In his new book, scheduled for release on Jan. 22, best-selling author James Patterson investigates the complicated and troubling story of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez in "All-American Murder: The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez, the Superstar Whose Life Ended on Murderers' Row."
Patterson reports on his investigation in a "48 Hours" special .
It was a little past nine in the morning, on February 25, 2014, and Aaron was in his cell in the Special Management unit.
On a previous occasion, as corrections officers were locking him in for the night, Hernandez had beaten his chest like King Kong. "I'm like that truck," he had said. "Tough. I'm built for this sh--."
Now, Aaron set out to prove how tough he was.
Exiting his cell, which was unlocked at that hour, he approached Corrections Officer Kevin Sousa, who was escorting a shackled inmate down a set of stairs.
According to Sousa, Hernandez "had a smile on his face."
Still, Sousa was suspicious. He ordered Hernandez to back up and return to his cell. But Hernandez refused the order, and punched the shackled inmate in the face.
Another corrections officer called a Code Blue. Two COs restrained Hernandez, who turned to the inmate he had punched and said, "Go ahead, run your mouth now!"
When the scuffle was over, the inmate Hernandez had punched explained that, on a previous occasion, Hernandez had passed by his cell and said, "Why you looking at me?"
"I'm a Patriots fan," the inmate had said.
According to him, the beef was just "typical jail sh--."
"I don't want to press charges against Hernandez and you will never get me in court to testify," the inmate told the COs. He had a bruised elbow and a bump on his head. ("I could give two sh--s about a bump and a bruise," the inmate said.) But he was proud of getting in the last word.
"You're a bitch," he'd told Hernandez, as they were being separated. "I still look good enough to f--- your girl."
Afterward, Hernandez was charged with assault and battery and given two weeks of straight-up solitary confinement. Publicly, Sheriff Hodgson voiced his surprise over the incident. "We were so worried about protecting him," he said, "we never thought that he would be the aggressor . . ."
Privately, Hodgson had already gotten to know Hernandez well enough to see just how troublesome he could be.
Within a few weeks of arriving at the jail, Hernandez had been led out into the hall for a routine search of his cell. Watching the officers going through his correspondence, he had gotten upset.
"You're not allowed to read my legal mail," Aaron yelled.
Three times, Hernandez had to be told to back away.
When the search ended, the officers asked Hernandez about a piece of paper he was holding in his hand. They had seen what Aaron had written on it: "MOB."
Hernandez told them that the acronym meant "Money Over Bitches."
The officers told him that, in prison, "MOB" meant "Member Of Bloods."
Hernandez became enraged. "What if I don't give this back to you?" he asked. "What the f--- you all gonna do about it?"
The officers told Hernandez that he would be given a disciplinary report.
"I don't give a f--- about no disciplinary report," he replied. "I'll eat the mother---er."
In the end, Aaron did get the report—and, to the officers' amazement, he did eat it.
When Sheriff Hodgson found out, he went to see Hernandez in his cell.
"I walked through the door," Hodgson would say, "and I looked at him and just went, 'I am so disappointed in you. I can't believe that you acted the way you acted.'"
"Well that's bullsh--," Aaron replied, testily. "They was going through my stuff!"
"Excuse me," the sheriff said. "Why are you yelling at me? Am I yelling at you? What I'm seeing right now, that's not the Aaron Hernandez I know."
Aaron calmed down. He had grown to respect the sheriff, even to trust him to an extent. On several occasions, the men talked about their lives, their faith, and lessons imparted by their fathers. But while Hodgson administered pep talks, it fell to his staff to discipline Hernandez.
Once, after Aaron had been placed on disciplinary detention status, he managed to have a care package delivered from the jail's commissary: cakes, breakfast bars, and two dozen honey buns.
"I'm smart, dude," Aaron told Major James Lancaster, the following day, when corrections officers asked him about the delivery. "I knew you were going to be coming this morning for this stuff."
When Lancaster told Hernandez he was not allowed to order food in detention, Hernandez said, "I know. That's why I ate as much of the food as I could before you came in."
Major Lancaster ended up confiscating four honey buns. True to his word, Hernandez had eaten the other twenty and kept the wrappers to show the officers, in case they accused him of passing honey buns out to other inmates.
"Could I eat the last four honey buns?" Aaron asked.
"Why?" Hernandez said. "I am so hungry!"
