Shayanna Jenkins was the fiancee of NFL star Aaron Hernandez, and the mother of his child. Aaron wrote a suicide note to Shayanna, calling her his soulmate. After his death, she returned the favor, writing of Aaron on Instagram, “Your legacy will live on, until we meet again … WE love you very very much and you are and will continue to be missed.”
Hernandez hanged himself in his prison cell, where he was serving time for the murder of Odin Lloyd, who was dating Shaneah Jenkins, the sister of Shayanna. However, Shayanna, judging from recent Instagram posts, never lost her “ride or die” affection for the fallen star. That’s remained true even when she essentially chose Hernandez over her own sister; Shaneah Jenkins would sit with the Lloyd family in the courtroom while Shayanna sat with Hernandez’s. Today, Shaneah is a prosecutor in Atlanta. You can read about her life here.
Where is Shayanna Jenkins today? What is she doing now? Surviving, even thriving. She wrote on Instagram, “Life has knocked me down, it showed me things I never wanted to see, I experienced sadness and failures. But I always get up.” She goes by the name Shayanna Hernandez, even though she never got to live her dream of marrying Aaron, her childhood sweetheart (a judge approved her request to change her last name in 2015 to match her daughter’s.) She’s had another child and lives in Rhode Island.
Jenkins Hernandez is the mother of Avielle Jenkins-Hernandez, Aaron’s daughter. The tragic downfall of Hernandez – who went from football phenom to convicted murderer – is featured in a new Netflix series called Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. It argues that Hernandez was leading a secret gay lifestyle that may have contributed to his turmoil. That revelation, which has also been made before, hasn’t stopped Shayanna’s love. That steadfast love – which prosecutors alleged may have led her to cross lines, maybe even relating to the Odin Lloyd murder weapon – was also evident in the Netflix documentary. In the end, Shayanna was sometimes the only loved one of Aaron still in court.
How many people did Hernandez kill overall? You can read an exploration of that here.
Here’s what you need to know:
Shayanna Thanked Supporters After the Netflix Show Streamed & Wrote a Love Letter to Aaron on the Anniversary of His Death
Shayanna posted on Instagram on January 16, 2020, writing, “I wanted to let all of you sweet sweet souls know I have tried to read every message sent on IG and through email (positive and negative) … the amount of support and positive energy is again unreal! I’m sure you will all understand how imperative it is to take some time away from social media.”
The Instagram post came the day after the Netflix show streamed. Shayanna also wrote a lengthy post on Instagram about Aaron in 2018, a year after his suicide. She wrote:
“A year today….. I remember getting a call saying you had passed. Dropping the phone and crying uncontrollably I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to get to you as fast as I knew how so you weren’t alone anymore. This was by far the worst day of my life especially when things were looking better….I was / still am so confused and wish I could ask you tons of questions – not just for me but for our daughter. I’ve suffered hurt, sadness and definitely anger BUT I’ve had this little girl to make my spirits higher.”
Shayanna continued: “Although, I hurt today and continue to figure this thing called ‘life’ out … we will celebrate your life with love, joy and happiness. You’ve touched more people’s hearts than I’ve ever seen – not just from your smile but you being you. I thank you for showing me things I’d never get to experience in life and creating a better one for your daughter and I … I thank you for allowing me to share all of our experiences and create new memories with this precious princess. Your legacy will live on, until we meet again … WE love you very very much and you are and will continue to be missed ❤️#RIPAaron#81#hisdaughterskeeper #oursuperhero.”
Shayanna has a Facebook page, but there are no visible posts since 2012. The cover photo shows her kissing Hernandez.
Shayanna Told Dr. Phil She Doesn’t Believe the Claims Around Aaron’s Death
Above you can watch an interview Shayanna gave to Dr. Phil, in which she said some of the bizarre details at the death scene weren’t like Aaron, such as the Bible verse written on his forehead.
