NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. (WPRI) – Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez was visited by lawyers, family and friends just over 100 times in his first year behind bars at a Massachusetts jail, according to records reviewed by Target 12.
Hernandez was arrested four years ago Monday, sending shockwaves throughout New England and the rest of the nation. The former Bristol, Connecticut, resident was taken into police custody and charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd on June 26, 2013.
While he awaited trial, Hernandez was first housed at the Bristol County House of Corrections in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts.
Prison officials there said Hernandez was kept in “Unit E-D,” which is typically where the most violent or problematic prisoners are held, but Jonathan Darling, spokesperson for the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, said it was for the celebrity’s safety.
“As a professional football player for the Patriots, he would’ve been a target for a lot of people,” Darling said. “He was kept in special housing, which meant that he was in a unit by himself. The other inmates around him were kept in their cells up to 23 hours a day. He was not, because he was not there for his behavior, just for his safety.”
Responding to a public record’s request, the sheriff’s department supplied Target 12 with Hernandez’s “visitor card,” which lists the name, date and relation to the inmate of everyone who paid him a visit.
The records show his first visit, from attorney Michael Fee, came five days after his arrival at the jail.
In fact, the vast majority of Hernandez’s visits came from his attorneys – 75 meetings in all – and he was allowed to speak with them in a special meeting room away from the prying eyes and ears of the prison and other inmates. Otherwise, Hernandez was limited to “non-contact” visitation, separated from friends or loved ones by Plexiglas, communicating through a telephone.
Col. James Lancaster – the commanding officer of the jail – said inmates used to have in-person contact, but that changed about a dozen years ago.
“At one time it was contact visits,” he said, “but because of the contraband coming in and the passing contraband amongst the visitors and the inmates we chose to go to non-contact.”
His first visit from someone who wasn’t part of his legal team happened on July 2 that year. The log indicates his agent, Brian Murphy of California, went to see Hernandez. An email to Murphy’s office has not been returned.
During visits, all conversations are monitored and recorded by the prison with the exception of meetings with lawyers, which are held in a secure room.
“The sheriff’s office has the right to record and listen in on all conversations, except for legal conversations,” Darling said. “We record all of the conversations, and that is communicated with both the inmate and the visitor, so they both know their conversations are being recorded.”
Apart from his legal team, Shayanna Jenkins was Hernandez’s most frequent visitor. She went to see Hernandez 10 times during his time at Bristol County, according to records.
“Everybody who comes to visit fills out a form, and that form has their relationship to the inmate.” Darling said.
At first, Jenkins listed her relationship with Hernandez as “fiancée,” before it was later changed to “girlfriend.” But Darling said it could have possibly been an oversight.
“The forms are small and there’s a lot to fill out, so I wouldn’t say it’s an official record of their relationship,” he said.
Among other visitors on Hernandez’s visitor card were his mother and daughter, who visited him three times while he was there. Also sprinkled in were friends from his hometown of Bristol and Massachusetts.
- In-Depth Coverage: Aaron Hernandez trials »
Inmates have a maximum of five people that can be on their list for visitations at any one time. That list can be updated quarterly, according to the sheriff’s department.
There are set times when inmates can get a visit based on what unit within the jail they are housed in. But Lancaster said Hernandez had more leeway because while the unit he was in was for high-security prisoners, he wasn’t in there as a punishment.
“If I remember correctly he was really the only one who had visits at that time,” he said, adding that the visits happened late when Hernandez returned from his trial. “So he’d be by himself.”
Inmates can lose visitation privileges if they get into trouble behind bars, but Darling said that never happened with Hernandez.
“We want to keep the relationships between family – that bond – as strong as we can because it can only be a benefit when you are released back into society,” Darling said.
In April 2015, Hernandez was found guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of Odin Lloyd. Two years later he was acquitted of murdering Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu outside a Boston nightclub. Five days later, on April 19, Hernandez was found hanged in his prison cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts. His death was ruled a suicide.
The Suffolk Sheriff’s Office, which held Hernandez during the murder trial in Boston, has not responded to repeated requests for Hernandez’s visitor list there. The Massachusetts Department of Corrections declined Target 12’s request for the same records from when he was in Shirley.