Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez spent much of his life in the headlines, from his days playing college football until his suicide on Wednesday in a Massachusetts prison cell, where the 27-year-old was serving a life sentence for murder. Here’s a look back at how the media told the story of his life and death.
In this USA Today profile, Hernandez discussed how his father’s death affected his college football career and talked about his close relationship with former University of Florida head football coach Urban Meyer.
– Kim Klement, USA Today
Hernandez was the 115th pick overall in the 2010 draft. He was originally expected to be picked up earlier in the draft, based on on-field production, but several coaches passed on Hernandez due to “off-field concerns,” according to ESPN.
–Mike Reiss, ESPN
After the Patriots drafted Hernandez, sources with other NFL teams expressed their concern about his history of marijuana use, which was reportedly the reason he dropped to a fourth-round draft pick. Hernandez failed multiple drug tests during his college football career, sources told The Boston Globe. However, Hernandez was reportedly open about his past marijuana use while he was being scouted. He passed his drug test at the Scouting Combine.
-Albert R. Breer, Boston.com
The Boston Globe reported the initial details of the double murder that Hernandez would later be acquitted of. Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado were killed in a drive-by shooting along the Interstate 90 overpass in the South End. A third man was wounded. Police said it was a gang-related attack that was carried out in a matter of seconds.
– Brian R. Ballou, The Boston Globe
The Patriots signed Hernandez to a five-year, $37.5 million deal that would have kept the Pro Bowl tight end in New England through 2018, NFL.com reported. The contract had an average annual value of $7.5 million. Hernandez then donated $50,000 to the Myra Kraft foundation, thanking Patriots owner Robert Kraft for drafting him and extending his contract.
– Brian McIntyre, NFL.com
After police ruled the death of Hernandez’s acquaintance, Odin Lloyd, a homicide, Hernandez’s involvement came into question. Police searched his North Attleboro home and the underbrush near where Lloyd’s body was found about a mile away.
– Mark Arsenault, Wesley Lowery and Brian Ballou, The Boston Globe
June 21, 2013: As Hernandez is investigated in connection with the death of Odin Lloyd, Hernandez’s past troubles return to the spotlight
While Hernandez was being investigated in connection with the murder of Odin Lloyd, an NFL scout revealed his pre-draft file on the Patriots tight end, which expressed concerns about his low self-esteem and emotional instability. At the time, Hernandez was also facing a civil lawsuit after allegedly shooting a friend in the face in the Miami area.
– Shalise Manza Young, The Boston Globe
Hernandez was arrested and charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd after the two had a dispute in a nightclub. Lloyd’s body was found a mile from Hernandez’s North Attleboro home. He also faced five gun-related charges.
– ESPN.com news services
The Patriots released Hernandez from his contract two hours after his was arrested for the murder of Odin Lloyd. At the time, he had already received $9.25 million of a $12.5 million signing bonus.
– Lindsay H. Jones, USA Today
This ABC report said Tebow, Hernandez’s teammate at the University of Florida, tried unsuccessfully to break up a fight between Hernandez, then 17, and a bar manager. The police report listed “hands, feet, fists and spitting” as the weapons involved.
– Aaron Katersky and Michelle McPhee, ABC
After two days of silence about Hernandez’s arrest and subsequent release from the team, Patriots owner Robert Kraft finally spoke out on the charges.
“No one in our organization was aware of any of these kind of connections. If it’s true, I’m just shocked,” Kraft said. “Our whole organization has been duped.”
– Ben Volin, The Boston Globe
Rolling Stone published a piece titled ‘Aaron Hernandez: The Gangster in the Huddle.’ It recounted Hernandez’s frequent use of the drug angel dust and his relationship with a group of gangsters. According to this report, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told Hernandez he was one mistake away from getting cut from the team.
– Ron Borges and Paul Solotaroff, Rolling Stone
Hernandez, who was already in jail awaiting trial for the Odin Lloyd case, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the 2012 deaths of de Abreu and Furtado. He was also charged with three counts of armed assault with intent to murder and one count of assault and battery.
– Ashley Fantz, CNN
In 2015, Hernandez went on trial for the murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancé. The prosecution took more than two months to present its case.
– Shannon McMahon, Boston.com
During Hernandez’s murder trial, Patriots owner Robert Kraft testified that his former star tight end insisted during a private conversation at the team facility that he did not kill Odin Lloyd.
“I understood there was an incident that had transpired and I wanted to know whether he was involved,” Kraft said. “He said he was not involved, that he was innocent.”
– Travis Andersen, The Boston Globe
Hernandez was found guilty of first-degree murder in Lloyd’s death and sentenced to life in prison without parole. More than 100 witnesses were called while the prosecution presented its case, which was mostly circumstantial. The motive? According to the prosecution, Lloyd was talking to people who Hernandez didn’t like while the two were at a bar in Boston.
– Ken Belson and Victor Mather, The New York Times
Sports Illustrated published a piece focusing on the life of Jonathan Hernandez, Aaron Hernandez’s brother. After the former NFL star was convicted of first-degree murder, Jonathan Hernandez decided to change his name from D.J. and to quit coaching football. The brothers communicated frequently while Hernandez was in prison, according to the article.
– Michael Rosenberg, Sports Illustrated
Hernandez, who was already serving a life sentence for the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, went back on trial for murder in 2017–this time for the 2012 fatal shootings of two men outside a Boston nightclub.
– Denise Lavoie, AP via Boston.com
Hernandez was acquitted in the 2012 double homicide of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. The former New England Patriots tight end choked back tears as the verdicts were read in court. A few moments later, he looked back at his fiancee and nodded somberly as relatives of the victims sobbed loudly. A defense attorney hugged him.
– Denise Lavoie, AP via Boston.com
Hernandez was found dead in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Facility in Shirley, Mass. His body was discovered just after 3 a.m., and he was pronounced dead about an hour after he was taken to the hospital. A Corrections Department spokesman said Hernandez tried to jam his cell door to prevent guards from opening it and hanged himself with a bed sheet tied to a window.
– Denise Lavoie, AP via Boston.com