Nearly one year after his suicide in a Massachusetts prison, investigations into Aaron Hernandez’s troubled, battered mind continue. In an Oxygen Media documentary that premiered this weekend, two people close to Hernandez said the ex-NFL star and Connecticut native was gay, and that his sexuality was a source of anguish in his short, violent life.
The public’s posthumous fascination with Hernandez shows the almost unbelievable steepness of his fall from football star to convicted murderer to dead at age 27.
In the four-hour documentary, a member of Hernandez’s legal team, George Leontire, said he spoke with the ex-Patriot about his sexuality. Leontire, who helped secure Hernandez’s acquittal in a 2017 double murder case, told the documentary’s producers,
“this man clearly was gay.”
Hernandez “acknowledged it, acknowledged the immense pain it caused him,” said Leontire, who is gay himself. “I think he also came out of a culture that was so negative about gay people, that he exhibited some self-hatred.”
An ex-girlfriend from Hernandez’s University of Florida days said in the documentary that she had suspected that he was gay when they were dating and that he confirmed it when they were corresponding after his murder conviction.
Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez, pushed back on rumors concerning his sexuality in a television interview last May.
“It’s embarrassing, in a sense,” she said. “It’s hurtful, regardless if it’s true or not. It’s just not something that I saw. It’s not something that I believe. It’s just not him.”
The two met at Bristol Central High School, where Hernandez shattered records as an All-State tight end and defensive end. Jenkins Hernandez is the mother of Hernandez’s daughter, Avielle, who is 5.
After his suicide in April 2017, Hernandez’s brain was dissected by Boston University researchers, who said it was so battered that it resembled the brain of a 46-year-old boxer. Last October, his family sued the National Football League and the sports equipment company Riddell, saying neither the league nor its helmet supplier did enough to protect Hernandez from the sport’s blows and the neurological damage they caused.
Hernandez was convicted in 2015 of murdering Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating Jenkins Hernandez’s sister and was sentenced to life in prison. In 2017, Hernandez was acquitted of a separate, double murder charge in connection with the shooting deaths of two men in Boston’s South End. Five days after being acquitted, Hernandez committed suicide in a maximum security prison cell in Lancaster, Mass.