Aaron Hernandez’s explosive murder case not only changed his life forever, ending his football career and leading to his own death behind bars, but it also entangled the people closest to him. His fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, become a key player in the case due to allegations that she helped Hernandez dispose of the weapon he allegedly used to kill Odin Lloyd in 2013; and his cousin, Tanya Singleton, soon found herself facing a legal battle of her own after prosecutors accused her of helping Hernandez and his alleged accomplices — Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz — avoid justice by helping one flee the state and later refusing to take the stand.
Hernandez, whose father died when he was in high school and who was not close with his mother, grew up with Singleton, who was older than him and served as a maternal figure when he was a teen. Singleton's lawyer claimed she had acted out of “family loyalty” when she refused to testify in the case, though it was a decision that saw her spend months in jail and narrowly avoid even more time behind bars.
What role did she play in the case?
Singleton was accused of making “overt attempts … to hinder or mislead the investigation,” according to court documents obtained by the Hartford Courant.
She refused to testify before a grand jury regarding the Lloyd shooting, even after, prosecutors say, she was offered immunity. She was charged with criminal contempt for the refusal and was later indicted on an additional charge of conspiracy to commit accessory after the fact, according to CBS Boston, with prosecutors alleging that Singleton helped Wallace, one of Hernandez’s alleged accomplices, escape justice by driving him out of the state — from Connecticut to Georgia — and later buying him a bus ticket so that he could travel even further away, to Florida, to seek refuge with his family following Lloyd’s murder.
Singleton entered a guilty plea to the contempt charge despite, prosecutors claimed in 2015, the fact that Hernandez had tried to buy her silence by offering hundreds of thousands of dollars that her two children could access when they came of age, according to the Hartford Courant. Court documents allege that Hernandez told Singleton during one jailhouse phone call, “It already started off at $100,000 for them, do you know what I'm saying? I think about 75 apiece or something like that and every seven years it doubles.”
But prosecutors claimed that Hernandez never actually set up the accounts for his cousin, who was battling stage 4 metastatic breast cancer at the time, the outlet reports. Meanwhile, Hernandez’s legal team argued that there was no proof at all that Hernandez had ever influenced Singleton in any way.
How was she punished?
After Singleton pleaded guilty to criminal contempt, she faced a maximum sentence of two and a half years behind bars; however, a judge decided in 2014 not to sentence Singleton to jail after local officials said that their facilities were not equipped to provide the treatment she needed, according to the Associated Press.
“Ms. Singleton’s health is the only reason she is not being placed in jail,” Fall River Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh said.
In lieu of jail, the judge sentenced Singleton to two years of probation, during which time she would have to wear a GPS monitor and, for the first year, remain entirely in her home if not attending meetings related to her medical or legal needs, the AP reports. Her probationary period also included stipulations regarding communication, with a court ordering Singleton to refrain from having any contact with Hernandez or anyone related to the Lloyd murder case, save a small number of close relatives, per the news agency's report.
At that point, Singleton, who was 38 at the time, had already spent 196 days in jail before making bail, according to Sports Illustrated.
However, Singleton was also charged with criminal contempt for refusing to testify in regards to another murder case involving Hernandez. The former Patriots tight end was accused of killing two Boston men in 2012 — a year before the Lloyd murder — and Singleton refused to testify in that case as well; after initially pleading not guilty, she changed her plea to guilty and was again sentenced to two years of probation, a month after receiving her first sentence, according to another report from the Associated Press.
Prosecutors dropped the remaining accessory charge the following year due to her worsening health, The Sun Chronicle reports. Her doctor stated that her condition had not responded to the aggressive therapy treatments, prompting multiple hospital visits, according to court documents obtained by the outlet.
During episode three of Netflix's recently released limited series, "Killer Inside: The Mind Of Aaron Hernandez," it was revealed that Singleton's battle with cancer came to an end soon after her case was dropped. She died in October 2015 in her home.
To learn more about the case, watch “Aaron Hernandez Uncovered” on Oxygen.
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