**REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS**
When it comes to the world of sports, I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan. However, being a born and raised Massachusetts gal meant having the Boston sports teams directly inserted into my veins. That said, I did go through a period in my life where I enjoyed baseball, specifically the New York Yankees, which was the mark of death for me in Boston. But when it came to football, I was a passing fan at best. Having now lived outside of Massachusetts for over a decade, my desire to follow sports has diminished greatly. That said, I remember when the announcement that Patriot’s tight end Aaron Hernandez had become a suspect in the murder of semi-pro football player, Odin Lloyd, as it sent shockwaves throughout not only Boston sports fan but sports fans throughout the world.
KILLER INSIDE: THE MIND OF AARON HERNANDEZ is a three-part documentary series that dives into the life of Aaron Hernandez from his time as a child leading up to the murders, the trials, and his subsequent suicide. Per the official synopsis from Netflix, “As a gifted young football athlete from Bristol, Connecticut, Aaron Hernandez had capitalized rapidly on his promise, playing for a top tier college program before being drafted into the National Football League at the age of 20. But in 2013, fresh off of a newly inked five-year, $40 million contract with the New England Patriots, Hernandez would become a household name for the most infamous murder case involving an athlete since OJ Simpson. Hernandez’s trials for the brutal killing of Odin Lloyd and two Boston-area men yielded a Pandora’s box of secrets: a tumultuous and often abusive upbringing, a growing fascination with gang life, and other discoveries that painted a maelstrom of motivations behind his violent behavior.”
I want to make it abundantly clear that I think Aaron Hernandez is a killer. There’s no doubt in my mind and never was before watching this documentary. That said, this documentary does shine a light on internal and external factors that could have led to some of the decisions that Hernandez made. In the first episode, viewers are given a brief overview of some of the facts related to the case as well as a glimpse into Aaron Hernandez’s life as a kid growing up in Bristol, CT. One of the biggest influences on Hernandez was that of his father, Dennis Hernandez, who had been a football player at Bristol College and was considered an all-star athlete. Dennis also had a penchant for alcohol which lead to violent encounters with his wife, Terri Hernandez, and quite possibly the children. The episode also gives us a look into who Odin Lloyd was – a 27-year-old semi-pro football player who, at the time of his death, was dating Shaneah Jenkins, the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins. Unlike Aaron Hernandez, who tried to give off a thug persona, Odin grew up in the rough area of Dorchester, MA where he used football as a way to focus his attention away from a life of crime and drugs. For those situated in the surrounding town of Dorchester, Odin Lloyd was looked at as a celebrity.
In 2006, Hernandez’s father passed away, a huge turning point for Aaron and the direction in which his life went. Upon the death of Dennis, Aaron moved into his cousin Tanya Singleton’s house. From all accounts, Aaron considered Tanya to be more like a mother figure than his own mom, Terri, and during the trial against Hernandez, in which Tanya took the stand, she never once spoke out against Aaron. This episode also brings to light Aaron’s sexuality, mostly told from the perspective of Dennis Sansoucie who alleges he had a sexual relationship with Hernandez when they were in high school. The episode concludes with the unveiling that Hernandez was linked to another murder, the double homicide of two Boston men, Sanfiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu, a crime that Hernandez eventually was acquitted on.
The second episode goes further into Hernandez’s life during his college years. Instead of going to Unconn, Hernandez made the choice to attend the University of Florida, a move that surprised everyone. After becoming a Florida Gator, Hernandez started to enjoy a larger than life status, creating a “gangster” persona as well as partaking in the steroid Toradol, something that many of the players were alleged to have done at that time. Hernandez was looked at as an all-star athlete with a bright future, but his partying and marijuana intake started to make coaches nervous. When it came to the NFL draft, where many figured he would be picked during the 1st round, he was chosen on the 4th by the New England Patriots. It was also around this time that Aaron and Odin Lloyd became friends, mostly due to the fact that both of their significant others were sisters but also because of their love for marijuana. As the episode concluded, viewers also got their first glimpse into the injuries endured by football players after Hernandez gets hurt on the field. It’s at this time that we begin to learn more about CTE, something that is expanded on further in the third episode.
