In a tumultuous childhood, Tanya Singleton, Aaron Hernandez’s cousin, seems to have been one of the lone constant figures in his life. The new Netflix documentary on the former New England Patriots’ star’s downfall paints Singleton as a mother figure to Aaron.
He needed one at that point; his father, Dennis Hernandez, a larger than life school janitor known around Bristol, Connecticut as “King,” had died young from routine hernia surgery. His mother, Terri Valentine Hernandez, then started an affair with Tanya Singleton’s husband, even though Tanya was her niece. They basically swapped houses at that point, with Aaron moving in with Tanya, who is sometimes known as Tanya Cummings Singleton, and Tanya’s husband, Jeffrey Cummings, moving in with Terri.
Fast forward to Aaron’s murder trial, and there Singleton is again, dying of breast cancer, but refusing to testify against Aaron. Authorities found a vehicle stashed away in her garage that they thought was the getaway vehicle in a double murder in Boston (Hernandez was acquitted of that double murder but convicted in the unrelated homicide of Odin Lloyd, the boyfriend of his fiancee’s sister.)
Other than his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez, Tanya Singleton appears to be the key “ride and die” figure in the New York Patriot’s life. How many people did Hernandez kill overall? You can read an exploration of that here.
However, what happened to Tanya Singleton? Did she die? The Netflix documentary stops with her appearance at trial, and she was clearly struggling from the effects of cancer at that time. Hernandez, of course, killed himself by hanging in a Massachusetts prison cell in 2017.
Here’s what you need to know:
Tanya Singleton Died of Cancer in 2015
Sadly, Tanya Singleton died of cancer. According to Oxygen, she died in October 2015 in her home. That was two years before Aaron hanged himself in prison.
In a book, Hernandez’s lawyer Jose Baez described Singleton as the most loyal member of Aaron’s extended family to him. She was his “best friend and confidante.”
Singleton faced tragedy; her husband, Thaddeus Singleton III, died in a car crash in 2012. Tanya was the daughter of Andres Valderrama, the uncle of Aaron Hernandez. Thaddeus was previously accused in a violent home invasion.
Before that tragedy, Aaron’s mom, Terri Hernandez, became involved with Jeff Cummings, Tanya’s first husband. As Rolling Stone put it, “Friends say Terri had begun cheating on Dennis (Aaron’s dad) with a physically abusive coke dealer named Jeffrey Cummings, who was married to Dennis’ niece, Tanya Cummings.”
Rolling Stone reported that the family drama was extremely hard on Aaron – and on Singleton. It “hurt Aaron bad and broke his heart,” the magazine reported. Soon, Cummings was living with Terri, and Singleton and Cummings divorced. In 2010, Cummings was accused of slashing Terri with a knife. She divorced him but took him back when he was released from prison for attacking her. According to her mother’s 2019 obituary, Terri was still with Jeff Cummings.
Rolling Stone says Singleton and Aaron grew so close after this that he tattooed her son Jano’s name on his chest.
The obituary for Aaron’s dad Dennis details the family tree. Tanya was the daughter of Dennis’s sister.
The obit says, “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.”
It’s True That Singleton Refused to Testify Against Aaron
According to the Hartford Courant, the documentary is accurate: Tanya did refuse to testify against her cousin. The newspaper called her Tanya Cummings-Singleton. She was charged for refusing to testify before the grand jury in Hernandez’s murder case, the newspaper reported in 2013.
A judge ordered her held in contempt in court and Tanya ended up in custody as a result, the newspaper added.
Prosecutors offered her immunity, and she still wouldn’t testify, according to The Courant, which added that Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, co-defendants in the murder case, had used the home where Singleton lived as their address. It was owned by Hernandez’s uncle, the newspaper reported, adding that authorities alleged in court documents that Tanya made “overt attempts … to hinder or mislead the investigation.” She was accused of buying a bus ticket so Wallace could leave town, for example. According to Oxygen, prosecutors alleged that Hernandez offered to put money aside for Singleton’s kids, so there might have been another motive for her silence.
In 2014, Tanya received probation, according to Providence Journal. Prosecutors said she was responsible for “deliberate flouting” of the system. The DA didn’t ask for Singleton to be incarcerated because she was suffering from advanced breast cancer.
By that point, reported Providence Journal, Singleton’s cancer had spread to her liver and lymph nodes. Her lawyer said that jail had made the cancer, which she first was diagnosed with in 2011, worse.
In 2015, the same year she died, an accessory charge against Singleton was dropped because of how much her cancer had worsened. She was 39 years old.
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