Layer by layer, bit by bit, more is being uncovered about the brief, troubled life of onetime NFL star-turned-convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez, who is the subject of an exhaustive new investigation by the Boston Globe. Among the revelations from the newspaper’s Spotlight team in a six-part series and podcast is that the former New England Patriots tight end was “sexually molested” as a child.
The team’s investigation included interviews with Hernandez’s former teammates, friends and family members and recordings of almost 300 phone calls Hernandez made from prison while serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the murder of Odin Lloyd in 2013. Five days before his suicide, he had been found not guilty of a double homicide that occurred in 2012.
Among the revelations is his brother’s comment that Aaron Hernandez was molested as a young boy, something that George Leontire, one of Hernandez’s lawyers, also confirmed he had been told. Neither Jonathan Hernandez nor the lawyer, however, would reveal the identity of the alleged predator. Jonathan Hernandez revealed other disturbing details, saying he and his brother were “in constant fear of their father’s beatings” as kids in Bristol, Conn.
“I picked up the phone once to call, to seek help,” Jonathan told the Globe, relating a story about the boys' father, Dennis. “And his response was, ‘Call them.’ And he handed me the phone, and he said, ‘I’m going to beat you even harder, you and your brother, and they’re going to have to pull me off of you when they knock down the door.’ ” In one recording the Globe obtained, Hernandez spoke of living in a home in which there was “arguing 24/7.”
Their father died when Aaron was a junior in high school, and while he was in school, Hernandez smoked marijuana with his friends and teammates and concealed a secret about his sexuality, according to the report. One teammate, Dennis SanSoucie, said he had a “now-and-then sexual relationship” with Aaron during middle and high school. “Me and him were very much into trying to hide what we were doing,” SanSoucie said. “We didn’t want people to know.”
Especially not Dennis Hernandez.
Homophobic slurs were used “all the time in our house,” Jonathan Hernandez told the Globe. “All the time. Standing. Talking. Acting. Looking. It was the furthest thing my father wanted you to even look like in our household. This was not acceptable to him.”
Hernandez, who played in the NFL from 2010 to 2012, was found at autopsy to have had what researchers said was one of the most advanced cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative nerve disease that has been linked to subconcussive head injuries, they had encountered in a person his age. Boston University’s CTE team noted that the disease “is associated with aggressiveness, explosiveness, impulsivity, depression, memory loss and other cognitive changes.” The roots of his problems extend further back than football, though, as the Globe unearthed details of his troubled childhood, drug use and sexuality.
Since Aaron Hernandez’s prison suicide in April 2017, SanSoucie has come out as gay, and he believes his late friend and teammate would be proud of him.
“I really truly feel in my heart I got the thumbs-up from him,” he said.