What Was Aaron Hernandez’s Ethnicity?

The story of Aaron Hernandez’s rise and fall is complicated and tragic. He died by his own hand in April one 2017 while serving a life sentence for the murder of Odin Lloyd. 

However, a newly released Netflix docuseries, Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez, is bringing a renewed sense of curiosity to the life and death of the former NFL star.

As is often the case when it comes to learning more about killers, questions abound about his childhood, his mental health, and what could have lead him to become a murderer.

Aaron Hernandez had extreme brain damage

Aaron Hernandez plays football
Aaron Hernandez | Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The NFL has been under fire a lot lately over concerns about the long-term effects of the repeated blows to the head that their players endure. Hernandez is a tragic case study of these effects.

After his death, scientists were able to study his brain, and the results weren’t pretty. For being only 27 years old, Hernandez had an extreme case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.

What this means in simple terms is that the parts of his brain responsible for decision-making and impulse control were extremely compromised.

Dr. Ann McKee, director of the CTE Center at Boston University, makes a clear warning, however: “We can’t take the pathology and explain the behavior.”

What she means is that we can’t attribute his life or death decisions entirely to his brain trauma, however, she does go on to add there is a high correlation between CTE and impaired impulse control and “rage behaviors.”

Aaron Hernandez wasn’t just struck during his time in the NFL

According to a spotlight report by The Boston Globe in 2018, Hernandez endured beatings in his childhood at the hands of his father. Dennis Hernandez, nicknamed “The King,” was a charismatic school janitor with a great reputation in the community.

He is of Puerto Rican descent but grew up in Bristol, Connecticut. Though he passed at the age of 45 when Aaron Hernandez was just in high school, his actions reverberated long past his death.

Hernandez’s mother, Terri Valentine Hernandez is of Italian descent and had one other son with Dennis Hernandez, Aaron’s brother Jonathan Hernandez.

Jonathan Hernandez has been open to talking about their upbringing and describes their childhood as full of fear of their father, and with unrelenting beatings with very little hope for escape or protection.

He described the one attempt he made to call the cops as follows: “‘Call them.’ [Dennis Hernandez said.] And he handed me the phone, and he said, ‘I’m going to beat you even harder, you and your brother, and they’re going to have to pull me off of you when they knock down the door.'”

According to calls from Aaron Hernandez’s time in jail, his mother may have been abused as well. When he confronted her about never getting his ADHD medication for him in his youth, she replied: “Yeah, I knocked you over the head with a frickin’ hammer. That was your medication.”

Additional dysfunction from childhood could have contributing factors as well

It wasn’t just physically violent abuse that the Hernandez children had to contend with growing up, but a verbally abusive and homophobic environment.

Throughout middle school and high school, Hernandez had a relationship with a fellow football player, a fact he kept hidden as his father made homophobic statements around the house.

Johnathan Hernandez recalls that at one point Aaron Hernandez wanted to be a cheerleader and that “I remember coming home and like my dad put an end to that really quick. And it was not OK. My dad made it clear that … he had his definition of a man.”

It seems Aaron Hernandez‘s time in jail lead him to some interesting introspection that he shared over hundreds of phone calls, but in the end, his sadness won out, and he decided to end his pain once and for all.