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"I don't think this was a suicide," Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez said in an interview that aired Monday and Tuesday on the "Dr. Phil" show. "I don't know what to believe."
It was 5:27 a.m. on April 19 when a prison official called Jenkins-Hernandez to say the former NFL star had been found dead at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts, she said.
Hernandez was discovered hanging naked from a bed sheet in his cell, the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office said. His death has been ruled a suicide.
"At first I thought it was a hoax. I thought that this was some cruel person ... playing a trick on me," she told the show's host, Dr. Phil McGraw, crying. "He said that Aaron was found in his cell and he was deceased, he was being transferred to the hospital and that's when I said immediately that I was coming; he told me to wait for the medical examiner and I wasn't taking that for an answer."
She said he never talked to her about suicide.
"I had no idea," she said. "He definitely was emotional and we had talks about encouragement ... [like], 'Gonna keep fighting.' But I never would have suspected something like this."
She said their future was "looking so bright, we were going up a ladder in a sense to a positive direction. I haven't been able to grasp any of it yet," Jenkins-Hernandez told Dr. Phil, as he is known. "He was very positive, so excited to come home ... there was no indication at all of such events." Hernandez was in the process of appealing his conviction when he died.
Five days before his death, Hernandez was acquitted in a double murder that occurred in 2012 and last week a Massachusetts judge granted a request to erase Hernandez's murder conviction through the law of abatement.
She said they spoke on the phone the night before he died and that Hernandez spoke to the couple's 4-year-old daughter, telling her, "'Daddy's gonna be home.'"
"As far as I know I was the last person to speak with him," she said, calling it a normal conversation. "[It] had nothing to do with any suicidal thoughts. But then again, I don't know what that would be, but to me it was completely normal."
Hernandez was in prison serving a life sentence after he was convicted in April 2015 of murder, unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition for the June 2013 killing of Lloyd in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. Lloyd was dating Jenkins-Hernandez's sister.
Jenkins-Hernandez and the former NFL player, who were high school sweethearts and became engaged in 2012 before their daughter was born, never married, but Jenkins-Hernandez said, "I changed my name for the simple fact that we were a family." She wore her engagement ring in the Dr. Phil interview.
The day after Lloyd's murder, the Hernandez called his fiancée.
"He told me to go downstairs in our storage room and remove a box," she said in court. "I disposed of it ... in a dumpster."
When Dr. Phil asked her if the murder weapon could have been in that box, Jenkins-Hernandez said, "[it] could have."
“I will never know," she said, adding that she is glad she did not look inside. “I don’t want to know anything that can haunt me in a sense,” she said. “I’d rather be in the dark."
Jenkins-Hernandez said she would take her 4-year-old daughter to visit him in prison.
"We would try to go once a week, sometimes twice," she said. "She thought daddy was at work ... she knows nothing about jail, prison."
Although a state police investigation closed the matter, the late NFL player's fiancée said, "I don't think this was a suicide," telling Dr. Phil the findings are not believable to her and that she is calling for an inquiry.
She said the Bible references found on Hernandez when he died don't sound like him because he wasn't religious.
"Aaron was spiritual but he wasn't the kind of guy to get up every Sunday and go to church," she told Dr. Phil.
She also said that while the note left behind by Hernandez for her was a "note of love," it was not personal or intimate.
"It was addressed to Shay, instead of, you know, babe," which she said he usually called her. "That was a little odd to me."
She said he also didn't sign the note "your soul mate," which she said he usually did.
She said the handwriting was similar to her fiancé's but added, "I feel like it's easily duplicated or could be."
"It screamed love, but it wasn't, like I said, personal. It wasn't intimate," she said. "There were some odd parts where it just didn't make sense."
"It was very short ... I wanted more. I wanted him to explain," she said.
"I feel like he could have been saved," she added. "I feel like someone was in the wrong somewhere and I want answers."
Jenkins-Hernandez said she allowed their 4-year-old daughter to view her father’s body in private. She said their daughter said her last goodbyes by touching her father’s hand.
“He was full of life. So sweet. Very lovable. Would do anything for anyone,” she said. “Regardless of who he met, what room he walked into, he can make everyone laugh. He’s just, to me, a great guy. The love of my life.
“I’ll do the best that I can being a mother, a single mother,” she said. “I think this whole situation has been nothing but tragic all the way around. I just think that it’s time for Aaron to be free. I think this is the perfect opportunity to move on with life and progress in a great direction.”