Aaron Hernandez, convicted of murdering Odin Lloyd, was found dead in his prison cell early Wednesday, April 19, 2017, in an apparent suicide. necn sat down with the Lloyd’s girlfriend during the trial in 2014.
For many, the story of Aaron Hernandez and Odin Lloyd seems mostly about an NFL player's fall from grace.
But what is seldom mentioned between the press conferences and court appearances is that a family is grieving for the loss of a son, a brother, a friend.
Lloyd's girlfriend, Shaneah Jenkins, spoke publicly for the first time about her story - how her plans for the future are now cut short and how her relationship with her sister, Hernandez's finance - is forever changed.
When asked how she's processing Lloyd's death, Jenkins says, "To be honest with you, I don't at this point. I'm still kind of in denial. In my head, I kind of tell myself that this is one of the moments he is in Boston and I'm in Connecticut, and so I really haven't processed that part yet. It's really hard."
Shaneah Jenkins and Odin Lloyd were an unlikely pair. Soft-spoken Jenkins lived and worked in Connecticut. Lloyd was a gregarious semi-pro football player from Massachusetts.
Their paths crossed two years ago unexpectedly because Lloyd landed an apprenticeship with a utility company that required him to work in Connecticut for weeks at a time.
"It was at the hotel I worked at. He came down to work and they stayed there. I worked overnight shifts. He would come down and keep me company. Yeah, it was a little awkward," Jenkins says, laughing. "But he would just come down and talk to me literally for my entire shift. He wouldn't sleep."
Lloyd pursued Jenkins for a month before they became a couple.
"I remember our first day. I came down to Boston to meet him and we went to the movies and he was a perfect gentleman," she says about some of her favorite memories together.
A characteristic Jenkins says countered his imposing exterior - bald head, over 6-feet tall, muscular build.
"Just by looking at him, he definitely wasn't what you would imagine him to be. He did have his soft moments. He loved to have his belly rubbed when he didn't feel good or his head massaged. He was amazing. He really was," she says.
When asked what their dreams were as a couple, Jenkins says, "We more or less just thought of a long term as long as we both were happy. Obviously children. He wanted to go into physical therapy so he wanted to go to school for that and open up his own little practice and I wanted to become a lawyer. So we were going to be a power couple together."
Those dreams ended the day Lloyd's body was found by a jogger in June, Jenkins recalls:
It was a Tuesday morning. Early Tuesday morning. I was sleeping. I got a phone call. I looked at my phone. I was a Massachusetts number. I didn't recognize it so I didn't answer. I got another phone call right after, so I was worried. I thought maybe it was him. I needed to pick up, and it was Trooper Benson, and he told me that. He told me that Odin had been killed. And he was found on the side of the road somewhere and immediately started asking me questions about his whereabouts. Anything that I could possibly know because he told me I could possibly hold the key to the investigation. And then I just remember kind of blacking out, calling my mom, crying. I couldn't really talk. I was pacing around my apartment just crying and kind of screaming. And I just immediately knew that I had to come here. I needed to be with his family. So I just got in the car and left and I don't know how I got up here. I just cried the whole way. Yeah, it was really difficult.
Jenkins is in a tough position. It was at a family function that she introduced her boyfriend Lloyd to his alleged killer, Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. Jenkins refuses to say Hernandez's name in public, but it's difficult because he is engaged to marry her older sister, Shayanna Jenkins.
Jenkins refused to discuss her sister with NECN.
However, Jenkins did want to address an accusation that Lloyd was a drug dealer - an accusation reportedly made by her own sister to Massachusetts State Police, according to affidavits out of Attleboro District Court.
"Anybody who ever knew him for a short period of time would know that all those things are false. He wouldn't be involved in those negative things. I mean, that's just not him at all," Jenkins says.
"Every time there is a story out, it's always about the alleged murderer and it's not about the tragedy that happened to Odin. The loss that all of us have taken, and the fact that he was a human and his life was taken. That bothers me a lot."
Since Lloyd's death, Jenkins has become extremely close to his sister and mother. She says the family is the only thing she has left of him.
"I feel like half of me is missing. He was a part of me, and I'm not whole without him. I don't really. I can't imagine how my future is going to be without him because all of our plans were together," she says, wiping away tears.
Click here for Latoyia Edwards' interview with Odin Lloyd's semi-pro football coach.
Click here for Latoyia Edwards' interview with Odin Lloyd's sister and best friend.