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Gladiator Aaron Hernandez & Football, Inc.

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Part I: Bristol

OCTOBER 13, 2018

The alternation was appear by Bob Hohler, Beth Healy, Sacha Pfeiffer, Andrew Ryan, and editor Patricia Wen. Today’s adventure was accounting by Hohler and Wen.

Sports abettor Brian Murphy and one of his top adolescent clients, Aaron Hernandez, had a lot to bless in the backward summer of 2012. Murphy had aloof helped the brilliant apprenticed end defended a $41 actor accord with the New England Patriots, and Hernandez had told a army of reporters that actuality a Patriot had purged him of his adventuresome ways.

But, as Murphy flew into Boston, to accommodated with Hernandez at his condo, he had addition bulk on his mind. A little thing, perhaps, but additionally a admeasurement of how abundant his applicant had absolutely changed.

A bounded Toyota car banker had loaned Hernandez a argent SUV with the apprehension of some chargeless Patriots tickets and promotional appearances. But Hernandez, afresh 22, hadn’t done his part.

This was no way to body a reputation, Murphy told him. To acquire account you accept to account the deals you make.

“No, no,” responded Hernandez.

He accomplished into his closet and pulled out a rifle.

“I get my account through weapons.”

Murphy told a admirable board afterwards that he chose to adapt that encounter, never appear on before, as a joke.

Listen to the six-part alternation debuting October 16

He now knows it was addition admonishing assurance missed. There had been so abounding and would be abounding more, absent or minimized by Hernandez’s friends, family, coaches, and assembly as his brilliant soared, afresh plummeted adjoin murder, prison, and suicide.

Infamy outran acclaim — in the end, it wasn’t close. What was so accessible about him — his able-bodied gifts, his outsized persona, his growing aftertaste for abandon — accustomed to be so abundant beneath important than what he’d kept hidden.

And he hid a lot. A Spotlight Aggregation analysis activate a man who lived a activity of secrets — about his childhood, his football career, his uality, his biologic habits, and his allure with violence. On afterpiece examination, abundant about him was not as it seemed or has been frequently reported.

Much of his unraveling occurred in credible sight, but those who profited from his onfield avowal rarely afflicted to attending or care. In life, one of the Civic Football League’s brilliant gladiators was not who he seemed to be; the aristocratic amateur abaft the dimples and the cool beam was degenerating into a adventuresome thug. In death, Hernandez provides a anathema archetype of the alienation big-time football about shows to the bulk some of its players pay.

For Hernandez, as for so many, the affirmation is now best credible on a microscope accelerate — his academician was ravaged by CTE, the adverse ache acquired by hits to the head, of a severity never credible in addition so young.

This account of Hernandez was abounding out by array of interviews beyond the country and volumes of ahead bearding information, including accoutrements of cloister and government records, and argument messages, e-mails, and images that Hernandez beatific and received.

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Also by his own words and voice. Globe reporters acquired recordings of about 300 buzz calls Hernandez fabricated from bastille over a six-month aeon while he accessible trial. His conversations with family, friends, and above teammates accessible a window on his activity the accessible has never seen.

Those calls acknowledge abounding things, some of them appalling, some bizarre, some pathetic. He approved to accept what had become of his activity but couldn’t. But he was ablaze that his football celebrity, and all that went with it, had meant actual little in the end.

“You accept to acquisition aing accord to be happy. Annihilation you do is gonna accomplish you happy. Annihilation you get is gonna accomplish you happy,’’ Hernandez said on one bastille call. “Just like me, like by accepting money … accepting aggregate in the world, I still was miserable. Apperceive what I mean?”

The ache of Aaron Hernandez was, for about all of his abbreviate life, blocked by the belief and secrets of Aaron Hernandez. It was a arrangement that went aback to his ancient days, to the foundation belief of his childhood, to three key relationships in his activity that were annihilation like what they seemed.

First comes his father, Dennis, nicknamed The King. In Bristol, Conn., bodies aggravating to appreciate Aaron’s ballsy abatement said that he never got over the accident of this larger-than-life patriarch. The academy attendant who dreamed of able-bodied abundance for his sons died abruptly afterwards a accustomed breach anaplasty at age 49.

Aaron had adored his dad and absent his way aback he was gone, the adventure goes. Maybe that’s why this adequate boy went bad.

It was a allegory and abaft it lay misery, the Spotlight Aggregation analysis found.

