When Aaron Hernandez was found dead in his prison cell on April 19, 2017 after hanging himself, authorities also discovered the former NFL star’s last words in three handwritten suicide notes. In the weeks following Hernandez’s death, a portion of one note — addressed to his fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins — was released in a legal filing by the prosecution.
At the time, prosecutors intended to use the suicide note to argue Hernandez’s first-degree murder conviction should not be vacated because of his death. As CNN reported, the annulment of his guilty verdict would “reward the defendant's conscious, deliberate and voluntary act,” said the court filing.
Massachusetts, the state where Hernandez was tried, recognizes the legal principle of “abatement ab initio,” which allows courts to void convictions for defendants if they die before exhausting all their appeals. And in Massachusetts, first-degree murder convictions prompt an automatic appeal.
Prosecutors, however, were looking to nullify Hernandez’s abatement.
Hernandez’s defense attorney, Jose Baez, called the release of the letter “unnecessary,” saying, “Instead of protecting victims, they are punishing and torturing the Hernandez family who need to grieve.”
The note itself is mostly a love letter to Jenkins, and Hernandez, 27, opened his goodbye by saying, “You have always been my soul-mate and I want you to live life and know I’m always with you.”
“I told you what was coming indirectly!” he continued. “I love you so much and know you are an angel — eternally! We split into two to come change the world!”
He also instructed Jenkins to “tell my story fully but never think anything besides how much I love you.”
At the end of the letter, Hernandez wrote in an aside “(YOURE RICH),” underlining the statement two times before referencing the Savage Garden song “I Knew I Loved You.”
In 2015, Hernandez had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. Five days before his suicide, Hernandez had been acquitted of a 2012 double homicide.
Jenkins later told Dr. Phil that during her final conversation with Hernandez, he sounded upbeat following his not guilty verdict.
"I felt like we were looking so bright,” Jenkins said. “We were going up a ladder to a positive direction."
Hernandez’s murder conviction was eventually vacated, and he was posthumously acquitted.
[Photo: Getty Images, Massachusetts Department of Corrections]