Sitting in prison in 2013, Aaron Hernandez made a series of phone calls to his mother. His goal: to fix their relationship that had fractured after the 2006 death of Hernandez’ father.
“There’s so many things I would love to talk to you about, so you can know me as a person,” he told Terri Hernandez in one call, which were recorded by authorities and released as public record. “But I could never tell you. And you’re gonna die without even knowing your son.”
As it turns out, few people ever got to know Aaron Hernandez.
Once a young star in the NFL, his violent streak cost him everything as he became entangled in multiple criminal cases. In 2017, he died by suicide when he hanged himself with a bed sheet in prison. He was 27.
Hernandez’ death came just five days after he was acquitted of double murder charges in the deaths of two men outside a Boston nightclub in 2012. Found not guilty in one case, he was already serving a life sentence for masterminding the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, his fiancée’s sister’s boyfriend. He was not eligible for parole.
Netflix is investigating the life of the former Patriots tight end in Aaron Hernandez, the Killer Inside, a three-part documentary that will be released on January 15.
“No one has allegedly murdered two people then played an entire season as a professional athlete,” the trailer states.
The documentary plays other recordings of Hernandez seemingly confronting his mother for causing his problems. “I was the happiest little kid in the world, and you f—ed me up,” he says to her.
“I ain’t living with that,” she replies.
“You did,” he responds. “I had nobody. What’d you think I was going to do? Become a perfect angel?”
PEOPLE has reviewed recordings of Hernandez’s jailhouse conversations with his mother. In one call, he shared how his wealth hadn’t solved his problems. “You have to find inner peace to be happy,” he told her. “Nothing you do is gonna make you happy. Nothing you get is gonna make you happy. Just like me, like by having money, having everything in the world. I was still miserable. Know what I mean?”
Sometimes, the calls between Hernandez and his mom got heated. In one conversation, he blamed her for not treating his ADHD.
“You ruined me.,” he told her. “You’re the reason I could never pay attention in school and sh-t. You were supposed to get me my medication.”
“I knocked you over the head with a frickin’ hammer,” she responded. “That was your medication.”
In an interview last year, Hernandez’s older brother told PEOPLE that Aaron suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse before devolving into a life of violence.
“He had a lot of things happen, both good and bad,” Jonathan Hernandez told PEOPLE. “People think they know about my brother, but they really don’t. They know what they saw in the news, but they don’t know all the struggles he faced.”
As an adult, Aaron disclosed that he had been sexually molested when he was young. Jonathan also alleged that their father, who died in 2006, was physically abusive. “Our father would hit us for anything from a bad grade to disrespectful behavior to sheer clumsiness,” he told PEOPLE.
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Aaron’s attorneys have said that he suffered severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to head trauma and has been diagnosed in multiple NFL players.
“Aaron experienced a chaotic and horrendous existence in many respects, due to his undiagnosed brain injury,” his attorneys said in a lawsuit against the NFL. In another part of the suit, which is still pending, his estate said that CTE causes “aggression, explosive behavior, loss of concentration, mood swings, depression, apathy, and cognitive impairment.”
An NFL spokesman said last year the league “intend[ed] to contest the claims vigorously,” according to USA Today.
All of these issues are addressed in the Netflix documentary, which also deals with the fallout from Hernandez’s actions. “This isn’t just the Aaron Hernandez story,” a voiceover commentator in the trailer says. “There were a lot of lives affected by this guy.”