Aaron Hernandez's fiancée Shayanna Jenkins was his only loyal, loving support after his family gave up on him
Hernandez and Jenkins were highschool sweethearts and he proposed to her after the birth of their daughter
Late NFL star Aaron Hernandez first saw Shayanna Jenkins in grade school. The duo coincidentally went to Bristol Central High School in Connecticut later, where they developed feelings for each other, becoming highschool sweethearts. With Hernandez's athletic skills being recognized in school, he began dedicating more hours to football. He was also an exceptional basketball player and a track runner. The teen began breaking state records, which saw him getting a scholarship to the University of Connecticut. With Hernandez away at Uconn, the distance between him and Jenkins grew and the pair took a break.
Hernandez, however, rekindled his relationship with Jenkins later during his college years, and the couple became serious after he was drafted by the New England Patriots. Hernandez, the youngest NFL player at this point, proposed to Jenkins in 2012 after she gave birth to his only child, their daughter, Avielle Hernandez. This was when Hernandez's troubles began. The football tight end was probed in connection with a double homicide that took place on July 16, 2012, in Boston's South End.
Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu, 29, and Safiro Teixeira Furtado, 28, were killed by gunshots fired into their vehicle. Witnesses testified that Hernandez's silver SUV pulled up next to the victims and someone fired five shots from the car into the victims' vehicle. Police, however, brushed Hernandez's alleged involvement aside in the absence of concrete evidence.
Months later, on June 17, 2013, the NFL star was accused of killing Odin Lloyd, the boyfriend of his fiancée’s sister. Though rattled by the development, Jenkins continued to stand by Hernandez following his arrest. She attended all of his trials. The player's conviction, however, had a devastating effect on her, leading to cracks in her relationship with her sister. The course of the trial eventually saw Jenkins sacrificing her familial connections for Hernandez.
It is believed that Jenkins also disposed of the gun Hernandez used in Lloyd's murder, following his instructions. CCTV footage from Hernandez's home showed that Jenkins reportedly dumped what appeared like a gun lockbox in the garbage bin. The mother of Hernandez's child later told authorities that she did not know what she was throwing away. The weapon was never found.
Hernandez was found guilty of first-degree murder in 2015 for shooting and killing Lloyd. The proceedings of Lloyd's case also resulted in a renewed interest in the 2012 double homicide as the player's silver SUV sighted in the incident was found from his cousin Tanya Singleton's home. In 2017, Aaron went on trial for the murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. However, by this time, considering Hernandez's first murder conviction, his family had given up on him. Even his mother did not show up for the trial, but one person remained loyal to him — Jenkins. A new Netflix docu-series on the player's life titled 'Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez' has also stressed on Jenkin's unflinching loyalty towards the footballer.
Hernandez was acquitted of those two murders. However, just days later, on April 19, 2017, he was found dead in his prison cell at the age of 27. He had hanged himself.
Jenkins, a year later, wrote a lengthy Instagram post on the anniversary of Aaron’s suicide, detailing how devastated she was after hearing the news of her fiance's death.
"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.”
Letters written by Hernandez before his suicide, directed to Jenkins and their daughter Avielle were also made public later, which showed that the NFL star always considered his fiancée his "soulmate".
"Shay, You have always been my soul-mate and I want you to love life and know I’m always with you," Hernandez wrote in his last letter. "I told you what was coming indirectly! I love you so much and know [you] are an angel. We split into two to come change the world! Your characteristic is that of a true angel and the definition of God’s love! 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!"
Even though Hernandez and Jenkins were not married, she took his last name after his death. Nearly two years after Hernandez's death, Jenkins has moved on with her life. She welcomed a baby girl in 2018 with her new fiance Dino Guilmette, who had once played football at University of Florida with Hernandez.