Ex-NFL Player Aaron Hernandez's Murder of Odin Lloyd Has Spawned Several Motive Theories

Theories for why Aaron Hernandez murdered Odin Lloyd range from covering up other crimes to drug-induced rage.

Jamie Lerner - Author

Apr. 23 2024, Published 10:09 p.m. ET

Aaron Hernandez on trial for Odin Lloyd's murder in 2013
Source: Getty Images

It’s not uncommon for NFL players to get in trouble with the law. Since January 2023 alone, there have been at least 28 arrests of NFL players. However, murder is a crime reserved for a violent few, namely O.J. Simpson and Aaron Hernandez, among just a few others. In 2013, Patriots tight end Hernandez was arrested and convicted of murdering Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro footballer who was dating Hernandez’s fiancée’s sister at the time.

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While Hernandez was acquitted of two murders that occurred before Lloyd’s murder, his conviction in Lloyd’s case led to a sentence of life in prison without parole. Shortly after the acquittal, however, Hernandez took his own life in his cell at a maximum security prison. Without him ever sharing a motive for murdering Lloyd, all there’s left to do is speculate. So we visit several of the theories regarding why Hernandez killed Lloyd.

Aaron Hernandez talks to Tom Brady at a Patriots game in 2011
Source: Getty Images
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Why Did Aaron Hernandez kill Odin Lloyd? There are plenty of theories.

Hernandez was indeed acquitted of the double homicide of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado near Boston’s Cure Lounge. Both Abreu and Furtado came from Cape Verde and were killed by gunshots fired into their car. While witnesses testified seeing Hernandez’s car at the scene of the crime, he was also seen on the club’s security footage. However, the testimony was based mostly on Alexander S. Bradley, Hernandez’s drug dealer, who was in a feud with Hernandez at the time.

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Several accounts mention Lloyd talking to police at a Boston nightclub when Lloyd and Hernandez were hanging out. Putting the pieces together, some suggest that Lloyd may have been present at the double homicide and that if he testified, he could put Hernandez behind bars. So to solve the problem, Hernandez killed Lloyd.

Another theory is that Hernandez killed Lloyd to keep his sexuality under wraps.

In a REELZ special, Aaron Hernandez: Jailhouse Lover Tells All, we learned that Hernandez actually had a male lover named Kyle Kennedy while housed at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center. “[We had sex] once or twice a week, whenever there was a good opportunity,” Kennedy alleged in the special. “That was my right-hand man. We used to do everything together.”

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The New Yorker did a deep dive into Hernandez’s sexuality and how the media handled it, claiming that the coverage speculating about whether he was gay may have led to his suicide. But some sources also suggest that Lloyd may have discovered that Hernandez was gay or bisexual, so Hernandez killed him to keep the information from leaking. Accounts of Hernandez saying, “You can’t trust anyone” suggest that Lloyd knew some sort of secret about Hernandez.

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Many theories of Lloyd’s murder hinge on Hernandez’s addiction, mental health, and unresolved grief.

Hernandez came from a unique upbringing. His father, Dennis, was a reformed convict who could have been a pro football player had he gotten his life together. So he made sure his sons didn’t follow in his footsteps. But when Dennis suddenly passed away when Hernandez was just 16 years old, Hernandez had no one to turn to. To make matters worse, Hernandez’s mother moved her abusive lover into their home and Hernandez found familial love with a crime-ridden crowd.

Ursula Ward, mother of Odin Lloyd, places her hand on her son's grave at Oak Lawn Cemetery in Boston on April 15, 2015
Source: Getty Images
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No coach was able to get him out of his grief-addled addiction to substance and crime. He ran with gangs and even once claimed to be part of “the Bloods.” According to an in-depth Rolling Stone profile, Hernandez regularly took angel dust, among other substances. By the time Hernandez murdered Lloyd, he was so paranoid that he carried a gun on him at all times.

After his death, Hernandez was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease often found in football players’ brains that can contribute to violence and suicidal ideation. It’s very possible that his CTE may have contributed to his more violent behavior and reputation. In fact, one theory even suggests that Lloyd hung out with two men who talked badly about Hernandez, and this upset him so much that he killed his former friend.

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While we may never know the exact reason Hernandez murdered Lloyd, it could have been a combination of several of these factors. Perhaps Ryan Murphy’s upcoming series, American Sports Story, will shed some more light on what really happened.

If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call, text, or message the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Dial or text 988, call 1-800-273-8255, or chat via their website.

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