Aaron and his beforehand brother were about baffled and brutalized by their dad. Aaron didn’t cry at his father’s funeral, and bodies took note. He kept it all inside.

Maybe that’s what he couldn’t get over.

His alone sibling, Jonathan Hernandez, now 32, told the Globe that he and Aaron lived in connected abhorrence of their father’s beatings, which were so astringent and accustomed that Jonathan already threatened to alarm authorities rather than accumulate it a clandestine ancestors matter.

“I best up the buzz already to call, to seek help,” the brother said in his aboriginal account on the subject. “And his acknowledgment was, ‘Call them.’ And he handed me the phone, and he said, ‘I’m activity to exhausted you alike harder, you and your brother, and they’re activity to accept to cull me off of you aback they beating bottomward the door.’”

The beatings central their Greystone Avenue home were about about the atomic of transgressions, and sometimes accompanying to the father’s drinking. But there was a appropriate acerbity aback The King acquainted his two sons were not aggravating adamantine abundant in academy or sports, said Jonathan, whose accessible memoir, “The Truth about Aaron,” is due out afterwards this month. Sometimes the boys couldn’t see any account for the beatings at all — a affectionate of abrupt lashing out that Aaron would additionally credible in the years to come.

Outside the ancestors home, the angel of Dennis Hernandez was absolutely otherwise. In the adequate banal burghal of Bristol, some 18 afar west of Hartford, he was about admired as a bounded success story. He was the belligerent kid who grew up in a ancestors with Puerto Rican roots. Bodies knew he had had his allotment of run-ins with the law, but they saw him cull himself calm as a jailbait and become a Bristol Central Aerial football brilliant and a football scholarship almsman at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

Dennis affiliated Terri Valentine, additionally a alum of Bristol Central, and they acclimatized into jobs with the accessible schools — she was a secretary and he formed as a custodian. They seemed to accept abundant to be admired, alike envied, in this sports-crazy boondocks that became home to the address of ESPN. Above all, they had two good-looking, able-bodied sons who bankrupt annal beneath the ablaze lights of Muzzy Field.

First to flash was Jonathan, afresh accustomed as DJ, who would chase his father’s footsteps and get a football scholarship to UConn.

He’d done so well, but at a price.

In his account with the Globe, Jonathan wept several times abandoning aching genitalia of his adolescence that no one had discussed for decades. He recalled a Fisher Bulk d table at their home in which one of two connected sticks was frequently missing: His ancestor acclimated it in his assaults.

Only afterwards in activity — and with some counseling advice — has he been able to bigger cope with his past.

“You apprehend … that’s not how added families do it. You’re aloof like wow, you don’t accept to adumbrate at home if you get a C? Like really?”

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He said he and his brother were aloft assertive that gluttonous cerebral advice for problems was a assurance of weakness.

Some alfresco the ancestors did get a adumbration of the acerbity central the Hernandez home.

Jeff Morgan, a above abettor football drillmaster at Bristol Central, remembers Dennis as an ancient disciplinarian, but one time he wondered if Dennis took it too far with Aaron.

“I apperceive one time (Aaron) went to a chief ball as a freshman. I assumption he was bubbler afore he went to the dance, and they threw him out of the ball at the school. Then, the aing time we saw him, he looked like I assumption his ancestor did conduct him some.’’

When asked how he knew that, Morgan responded, “He had a atramentous eye. I’m d that’s breadth that came from.’’

Dennis Hernandez additionally already brought his asperous means to the football sidelines, breadth he was about on duke to acclamation his boys on.

When Aaron was aloof 8, he had a adolescence accouterment football drillmaster alleged Tim SanSoucie, whose son was Aaron’s age and would afterwards become a aerial academy quarterback throwing touchdowns to Aaron. Aaron’s ancestor fabricated it accustomed he didn’t anticipate abundant of SanSoucie’s apprenticeship decisions. Afterwards a acrimonious barter of words, Aaron’s ancestor got physical.

“He promptly angry about and clocked me one beyond the face, bankrupt my glasses off my face,” said SanSoucie in an account in his son’s home in Las Vegas.

Police responded, but the bulk was afterwards apprenticed through baby claims cloister aback Aaron’s ancestor was ordered to pay for the burst eyeglasses. That money was never paid.

These episodes never fundamentally afflicted the good-father angel that bodies about Bristol had of Dennis — admitting there were murmured words of commodity apocalyptic aback in his academy days. In retrospect, it looked like a augury of the agitation that would allure and blanket Aaron.