The third episode of the documentary focuses on not only the Hernandez trial but another turning point in his life after he developed a close relationship with Alexander Bradley, an individual who would supply him with drugs and who had a rather long and terrifying criminal background. Hernandez eventually became increasingly paranoid that Bradley would murder him after Bradley accused Hernandez of shooting him in the eye after an altercation that had to do with the double homicide I mentioned earlier. Hernandez was so concerned for his safety that he even went so far as to ask Patriots coach, Bill Belichick, for a transfer to a West Coast team due to his fears of being attacked by Bradley, but was denied. Instead, not wanting to lose one of their most valuable players, Hernadez was given a secretive apartment where he could escape to if he needed to get away from his public life. I’m not saying that the Patriots or the NFL knew that Hernandez had murdered Odin, which took place around the time that Hernandez took the offer of a 5-year-contract, $40 million deal, but it says a lot that a team would rather be more concerned about their financial asset as opposed to the actual human being in trouble.
I found the third episode of the documentary to be the most interesting for two reasons: one, it shows the final chapter of the trial and the guilty verdict that would send Hernandez to prison for life in the killing of Odin Lloyd, but it also dived into the effects of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). After taking his own life in prison, at the age of 27, Hernandez’s brain was donated to science where it was found to have a very advanced stage of CTE – so advanced that it was the first case in which doctors ever saw that type of damage in a young individual. It’s indicated that though it may not be responsible for all the decisions that Hernandez made, from the time he started playing football to the murder of Odin, it may have been a contributing factor. Furthermore, since Hernandez took his life, it was revealed that Massachusettes still subscribed to the Abatement Law which when a person dies during a murder case that is under appeal, you can’t appeal it, therefore leading the conviction to be erased from the record. This would also allow Aaron’s fiancee Shayanna Jenkins, who I have A LOT of opinions on and am convinced she had something to do with hiding the murder weapon that was never found, and their (at the time) 4-year-old daughter to receive the money that Hernandez was due. However, when Odin Lloyd’s family found this out, they were able to overturn the archaic law and make it so that Hernandez, even in death, would still be guilty of murder.
KILLER INSIDE: THE MIND OF AARON HERNANDEZ is one of the most fascinating documentaries I’ve ever seen. I will admit that at times it felt convoluted but it’s because it uses a non-linear timeline to explain all the unfolding events. As I’m sure you can tell from my review, there is a lot to take in making this a documentary that is easy to revisit to fully embrace all the information given. One of the biggest bombshells of the documentary that has people talking is the sexuality surrounding Aaron Hernandez. I’ve opted to not go into this further because I don’t believe it’s a deciding factor in Hernandez committing murder. That said, the angle used in the documentary does bring up a valid point on how the world of sports has a track record of homophobia and the effects that has on players who are fearful of coming out. I also appreciated how this docu-series had interviews with everyone from former New England Patriots, to reporters who handled the story, to friends of Hernandez who grew up with him, as well as friends of Odin, along with video footage of the trial. Because of all this, it allowed the documentary to give a fully immersive look into not only the murder, but the world of sports, toxic male behavior, and the life-altering dangers of a sport that so many people idolize.
In all, KILLER INSIDE: THE MIND OF AARON HERNANDEZ is a documentary that will interest fans of true crime as well as sports fanatics and everyone in-between. As I mentioned earlier, I do believe Aaron Hernandez is a killer and I fully believe that he knew what he was doing when he murdered Odin Lloyd. That said, I think a lot of outside factors contributed to making him the person he ended up being. In conclusion, my heart goes out to the family of Odin Lloyd as well as Hernandez’s daughter, who not only has to grow up without a father but has to deal with the knowledge of what he did. The docu-series is now available to stream on Netflix, so settle in for a wild, harrowing story that will leave you feeling shocked and bewildered.