Other infractions were far more serious. One month after testing positive for Neurontin, Hernandez was cited for possessing paraphernalia signaling his allegiance to the Bloods. Five weeks later, when a corrections officer denied him an extra meal, Aaron called the officer "a scared bitch" and said that, when he got out, he would kill the officer and shoot his family.
"After stating this, inmate Hernandez appeared to make a noise that sounded like a machine gun," the officer wrote in his report.
"I did not say I was going to kill him or his family," Hernandez said, in his own defense. "I said if I see COs that act tough in jail, out of jail, I'm going to slap the sh-- out of them."
Several disciplinary reports describe fights that Aaron got into with other inmates, and occasions when he was found with improvised tattoo guns, or "fishing lines" that were made from torn sheets and tubes of toothpaste, and used by prisoners to pass notes.
"He is constantly kicking his cell door and screaming at the top of his lungs," corrections officer Joshua Pacheco wrote in one report, "utilizing profanity at times when he wants something, regardless of how minuscule it is. It is not uncommon for Hernandez to kick his cell door constantly until an officer approaches his cell merely to ask the officer for the current time, this to him is comical, causing a disruption in normal operation within the unit."
All in all, in the course of ten months that he spent in the Bristol County jail's segregated unit, Hernandez racked up 120 days in solitary confinement.
He seemed to hold Officer Pacheco in special contempt. Once, while Aaron was in the middle of one of his workouts, he told the officer that he had a peculiar dream:
Thanks to a disciplinary report that Pacheco had given him, Aaron had dreamed that an upcoming visitation with his daughter had been canceled.
"But," Aaron told the officer, "the dream changed locations. You and your family were on vacation and I was chasing you."
Hernandez was glaring hard at Pacheco as he said this. The only weapon at Pacheco's disposal was a canister of Mace. He was thinking of reaching for it when Aaron said, "then the dream ended," and turned back to his workout. Pacheco reported the incident as a threat to his family.
Aaron denied this: "It was just a dream," he explained. "Was not meant to be threatening and was taken out of context."
Hernandez got off with a verbal warning. But a month later, in July, he had another run-in with Pacheco.
Lunch for the Special Management inmates arrived in Styrofoam containers. The stench of the gray food inside crept into every corner of the unit. On July 5, it was Officer Pacheco's turn to deliver it. As Hernandez saw the officer approach, he yelled: "I need to be your father figure and show you how to be a man! Show you how to have your balls drop! I didn't know the Army created little boys and not men!"
When Pacheco left the unit, Hernandez called out again: "I haven't had any more dreams about you," he hollered.
Fatherhood, and father figures, came up often in Hernandez's conversations with Sheriff Hodgson.
"There's a saying my father used to always use with my twelve brothers and sisters," the sheriff recalls telling Aaron. "He used to say, 'Always remember, God writes straight with crooked lines.'"
"What does that mean?" Hernandez had asked.
"That there are certain things that are going to happen, you're not going to know why or how, but they're going to happen. Do you read the Bible?"
"I used to. My coach in Florida used to get me into the Bible stuff."
"Did you find it useful?"
"Yeah, I did."
"Well, you've got a Bible in your cell. When you get back there, I want you to read it, and talk to your father, and think about what I told you about crooked lines."
"I can't talk to my father," Hernandez said.
"If you don't, then you won't be able to access all of the things that he taught you."
"I've only gone to my father's grave once."
"That's something you're going to have to do," the sheriff said. "You put an emotional wall up because you were so hurt by the loss of your father. All of the lessons he taught you are on the other side of that wall. The only way you're going to pull the wall down is to talk to him."
"I don't know if I can do that."
"Okay," said the sheriff, and left it at that. But when he saw Aaron again, he brought the matter back up.
"I didn't talk to my father," Aaron said. "But I did read the Bible. The weirdest thing happened: I opened it, randomly, and it was all about me."
"You remember what I told you about crooked lines?" said the sheriff. "Opening that book randomly, and finding something about yourself, is what I was talking about."
On yet another occasion, Hernandez told Hodgson that reading the Bible had caused him to cry.
"My father told me never to cry in front of another man," Aaron said.
"Really? Why would he tell you that?"
"I don't know. My father cried about everything. And he had an ugly cry."
"When would your father cry?"
"At my football games."