Two canicule afterwards UConn absent the final d of its 1977 football season, a badge administrator from Plainville, Conn., was dead in a bungled home burglary, and detectives concluded up analytic Dennis.

He was a actuality of absorption for a reason. The Globe baldheaded a badge affirmation that says Dennis Hernandez, while not complex in the cop killing, approved to advice the burglars balk police. One of the burglars was a football assistant at UConn and Bristol Central.

Dennis, afresh a junior, was never answerable in the case, but he was accomplished at UConn, breadth annal appearance he was additionally on the border of bookish failure.

The turbulence of his personality — and accomplished — was acquainted best by those who lived with him.

Much later, Aaron, in tapes of bastille buzz calls acquired by the Globe, reflected on his father’s aphotic access on the family. In one conversation, he declared growing up in a domiciliary breadth there was “arguing 24/7” and breadth there was a lot to altercate about.

Terri and Dennis went through abounding boxy times as a couple. Annal appearance that afterwards they affiliated in 1986, they got afar in 1991 aback Aaron was a toddler, and afresh remarried afresh in 1996 aback Aaron was 6. Additionally in 1999, aback Aaron was 9, the brace filed for bankruptcy, with acclaim agenda and added debts.

There were added troubles. Aback Aaron was 3, his ancestor was arrested and answerable with aggravating to buy cocaine from an clandestine officer. His mother was additionally already arrested for actuality allotment of an underground sports bank bookie operation, out of the ancestors home, aback Aaron was 11.

Aaron, in the bastille calls, recalled scenes of his ancestor actuality tossed out by his mother — and afresh consistently accustomed back.

“My mom went through a absolute lot with my father,” he said in addition call. “But she aloof believes in — she loves someone, she aloof consistently sticks by them.”

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Brutality was not the absolute picture. Jonathan said his memories of adolescence can be confusing, as the alarming ones are alloyed in with actual warm, tender, and admiring memories of his father. He recalled the ancestors watching TV calm on the couch, bistro bootleg brownies as a family, and arena sports in the yard. He recalled his ancestor inventing makeshift amateur with cardboard accoutrements and yarn for the boys to play.

He said his ancestor helped the two of them at sports convenance and amateur — and that he dearly capital them to excel in life.

Still, corruption was one of his above motivational tools, admitting the beatings cone-shaped and eventually chock-full as the boys got older, Jonathan said.

Aaron would complete into a football amateur of a accomplishment and bounded acclaim his ancestor never knew. But here, too, the gap amid the bounded allegory and the absoluteness opens advanced beneath scrutiny.

Hernandez looked like the angel of one array of adolescent amateur on the acreage but off it, secretly, was another.

The abundant blooming accommodation of Muzzy Acreage was breadth Hernandez could escape the accent of ancestors strife. It was additionally a abode breadth he could appearance off his abiogenetic adequate fortune: astonishing able-bodied adeptness that included lightning-quick speed, active hands, and aberrant eye-hand coordination.

In his elementary years, Hernandez was a angular kid, but by aerial academy he apprenticed became a man amid boys, about extensive his abounding acme of 6 feet, 2 inches and bushing out a able-bodied able-bodied build. He wasn’t a motivated artisan in his beforehand years, but by aerial academy he was practicing harder than anyone else. He seemed bent to be a star.

He additionally had his brand biconcave smile, aphotic handsome looks, and an amenable side, which drew abounding accompany and admirers. Amid them was Shayanna Jenkins, a changeable acquaintance whom he anachronous for a time in aerial academy and who would years afterwards become his fiancee.

By his inferior year, he had become an aberrant canyon receiver, decidedly with Tim SanSoucie’s son, Dennis, as the quarterback. They were one of the best abounding casual tandems in the accompaniment — nine touchdown completions in the aboriginal four games. In Hernandez’s inferior year, he bent 67 passes for a absolute of 1,807 yards, a Connecticut aerial academy record.

The two teenagers additionally aggregate a activity alfresco football. Dennis SanSoucie told the Globe he and Hernandez smoked a lot of marijuana — afore school, afore practices, and afterwards games. It would become the alpha of Hernandez’s constant accord with accepting high, alike afore big games.

Dennis SanSoucie recalled the aboriginal day of inferior year walking with Hernandez a the aerial school.

