Hard-core followers of the Aaron Hernandez saga have some new material to digest. In a first, one of the late Patriot’s fellow inmates at a Massachusetts maximum security prison has published a short book about the fallen star’s life behind bars.
Convicted killer Keiko Thomas’s book, “Aaron Hernandez: The Untold Prison Story: Rest in Peace Cell #57,” is a first-person account delivered over 46 pages in raw cellblock jargon.
Hernandez died by suicide at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley in 2017 at the age of 27, five days after he was acquitted of killing two men, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, near Boston’s Theater District.
Thomas recounts cheering with other inmates crowded around a TV on Souza-Baranowski’s G-2 block when the verdicts were read. Hernandez, who resided in G-2′s cell No. 57, already was serving a life sentence for the murder of Odin Lloyd Jr.
“As soon as he came back to the unit that night, [inmates] went crazy kicking the doors and screaming,” Thomas writes. “I remember [Hernandez] smiling ear to ear just soaking it all up.”
He quotes Hernandez as saying, “Didn’t I tell y’all? Two down, one to flip,” referring to his then-pending appeal of the Lloyd conviction.
Thomas offers little to explain Hernandez’s suicide just days later. During that period, Thomas recalls, Hernandez handed out “all type of food and books” to fellow inmates and told one prisoner he could keep a television Hernandez had loaned him. Acts of generosity are rare in prison but were not out of character for Hernandez, according to Thomas.
“He was weird like that,” Thomas writes.
Hours before his death, Hernandez asked to exchange contact information with Thomas “in case something happens and we get split up.” Thomas told Hernandez to have a good night and Hernandez replied, “Y’all too. I’m coming through in the AM.”
Those were “the last words he spoke to me,” Thomas writes.
Thomas says his book “keeps it 100% real,” although his account cannot be corroborated and he acknowledges that many questions remain unanswered about Hernandez’s troubled life and death.
The bizarre details of Hernandez’s death remain especially inexplicable. He was found hanging naked in his single cell, with the Bible verse “John 3:16” written in ink on his forehead and in blood on the wall. The blood was drawn from a cut on his right middle finger.
Scrawled, too, on Hernandez’s wall was an unfinished image of a pyramid and a so-called all-seeing eye of God, along with the word “Illuminati.” The drawings referred to the Nation of Gods and Earth, or Five-Percent Nation, which Hernandez learned about through hip-hop culture.
Thomas writes about Hernandez’s interest in Five-Percent Nation and Christianity. Hernandez “would say we all have Jesus Christ inside of us,” Thomas recounts. He quotes Hernandez as asking him, “When it’s time to make sacrifices, would you give your life to save the people you love?”
Next to a Bible that was open to John 3:16 in Hernandez’s cell were three handwritten notes, to his fiancée Shayanna Jenkins, their daughter Avielle, and his lawyer Jose Baez. Hernandez wrote to Jenkins, “You’re rich,” which prosecutors in the Lloyd case considered a reference to Hernandez’s estate possibly benefiting from an archaic state law that would vacate his murder conviction if he died before his appeals were exhausted.
Thomas provides no insight on that topic. Nor does he mention chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a neurological disease linked to football that has been found to cause major behavioral changes in some players. Boston University researchers who studied Hernandez’s brain said he suffered the most severe case of CTE ever discovered in a person his age.
Thomas does, however, discuss Hernandez’s alleged use of K2, which some have theorized contributed to his death. K2 is composed of unregulated synthetic cannabinoids treated with potentially mind-altering chemicals.
Thomas writes that K2 was rife at Souza-Baranowski at the time of Hernandez’s death. He claims Hernandez was “trapping,” or dealing drugs, and alleges Hernandez gave him 50 doses of K2 at no cost.
“When you smoke that [expletive] you get dumb high,” Thomas writes. “I’m talking Jupiter.”
Hernandez was never charged or disciplined for introducing or using illicit substances in prison, according to Kate Silvia, communications director for the Massachusetts Department of Correction.
Thomas cites instances of inmates needing medical aid after using K2 on the G-2 block. When Hernandez was discovered unresponsive in his cell, Thomas writes, “Everybody on the block thought he had passed out from smoking too much K2.”
The Globe, in a follow-up to its 2018 Spotlight series, “Gladiator: Aaron Hernandez and Football Inc.” and “Gladiator” podcast, reported that state investigators interviewed a Souza-Baranowski inmate who said Hernandez spent his “last two days smoking K2 in his cell and he wasn’t in the right frame of mind.”
Whether K2, CTE, mental illness, or other factors contributed to Hernandez’s death remains in question.
Thomas, who is 29, pleaded guilty in 2016 to manslaughter and armed assault in a dwelling in the 2012 killing of 27-year-old Andrew Stanley. He was sentenced to 17 to 19 years for manslaughter and 10 years concurrently on the assault charge.
Stanley was bound, beaten, and shot in the back in his Hyannis home. Three other men were convicted in the slaying, including two who are serving life without parole after a jury found them guilty of murder.
Thomas joins many authors, publishers, and media companies that have capitalized on Hernandez’s story. His book is published by Penitentiary Rich LLC, which he formed with his fiancé, Lexi Shepherd. Silvia said inmates are not prohibited from publishing their work.
Thomas, a self-described member of the Black Gangster Disciples, arrived at Souza-Baranowski in 2017, about two years after Hernandez. He says Hernandez told him he was a Blood.
A celebrity inmate, Hernandez “was seen as a fraud by many and a god by some,” Thomas writes. Hernandez rarely brought up his football career, but he described himself to Thomas as an outcast among his Patriots teammates.
“I think he liked being the outcast,” Thomas writes. “He used to be like, ‘Man, them [guys] thought I was crazy, bro.’ ”
Bob Hohler can be reached at email@example.com.