational psychology. He later had coaching stints at Brown University (2011), The University of Miami (2012) and The University of Iowa (2013-14). He is currently the head coach at Ledyard High School in Ledyard, Connecticut.” (But, as noted, he has since resigned the Ledyard position.)
DJ Hernandez Has Revealed That the Brothers’ Father Was Abusive to Them
Jonathan has discussed the difficult childhood that he and Aaron shared.
Years after their father Dennis Hernandez’s sudden and untimely death after routine hernia surgery (the father died when Aaron was 16 at age 49), Aaron’s brother revealed to the Boston Globe that Dennis had subjected his children to beatings and abuse.
A Sports Illustrated interview with Aaron’s brother Jonathan says Dennis was 49 “when he went in for routine hernia surgery.” The day after it, though, Dennis “said he wasn’t feeling well.” That was unusual because he never complained. Jonathan told SI he left the hospital crying because he worried something bad was about to happen.
“The last hours of the father’s life are a blur to the son: infection, intensive care, tubes coming out of Dennis’s body, doctors yelling ‘Clear!’ as they employ the shock paddles, blood dripping from the patient’s nose, Terri and the boys resting their heads on Dennis’s chest, crying, their tears welling up around his cross pendant,” Sports Illustrated wrote.
However, a Boston Globe profile on Hernandez’s childhood described his father as abusive. “Aaron and his older brother were often beaten and brutalized by their dad. Aaron didn’t cry at his father’s funeral, and people took note. He kept it all inside,” the Globe reported.
To the Globe, Jonathan detailed severe beatings that he and Aaron received at the hands of their father. “I picked up the phone once to call, to seek help,” the brother said to the Globe, revealing the family abuse for the first time. “And his response was, ‘Call them.’ And he handed me the phone, and he said, ‘I’m going to beat you even harder, you and your brother, and they’re going to have to pull me off of you when they knock down the door.’”
Jonathan told The Globe that homosexuality was not accepted by Dennis.
According to Dennis’s obituary, “Dennis Hernandez, 49, husband of Terri (Valentine) Hernandez of Bristol, passed away on Friday, (January 6, 2006) at Bristol Hospital. Mr. Hernandez was born on February 9, 1956 in Bristol, a son of the late Bienvenido and Josephine (Garcia) Hernandez. Dennis was employed at Bristol Eastern High School and took great pleasure in watching his sons play sports and attending their games.”
The obit continued, “In addition to his wife, he is survived by his two sons, Dennis ‘DJ’ Hernandez and Aaron Hernandez both of Bristol; his brother and sister-in-law Vito and Denora Hernandez of Bristol, his twin brother and sister-in-law David and Lisa Hernandez of Bristol; his sister and brother-in-law Ruth and Andre Valderrama of Bristol; his nieces Kizzy and Emily Hernandez; Davina and Krystal Hernandez and Tanya and Jennifer Valderrama.”
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