“None of it is very believable to me,” she said. “Not the findings. Not the investigation. I just don’t believe it.” You can read the details of Hernandez’s suicide here.
Investigative reports and the prison file provide the details. A Sergeant Smith advised that around 3:03 a.m., a code “99” was called by Correction Officer Gerard Breau reporting Hernandez “was hanged in cell #57.” Other officers arrived and they discovered the door was “pegged,” meaning that cardboard had been shoved into the door tracks to prevent the door from opening.
A report from the Massachusetts Department of Correction office of Investigative Services dated May 1 2017 says that, on April 19, 2017 at 3:25 a.m., 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.)
The report says that Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit assigned to the Worcester County DA’s office and the Office of Investigative Services concluded there “was no indication of foul play.” Autopsy reports found a negative toxicology report and a cause of death as suicide, the report says. Authorities then closed the investigation into Hernandez’s death.
The investigative reports further detail what was found. Aaron’s right middle finger had a fresh cut and there was some blood on the adjacent fingers. “There also appeared to be a large circular blood mark on each of Hernandez’s feet and ‘John 3:16’ was written on Hernandez’s forehead in ink. There were no other signs of trauma or violence on Hernandez’s body.” (The Netflix show reveals that Hernandez’s former teammate Tim Tebow was known to play with that Bible verse written on his face. It’s not clear whether Hernandez intended that analogy.)
Aaron Urged Jenkins Hernandez to ‘Love Life’ in His Suicide Note to Her
Aaron Hernandez left suicide notes for both Shayanna and their daughter.
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.”
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.”
In 2019, on the anniversary of Aaron’s suicide, Shayanna shared a photo of Aaron holding their child in bed. She wrote: “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. 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.”
Shayanna Sued the NFL on Behalf of Her Daughter With Aaron Hernandez
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. In fact, researchers found that Aaron had the worst case of CTE they had ever seen in someone his age.
“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. Hernandez left an estate worth almost nothing in the end. Read the judge’s decision here.
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.
(You can read about the CTE suffered by former NFL player Junior Seau here. It’s also discussed in the Netflix documentary.)
Shayanna Now Has a Child With Another Man
A year after Aaron’s suicide, Shayanna had another baby with a different man. According to RadarOnline, in 2018, she and fiancee Dino Guilmette welcomed a girl.
“I’m going to have my hands full, but I’m happy about it,” he told RadarOnline. “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.” You can read more about Giulmette here.
Shayanna shared news of the new baby on her Instagram page in 2018, writing, “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 . 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 . ?”
Shayanna Has Spoken Out About Stories that Aaron Hernandez Was Gay
In addition, Shayanna has spoken out about the news that emerged that Hernandez had sexual relationships with men.
According to Daily Mail, Jenkins wrote a forward in a book called “Unnecessary Roughness,” by Jose Baez, Aaron’s lawyer. “There has been much speculation about Aaron’s sexuality since his death. I can say this: Aaron was very much a man to me,” Jenkins wrote in the forward.
“I saw no indication that he was gay or homosexual. I wish I had known how he felt, just so we could have talked about it. I wouldn’t have disowned him. I would have been supportive. I can’t fault him if he was feeling that way.”
One source in a position to know about Aaron’s sexuality is his brother, Jonathan Hernandez. He told CBS News that Hernandez was gay.
He also revealed other family secrets: He claimed that Aaron was sexually abused as a child and that their father would beat them.
Their dad didn’t approve of homosexuality, Jonathan told CBS, adding, “You could kind of see what, you know, his (Aaron’s) conflicts were and what he was struggling with, and it’s, you know, his sexuality … and accepting himself.”
In fact, Newsweek alleged that police sources believed murder victim Odin Lloyd might have known that Hernandez was bisexual, providing a motive for murder. According to Newsweek, Ernest Wallace, a co-defendant, told police that Lloyd called Hernandez a “schmoocher,” which was considered a “gay slur.”
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