Former NFL tight end Aaron Hernandez, who hung himself in prison last year while awaiting appeal on a murder conviction, was sexually molested and physically abused as a young boy, according to a report published Saturday by the Boston Globe.
The story, “The Secret Behind the Smile,” is the first in a six-part series called “Gladiator” compiled by the Globe’s Spotlight Team investigative unit. The series details secrets about Hernandez’s childhood, career, sexuality, drug use, and his fascination with violence.
A @GlobeSpotlight investigation on Aaron Hernandez uncovered new recordings and public records that have never been seen or heard before. Read part one of “Gladiator.” https://t.co/lfkkE6RJdW pic.twitter.com/3drvMPIZ88
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) October 14, 2018
The article focuses on some key relationships that shaped Hernandez’s childhood growing up in Bristol, Connecticut. The first is his father, Dennis Hernandez, a school janitor who dreamed of athletic greatness for his sons. He died at age 49 from routine hernia surgery.
“Aaron had adored his dad and lost his way when he was gone, the story goes. Maybe that’s why this good boy went bad,” the Spotlight team wrote.
But the reality was quite different than this myth, the Globe reports.
“Aaron and his older brother [Jonathan] were often beaten and brutalized by their dad. Aaron didn’t cry at his father’s funeral, and people took note. He kept it all inside,” the article says.
Jonathan Hernandez, who played quarterback at UConn, told the Globe that he and Aaron lived in constant fear of their father’s beatings. Jonathan, now 32, said the beatings were routine and severe.
“I picked up the phone once to call, to seek help,” Jonathan Hernandez told the Globe. “And (my father’s) 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.’”
The beatings usually came when their father was drinking, Hernandez said, who has a memoir coming out this month called “The Truth About Aaron.”
Another of Aaron Hernandez’s relationships was with the quarterback of his football team at Bristol Central High School, Dennis SanSoucie. They made one of the greatest quarterback-receiver tandems in Connecticut high school football history.
The two friends smoked a lot of marijuana — before school, before practices, and after games. They also had a sexual relationship, SanSoucie told the Globe. It started in middle school and went through the high school years.
What is the legacy of Aaron Hernandez? The Globe’s Spotlight Team has compiled the story of a profoundly troubled young man and the ugly underside of America’s most popular sport. Subscribe to #GladiatorPodcast https://t.co/B4a1r8cVQY pic.twitter.com/tervEshwFd
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) October 11, 2018
“Me and him were very much into trying to hide what we were doing. We didn’t want people to know,” SanSoucie told the Globe.
Hernandez didn’t want anyone to know about the relationship with SanSoucie, particularly his father.
“Dennis Hernandez had long had concerns that Aaron, as a boy, had a feminine way about him — the way he stood or used his hands, his brother said. He also remembered one of Aaron’s early ambitions that sent their father over the edge,” wrote the Spotlight Team.
“I remember he wanted to be a cheerleader. My cousins were cheerleaders and amazing,” Jonathan Hernandez told the Globe. “And I remember coming home and like my dad put an end to that really quick. And it was not OK. My dad made it clear that … he had his definition of a man.”
Hernandez also revealed to his brother later in life that he was sexually molested as a child, the Globe reported. One of Hernandez’s lawyers in his criminal case, George Leontire, also said Hernandez told him of sexual abuse as a child. Neither Jonathan Hernandez or Leontire were willing to identify the perpetrator to the newspaper.
Aaron Hernandez went on to star at the University of Florida and the Patriots. In 2013 he was charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd and was convicted in 2015.
While on trial for the murder of Lloyd, he was charged with the double-homicide of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. Hernandez was acquitted of those charges in 2017, but just days after being acquitted, Hernandez hung himself in his jail cell.
The six-part Globe series runs all this week. Sunday’s article, “Lost in the Swamp,” is about Hernandez’s days at the University of Florida.
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