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By Emily Cortes

Aaron Hernandez is a very well known name due to his NFL career with the New England Patriots, but his fame has skyrocketed since his conviction in 2015 for the murder of his sister-in-law’s boyfriend, Odin Lloyd. After his conviction, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He then faced trial again, this time for the double murder of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. He was acquitted of the double murder on April 14, 2017, and was found dead in his prison cell just five days later. 

Hernandez has recently been propelled back into the media due to the new Netflix documentary, Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. From the title, myself and others believed this documentary would focus on the physical mind as well as the mental state that lead this football star to allegedly kill. 

After his death, Aaron’s brain was donated to Boston University and research was conducted fairly quickly. The results showed that Hernandez had a brain disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). 

The three episodes in the series each ran for one hour, and explained both murder trials, Hernandez’s life before the NFL, and his closeted sexuality. 

One of Hernandez’s former high school teammates and friends, Dennis SanSoucie, claimed him and Hernandez had a sexual relationship during their formative years, but kept it a secret due to their fathers’ homophobic opinions, as well as the backlash they could face from their peers. During the time Hernandez attended high school, gender and sexual stereotypes were unfortunately much more common than they are today. Being gay and a football superstar that will eventually go on to play in the Super Bowl was not possible for Hernandez. 

What confused me while watching was what his sexuality really had to do with anything. Him being gay or straight was not a factor in why he did or did not murder someone. Hernandez also not publicly coming out or having any way to confirm or deny these accusations since his death was pretty disturbing to watch. It is absolutely unacceptable to out someone’s sexuality even if you’ve been intimate with them or if they’ve told you personally but not publicly.

 Netflix should be ashamed that they included the claims by both Dan SanSoucie and his father, Tim SanSoucie. Whether the claims were true or not, without Hernandez alive to defend his name, the issue should have never been included in a documentary about his brain disease. 

The focus on his sexuality was very upsetting to watch, but what may have been the hardest thing to watch was the families of Odin Lloyd, Daniel de Abreu, and Safiro Furtado. The absolute devastation of so many lives when the only possible motive was a spilled drink in a club. With high profile cases like this, people are watching to see if the celebrity will be found innocent or guilty, but in murder cases without famous names, people are looking for the victim to receive justice. 

It’s a very different dynamic and makes people intrigued for the wrong reasons. The worst part about situations like this is that the victim is hidden in the shadow of the perpetrator. Hernandez went into the Odin Lloyd trial with an army of fans which put him one step ahead of Lloyd. His fans were concerned with whether Hernandez would face life in prison or go back to competing for Super Bowls, no one was really concerned about justice for Lloyd. 

After the Odin Lloyd trial came to a close and Hernandez received his life sentence, media coverage began to dwindle since the suspense of whether he would be free or not was lost. This was also reflected in his second trial. Even if Hernandez was found not guilty, he had his original sentence to finish, so the trial lacked the same suspense as the Odin Lloyd case. Even Hernandez’s family became disinterested during his second trial after his mother and brother failed to attend. His fiancé did attend to support him. 

Since the media cared less about covering this trial, so did the viewers and old fans of Hernandez. He essentially lost their trust after his first guilty conviction. This meant not only did Hernandez lose his support system, but the victims were once again cast in even a darker shadow and they failed to receive justice, especially after the jury found him not guilty the second time around. 

When Hernandez was found dead in his jail cell at 3 a.m., he had the Bible verse, “John 3:16” written on his forehead in red ink. He also left a bible open to the same page before hanging himself. Back in 2017, I had heard the speculations on what message he was trying to send by writing the verse on his forehead, but it wasn’t until I viewed the documentary that the dots started to connect. 

During Hernandez’s collegiate football career at the University of Florida, he played alongside another National Football League star, Tim Tebow. Tebow was seen every weekend with “John 3:16” written on his eyeblack during UF games. Tebow and Hernandez were seen as complete opposites since Hernandez was not as openly religious as Tebow, and the two athletes ran in different crowds before both being drafted. Hernandez was a “tough guy” and was known to have anger issues, but nothing ever stood out as to why he would commit one or multiple murders. 

The biblical passage is a chilling reminder from his past that leads me to believe his demons were caused not just by his childhood and adolescent experiences and not his sexuality, but his CTE and how it affected his college years, professional career, and mental health. With stories like this, we can analyze, document, and question every aspect to try and uncover the truth, but the only two who knew the truth did not live to tell it.

Emily Cortes can be reached at Emily.cortes@spartans.ut.edu

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