In the wake of the new Netflix documentary, “Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez,” Aaron’s former fiancé, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, has also become a major topic of conversation.

In 2013, Aaron, a tight end for the New England Patriots, turned the NFL on its head when he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and five firearm violations.

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In 2015, Aaron was convicted of killing Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player and boyfriend of Shayanna’s sister, Shaneah Jenkins. Investigation into that crime led to another trial when Hernandez was charged for the 2012 drive-by double murder of Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu in Boston.

The motive for these murders was allegedly that one of the men spilled a drink on Hernandez and didn’t apologize. Though the police knew Hernandez was in the club that night, he was not a suspect until police found a car implicated in the murders in Hernandez’ cousin’s garage while investigating the Lloyd murder.

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At the age of 27, three years after his conviction in the Lloyd murder,  Aaron was found dead in his prison cell by suicide at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts.

During both trials, Shayanna publicly stood by Aaron, putting her and her sister on opposite sides of the courtroom and, presumably in life. Once the documentary debuted, Shayanna responded by thanking her social media followers for their support.

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#stayhumble😘

A post shared by Shayanna Jenkins – Hernandez (@shayjhernandez) on

Aaron and Shayanna were high school sweethearts who’d known each other since grade school. They grew up together in Bristol, Connecticut and before his arrests, they planned to get married in a California ceremony in 2014. Aaron proposed to Shayanna in 2012 after she gave birth to his only child, their daughter, Avielle Hernandez.

In a lot of ways, Shayanna embodies the most tragic of love stories. She is a Black woman who is forced to endure the trial (s) of her partner. Her love is tested and criticized publicly and like many women in similar situations, she’s on trial herself.

We don’t condemn Shayanna for supporting her fiancè because we know women like her. We are familiar with the drawn and tired faces of women and mothers who hope their beloved is granted freedom. In the end, Shayanna becomes a single mother. Her partner and provider was not only imprisoned but disgraced and the emotional, financial and legal ramifications impacted them both, even though they were caused by his actions.

As a community, we can acknowledge the pain and toxicity of circumstances like Shayanna’s while sympathizing with her and her daughter. We share this mental duality because we know and have seen how incarceration impacts entire families.

In our community, we glorify being a ‘ride or die’ without really highlighting the impact it has on the women left behind. Aaron’s cousin, Tanya Singleton, hid the car implicated in a double murder and went to jail for refusing to testify against him, all while battling breast cancer. Shayanna is believed to have disposed of the gun Aaron used in the Lloyd murder, per his instructions. That weapon has never been found and when asked about dumping what looked like a gun lock box that was recorded on her home’s surveillance cameras, Shayanna said she didn’t know what she was throwing away.

Shayanna sacrificed by simply being in the courtroom. Her willingness to support Aaron publicly despite what he was convicted of and the rift it caused in her own family, was a direct declaration of her love and loyalty to him. When asked about her decision to choose to support Aaron over Odin and Shaneah, Shayanna defended her actions during a 2018 interview in the documentary, “Aaron Hernandez Uncovered.”

“This is someone you love and you think about,’’ she said. “I wasn’t going to let him experience it alone. I was going to stick by his side every step of the way.”

In 2017, Aaron went on trial for the murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado and Shayanna showed up there as well, although no one from Aaron’s family did. He was later acquitted of those two murders but killed himself that same year.

Rumors about Aaron’s bisexuality were revealed by alleged former lover Dennis SanSoucie, his quarterback and close friend at Bristol Central High. Dennis claimed they experimented sexually and that Aaron was afraid to come out to his father. Shayanna addressed those rumors as well.

“I wish I had known how he felt,” she wrote. “Just so we could have talked about it. I wouldn’t have disowned him, I would have been supportive.”

 

 

Hernandez’ brain was examined after his death and the results showed that he suffered from severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated head trauma. Since his medical condition was discovered, Shayanna has sued the NFL for $20 million, a case still unresolved.

In the letters he left behind for his daughter and Shayanna,  he calls his fiance his soulmate and an angel.

“I want you to love life and know I’m always with you,” he said in the letter. “I told you what was coming indirectly! I love you so much and know [you] are an angel…Tell my story fully but never think anything besides how much I love you. This was the supreme almighty’s plan, not mine! I love you! Let Avi know how much I love her!”

Although the two were never married, Shayanna took his last name after his death. After the trial, she downsized to a home in Rhode Island. In 2018, she wrote a lengthy Instagram post on the anniversary of Aaron’s suicide.

“A year today….. I remember getting a call saying you had passed,” she wrote. “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… We love you very very much and you are and will continue to be missed ❤️#RIPAaron#81#hisdaughterskeeper #oursuperhero.”

Shayanna has now moved on with her life. In 2018, she welcomed a baby girl with her new fiance Dino Guilmette who is not only a bar owner but played football with Aaron at the University of Florida. Shayanna is proof that new beginnings can flourish even after the days you thought life was over. She is a reminder of strength and endurance. Her story rings true for many women, including the tragedy, and the steps she has taken toward a better future. Jenkins is hoping to provide a better future for her two daughters by reflecting on her own experience.

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#selflove … I remember getting dolled up because it made me feel great and my confidence was so high , as I grew up and guys became part of my life I lost myself and let a man define me and destroy my self-confidence . I never reflected on past years because I was trying to find myself and get out of the shadows of anyone trying to bring me down . In doing so I’ve been blessed with two beautiful , spirited girls that I would go through everything over and over again for ! However , starting the new year right I’ve vowed to live for me and find my beauty and inner girl again . In spirit of my dedication to become a better me I’ve applied a little something 😉😘 #happysunday #gettingmysexyback😜 #nevergiveup #girlmomma

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PHOTO: AP

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