"Because you lost?"
"No. Even when we won."
"You know why that is?"
"It's because your father was sitting there watching you, feeling so proud about what a great player you had become."
"Aaron's father was thirteen when his father died," Hodgson explains. "I said to him, 'Your father is sitting there, thinking, not only how proud he is, but how sad it is that his father couldn't be there to see you play. That's what your father was crying about. He wasn't telling you not to cry in real life. He was telling you not to cry out on the football field.'"
Aaron seemed to take it all in. He told the sheriff that he felt himself changing. Even Shayanna had remarked, during a phone call, upon how calm he seemed, and how nice he was being to her. Maybe, Aaron said, the sheriff had had something to do with it.
But TL Singleton was dead. Tanya Singleton had been charged with conspiracy to commit murder after the fact. And Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace had already been indicted as accessories after the fact to the murder of Odin Lloyd. (Prosecutors subsequently upped the charges to murder.) Their trials would not start until well after Aaron's was over.
Shayanna Jenkins had been charged with a single count of perjury—prosecutors alleged that she had lied, twenty-nine times, to Aaron's grand jury. Among other things, prosecutors would say, Jenkins had lied about: conversations she and Hernandez had had about Odin Lloyd's murder; a conversation she had had with Wallace after the murder; the number of guns she had seen in her home; the removal of items from her home; and whether she had threatened the women who had cleaned her home, after the murder, with deportation.
(The prosecutors ended up dropping these charges in light of Shayanna's testimony during Aaron's trial.)
Oscar "Papoo" Hernandez had also been indicted for lying to Aaron's grand jury.
Odin Lloyd's family had filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Aaron Hernandez.
The families of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado had done the same.
Alexander Bradley, who was still pursuing his civil suit against Aaron, had gotten into an altercation at a Hartford nightclub called the Vevo Lounge Bar & Grill.
Shots had been fired outside of the club. Bradley was hit three times in the leg but managed to get to his car, grab his own gun, and fire ten or twelve rounds into the club.
On May 15, 2014, Aaron Hernandez himself had been indicted for two counts of first degree murder, three counts of armed assault with intent to murder, and one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon—charges resulting from the investigation into the double murders in Boston.
One month later, on Friday, June 20, Hernandez's lawyers filed a motion to have Aaron moved to a jail that was closer to Boston.
"In order for Hernandez to receive constitutionally guaranteed effective access to and assistance of counsel, in both cases, he needs to be held in a facility that does not require his counsel to drive up from two, up to three to four hours round-trip each time they need to meet with him," the lawyers argued. But there was more to the motion than that.
The motion also contained several e-mails between Sheriff Hodgson and prosecutors. According the lawyers, they suggested an unprecedented degree of cooperation between DAs and the sheriff.
Hodgson had "abandoned his role as a professional jailer and energetically embraced his role as a full-time agent of the District Attorney," the lawyers claimed, taking every opportunity to speak, publicly, about his most famous inmate, and engaging in "self-promotion and virtually nonstop publicity of every imaginable kind." (Sheriff Hodgson denied all of these charges, and said that speaking, publicly, about Hernandez provided Aaron's fans with a valuable object lesson.)
According to the lawyers, Hodgson's actions had poisoned the potential jury pool.
Moreover, they argued, Aaron's life was in danger in Bristol County. Because corrections officers at the prison were under the impression that Aaron had threatened CO Joshua Pacheco's life, his safety could no longer be guaranteed. (This impression was false, the lawyers claimed. Four days earlier, Aaron had been arraigned on charges of assaulting an inmate and threatening Pacheco.)
Sheriff Hodgson scoffed at the idea that anyone in his jail would retaliate against Hernandez. "I have a staff that is very professional," he told TMZ. "They understand they're dealing with a high-profile person and go the extra mile to ensure his safety, and other inmates' safety."
Nevertheless, on July 7, the lawyers' motion was granted.
Two days later, Hernandez was moved to Boston's Suffolk County Jail, where he would spend an uneventful and incident-free six months.
Then, on January 8, 2015, Hernandez was sent back to Bristol County Jail, where he would remain for the duration of his trial for the murder of Odin Lloyd.
ALL-AMERICAN MURDER: The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez, the Superstar Whose Life Ended on Murderers' Row. Copyright © 2018 by James Patterson. Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York. All rights reserved.