“We were baked,” said SanSoucie, who afterwards aing the Marines.

For the aboriginal time publicly, SanSoucie additionally talked about a now-and-then animal accord he had with Aaron, which began in average academy and connected through aerial school.

“Me and him were actual abundant into aggravating to adumbrate what we were doing. We didn’t appetite bodies to know,” Dennis SanSoucie said in an interview.

SanSoucie said he and Hernandez formed adamantine to accumulate their accord a secret. In their adequate association of Bristol, breadth Dennis was apprenticed for the aggressive and Aaron for big-time football, it was not commodity they capital bodies to apperceive about.

For Aaron, it would not accept played able-bodied at home, abnormally with his dad.

Dennis Hernandez had connected had apropos that Aaron, as a boy, had a feminine way about him — the way he stood or acclimated his hands, his brother said. He additionally remembered one of Aaron’s aboriginal ambitions that beatific their ancestor over the edge.

“I bethink he capital to be a cheerleader. My cousins were cheerleaders and amazing,” Jonathan said. “And I bethink advancing home and like my dad put an end to that absolutely quick. And it was not OK. My dad fabricated it ablaze that … he had his analogue of a man.”

The home environment, in general, was acutely phobic.

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‘Faggot’ was acclimated all the time in our house,” Jonathan said. “All the time. Standing. Talking. Acting. Looking. It was the extreme affair my ancestor capital you to alike attending like in our household. This was not adequate to him.”

Hearing this array of acrid allocution charge accept been adamantine for a jailbait exploring his uality, admitting Aaron kept his thoughts to himself. He was additionally a nursing addition array of animal hurt.

Jonathan said that Aaron appear afterwards in his developed activity that he had been ually confused as a adolescent boy. Jonathan beneath to say added to the Globe about this revelation. One of Aaron’s attorneys in his bent case, George Leontire, additionally said Aaron had announced to him of animal corruption as a child. Neither the brother nor the advocate was accommodating to analyze the perpetrator.

Aaron’s animal complication was one of his aing secrets, one he hinted at alone rarely. His aerial academy quarterback acquaintance was analogously circumspect, and for abounding years.

SanSoucie said he has assuredly appear out in his backward 20s to ancestors and friends, afterwards Hernandez’s suicide, admitting the adversity in accomplishing so. He believes that Aaron would be appreciative of him — for that and his about acknowledging their accomplished relationship.

“I absolutely absolutely feel in my affection I got the accede from him,” he said.

Before his ancestor died during Aaron’s inferior year, Aaron had artlessly accustomed a football scholarship to UConn, which would accept anchored the appropriate UConn Huskies attitude in the Hernandez household. But Aaron’s outsized talents — and assignment belief — captured the absorption of academy recruiters beyond the country. Soon, he was accepting calls from such places as the University of Michigan, Notre Dame, Boston College, and the University of Florida.

Aaron got a aftertaste of the civic media scene, too, as reporters brindled him about breadth he would booty his top talent. At the time, he additionally began talking about his ancestor in aglow terms, reinforcing the bright angel that abounding in Bristol saw of the admiring sports dad.

“I ambition my dad was actuality now that added schools are coming. Notre Dame aloof came on afresh and it absolutely makes you think. It aloof makes me anticipate more,” Hernandez said in a Hartford Courant article. “My dad would accept been able to advice me out alike more. But I’m appealing abiding he would accept capital me to go UConn. My ancestors wants me to go to UConn and my heart’s at UConn.’’

But that charge would waver as he began to be courted by the University of Florida and its allegorical academy drillmaster Urban Meyer, accustomed for his win-at-all-costs philosophy.

Outside the application whirlwind, Aaron entered his chief year as a jailbait analytic for his character — and a adequate time. He kept up appropriate grades, but additionally maintained a active amusing life, which started to accommodate a ample bulk of drinking, alternating with smoker pot. On the field, he connected to amaze crowds with his adroitness for outmaneuvering defenders.

But in one d adjoin Maloney Aerial Academy of Meriden, he gave the army a alarm aback he was agape bottomward by a bang hit to the arch and lay apoplectic afore a hushed crowd.

“I saw him get hit, and I saw him go down. And he didn’t get aback up,” said Lorrie Belmonte, a registered assistant in Bristol who was in the stands. “And Aaron would consistently get aback up. And afresh the coaches went out on the acreage and … he charge accept been absolutely out of it because they alleged … the ambulance [that] was continuing by. And so the EMTs anon came up on the acreage and got him and took him.’’

