When attorney Jose Baez first met Aaron Hernandez in 2016, the former NFL star was already serving life in prison. The then-26-year-old had been arrested for the murder of Odin Lloyd, an acquaintance, in 2013, after three seasons with the New England Patriots. Now, he needed a lawyer for another indictment, involving an earlier double-homicide.
Baez took the case, and grew close with the athlete. He helped Hernandez win an acquittal on April 14, 2017, but days later, on April 19, the 27-year-old hanged himself in his cell. A brain scan revealed that the former tight-end had suffered severe brain injuries consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), due to repeated head blows while playing football. Doctors said that it was the most severe case they had seen in someone so young.
Baez has chronicled the last year of his client’s life in “Unnecessary Roughness: Inside the Trial and Final Days of Aaron Hernandez” (Hachette Books), out Tuesday. Among the tome’s revelations are three notes found after Hernandez’s death, addressed to his daughter Avielle Jenkins-Hernandez, now 5, fiancée Shayanna Jenkins, now 29, and Baez himself.
“[Hernandez] wrote three letters the night he died, letters discovered in his cell and released to us by corrections officials a few days after his death,” said Baez.
For the first time, The Post can reveal those suicide notes. In highlighted text, Baez deciphers the hidden meanings behind Hernandez’s words.
Letter to lawyer Jose Baez
Written on ruled paper was a letter to Baez, dated April 18, 2017. “Nothing in [it] suggests Aaron was thinking of killing himself,” said Baez, 48. “He talks about contacting artists in the future and that if I can’t help him, he’ll figure something out. It’s a sweet letter I’ll always cherish. That was the real Aaron.”
What’s up, brotha?
“Aaron often addressed me as his brother. We had a very close relationship. When I met him I sat him down and said , ‘I’m gonna be your lawyer, your priest, all those things.’ It was a big-brother type of relationship. We would talk about life and the object of life. I gave him advice. He was needing [it] at the time.”
Well, I wrote this letter following my acquittal and wanted to voice how I felt and let some people whos[e] music helped me get through hard times, know that it did. Wrong or right — who knows — I just follow my natural instincts and how it guides me. Pros or cons, didn’t weigh them, but I’m sure you’ll let me know your view. Besides that, I want you to know you have me forever like you never understood and time will reveal that I’m not perfect but my love and loyalty is like you’ve never seen! I appreciate all your work, time, effort, and never let that slip your mind! In time, you will see how appreciated you are, as well as all the others equally!
“I believe he means all the other lawyers on the team . . . We gave everything we had to that case, worked all-nighters. He wanted to let us know how much that meant to him.”
But never forget I will whoop your ass if you get too crazy . . . haha! time.
“That’s Aaron. He joked around all the time.”
But we could grab a drink after. All jokes aside, I hope your son is well and all your loved ones!
I need a favor—If you have any contacts for any artists like Gates, Meek Mill, Ross, Jay, Game . . . etc.
Hernandez was referring to hip-hop artists Kevin Gates, Rick Ross and Jay Z. “Kevin Gates was a client of mine, but the others weren’t. Aaron loved rap and hip-hop, and he used music to get through tough times — and he had a lot of tough times. This shows [that] when he was writing this note that he was upbeat and positive, that he was looking forward to the future. This corresponds with my last conversation with him, hours before he passed.”
I would like to send you letters so you can send to their information or whichever way you think best. I don’t want any media really getting into me, trying to just send my love to all the artists who got me through my tough times and sending my respect to a few of the real ones out there. So I think that’s the best idea through you. It’s something I have to do and I’d appreciate if you could do that for me, if possible! If not, I’ll figure something out. Well, get at me, love ya brother!
Letter to fiancée Shayanna Jenkins
Letters to Shayanna and Avielle, written in the same notebook on the same night, were more ominous than the one for Baez.
“I don’t believe he was in sound mind in doing this,” Baez said of Hernandez’s notes to his daughter and fiancée. “I have mixed emotions when I read these notes. In one context I’m reading them as his lawyer while investigating his death, but in another, he’s a young man I knew, liked and cared about . . . He had a serious brain disease. We need more awareness of it, or we’re going to see more suicides.”
“Everyone called Shayanna ‘Shay,’ but Aaron almost never did. He usually called her ‘baby’ or ‘babe.’ ”
You have always been my soul-mate and I want you to love life and know I’m always with you. I told you what was coming indirectly! I love you so much and know [you] are an angel. We split into two to come change the world! Your characteristic is that of a true angel and the definition of God’s love! Tell my story fully but never think anything besides how much I love you. This was the supreme almightys plan, not mine! I love you! Let Avi know how much I love her! Look after Jano and Eddie for me —they are my boys (You’re Rich).
[Jano and Eddie] are his cousin’s young children. Their mother passed away, and Aaron wanted to look after them. Unfortunately he was in prison, so he asked Shay to look after them. I don’t know what [‘You’re Rich’] refers to.”
I KNEW I LOVED YOU = SAVAGE GARDEN
“This was Aaron and Shay’s song. It was very meaningful to him.”
On a third page, Baez said, Hernandez “sounds like a man who had accepted his fate. It’s as if he saw the angel of death at his door. In huge letters, he wrote”:
NOT MUCH TIME
I’M BEING CALLED!
[“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”]
On a fourth page, Hernandez added:
I love you all equally! We are all each other! Don’t shed one tear for I am with all of you and never wasn’t! do not go back to living while worshipping false idols in which I warned you about!
Finally, in inch-high letters, he wrote:
The Real Live Forever
On the bottom of this page is a drawing that resembles a thin rope dangling from a noose.
Letter to daughter Avielle Jenkins-Hernandez
Daddy will never leave you! I’m entering to the timeless realm in which I can enter into any form at any time because everything that could happen or not happened I see all at once! Life is eternal—believe!!! Love, repent, and see me/yourself in everyone because that’s what the truth is! I’ll see you all in the heavens awaiting you all with the same love. Never fear me, but love me with all of you! Fear is the only separation between you and I! We are each other—I/you—you/me—there’s no need to fear but what you do unto another will come back around!
Power of Now
Conversations with God 1, 2, 3
Home with God
Anuk Ausar “Metu Neter”
“These are books that I am guessing meant something to him during his time in prison. It’s not uncommon for people who go through hard times to reach back into their faith. And he had people who supported him in his faith and [sent] books to him. He ordered books from the library.”
From “Unnecessary Roughness” by Jose Baez, © Jose Baez, courtesy of Hachette Books
By RAQUEL LANERI