The fiancee of former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez doesn’t believe her high school sweetheart committed murder or suicide, she said in a prerecorded television interview that aired Monday.
Still wearing her engagement ring, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez told Phil McGraw of the talk show “Dr. Phil” that the guilty verdict in Odin Lloyd’s murder, for which Hernandez was serving a life sentence, was “a shock to all of us. We were definitely leaning more toward an innocent verdict.”
The interview will be aired over two days. On Monday, Jenkins-Hernandez didn’t talk about rumors Hernandez was gay and whether he killed himself so she could collect millions in insurance, though she did say the phrase “You’re rich” in a note found by the body referenced their love.
The end-of-show teaser indicated those subjects would be discussed on Tuesday.
When asked if she believed her fiancee was guilty of Lloyd’s murder, Jenkins-Hernandez said, “I truly don’t. I’ve said it over and over. He may have been at the wrong place, wrong time, but I don’t think what is said to be out there is actually accurate.”
Hernandez was serving a life sentence when, authorities say, he was found dead in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center on April 19, 2017. His death came five days after he’d been acquitted in a separate double murder.
Following a Massachusetts formality, a judge vacated Hernandez’s conviction in the Lloyd case after the onetime superstar’s death, but a prosecutor promised to appeal the decision.
Their last chat
Jenkins-Hernandez told McGraw there was no indication Hernandez was suicidal. Their chats prior to his death struck an encouraging tone. He spoke of coming home and keeping up the fight, she said.
She called the acquittal a high point in her fiancee’s legal drama, and the night before he died, he told their 4-year-old daughter, Avielle, he was coming home and couldn’t wait to sleep in the bed with her and her mother.
She believes she was the last person to speak with him, and their conversation was “completely normal.” At no point did he indicate he would never see her or Avielle again.
“I remember him saying, ‘Babe I’ve got to go. They’re shutting the doors.’ I honestly don’t think we said, ‘I love you’ to each other. And that was it,” she said.
“I don’t know what to believe, to be honest with you. It’s just not the Aaron that I know. I think that if he would have done something like this, it would have been at his worst, and I felt like it was looking so bright. We were going up a ladder, in a sense, to a positive direction,” she said. “I don’t think this was a suicide, knowing him. I don’t know. I don’t know.”
There were also peculiarities in his suicide note to her, she said. It was oddly short, and rather than calling her “babe” or “bae,” he addressed her by name, she said. It was also strange that he didn’t sign it “soulmate.”
“It screamed love, but it wasn’t personal. It wasn’t intimate. … There were some odd parts where It didn’t make sense,” she said. “The handwriting was similar but I feel like, again, you have nothing but time in there, so, I feel like it’s easily duplicated or could be.”
Had she any inkling that Hernandez was pondering taking his life, she said, she would’ve taken action.
“I wanted him home more than anyone. I would’ve stopped it. I would’ve told someone,” she said.
‘He was absolutely in love’
Jenkins-Hernandez also spoke about her fiancee’s “big heart,” especially when it came to Avielle. He never let the fame or multimillion-dollar contract change him, she said.
Pressed by McGraw on whether Hernandez was a gang member, she said, “Not from knowledge,” before conceding she probably wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Asked if any of Hernandez’s friends made her nervous, or if she’d ever confronted Hernandez about his friends, she said no.
“Everyone has their own choice in friends. He didn’t have the best choice in some friends, but that didn’t make him a bad person,” she said. “I wouldn’t say I felt uncomfortable in my home. I separated myself. … I pick and choose my battles, and there’s some things that I pressed on and some things I didn’t.”
Family remains important to her, Jenkins-Hernandez said, explaining that she changed her name “for the simple fact that we were a family, and I’m very strict on that.”
Avielle “was very much a daddy’s girl,” she said, explaining that she took the 4-year-old to see her father once or twice a week before his death. They never spoke about the drama, only happy times, and Avielle would sit in Hernandez’s lap, play cards and color during their visits.
“He was absolutely in love. When we were all together, he was focused on her. It’s kind of like I was just the chaperone, in a sense,” she said. “When she was there, she took over and she demanded attention. That’s for sure.”
Asked if Avielle understood her father was a convicted murderer, or even that she was visiting him in prison, Jenkins-Hernandez said they always kept the visits positive.
“She has no idea, and I won’t tell her until she decides to ask or if she asks. She thought daddy was at work. That’s how we kept it. She knows nothing about, jail, prison or any of that stuff,” she said.