This was 2006, and scientists were aloof alpha to authorize a articulation amid assault to the arch in football and the ache now accustomed as abiding alarming encephalopathy, or CTE. Soon, advisers would additionally activate to accept the accident of subconcussive injuries, which may not accept actual symptoms, but still account abstruse damage. That analysis would affect not alone able players, but millions of accouchement who comedy acquaintance sports.

The clip of CTE analysis was accelerating, but there was so abundant that wasn’t known, and the NFL and adolescence football leagues were abundantly downplaying the bloom hazards for players of all ages.

Aaron’s blow alone him for one game. Afresh he came aback and accomplished out the season. He was alleged Connecticut’s Amateur of the Year.

As Aaron was bamboozlement academy decisions, he was additionally acutely affective amid two homes. He had become alienated and abounding of acrimony at his mother afterwards his father’s death. It was a breach that would aftermost for years, addition betrayal for Aaron to try to accomplish faculty of, addition able-bodied of misery.

Among Aaron’s ancestors based in Bristol, he was aing to a cousin, Tanya Singleton, who was about 14 years older. She was like an beforehand admiring sister he never had — and addition he could absolutely trust.

After Aaron’s ancestor died, he abstruse what seemed unimaginable: His mother was in a austere adventurous accord with Tanya’s husband, Jeff Cummings. It came as a shock to Aaron and Tanya — and over the years the two grew alike afterpiece through aggregate anguish. Tanya would annulment her bedmate and see him move in with Aaron’s mother.

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Aaron was ashamed and enraged, and his adherence confused alike added to Tanya. He began spending connected stretches at Tanya’s abode on Lake Avenue, which was beyond from an able-bodied acreage breadth Aaron acclimated to comedy adolescence football. It became like a additional adolescence home.

It was a warm, adorning abode that seemed to accept an accessible aperture to anyone. It was additionally a abode that drew in all kinds of stragglers and drifters, including abounding with connected rap sheets.

It was a abode breadth prosecutors say Aaron got bare alleviation but additionally acquired the bluster — and the street-wise mentality — of the amiss crowd.

In afterwards years abaft bars, Aaron would accept buzz calls with his mother in which it was ablaze he was aggravating to adjustment their burst relationship. The conversations could be tender, but additionally edgeless — and about profane.

In one, Aaron appropriate that she never helped absolutely amusement his absorption arrears hyperactivity ataxia as a boy.

“Matter of fact, you’re the acumen I never could pay absorption in academy and shit. You were declared to get me my medication,” he said in a alarm in the abatement of 2014.

“Yeah, I agape you over the arch with a frickin’ hammer. That was your medication,” she replied.

Later in that aforementioned conversation, his mother seemed to agree the furnishings of an ADHD medication with a alarmingly addictive drug.

“That’s what Adderall is: B-L-O-W,” she spelled out over the phone.

The two went aback and alternating repeating those belletrist because Aaron couldn’t amount out what she was aggravating to spell, until his mother became balked and blurted out: “Cocaine, dipshit! That’s what Adderall’s like.”

Aaron’s mother, Terri Hernandez, beneath the Globe’s appeal for an interview.

In addition of their bastille calls, Aaron lamented that he connected acquainted he could never be absolutely accessible with her.

“There’s so abounding things I would adulation to allocution to you [about], so you can apperceive me as a person,” he told her. “But I never could acquaint you. And you’re gonna die afterwards alike alive your son.”

The strains of this accord were credible to abounding of Aaron’s aing accompany and family, but not to the academy recruiters and coaches assessing his attenuate adeptness as a football athlete. In admiring Aaron, they acquainted they bare his mom on their ancillary — she was, afterwards all, the alone ancestor of this ascent civic brilliant who tragically absent his ancestor in aerial school.

It was their story, and about they would comedy their roles in it well.

Meyer, one of the nation’s top academy coaches, catholic to Bristol. He visited Aaron’s adolescence home and met with his mother.

There was addition visit. Hernandez’s aerial academy arch said he additionally met with Meyer. The Florida drillmaster asked for commodity that took the arch by surprise.

Meyer capital Hernandez at the University of Florida — and soon.

Spotlight anchorman Bob Hohler can be accomplished at [email protected] and editor Patricia Wen at [email protected] The Spotlight Aggregation e-mail is [email protected]

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