Before ex-Patriots star Aaron Hernandez hung himself in his jail cell, the sheriff was reaching out to him with the gospel.
“I did read the Bible,” the New England All-Pro tight end told Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, according James Patterson’s All American Murder excerpted in the New York Post. “The weirdest thing happened: I opened it, randomly, and it was all about me,” he said.
But before long, Hernandez’s defense team got wind of the growing closeness between their client and the sheriff — and they demanded a transfer to another jail. They didn’t want any ‘fraternizing with the enemy’ during the ongoing trial.
Sheriff Hodgson, a grandstanding God-fearing American, who styles himself after Joe Arpaio, wasn’t fishing for evidence but for souls. A zealous Christian, Hodgson believed that a high profile story of redemption would teach the nation’s youth the dangers of sin and the power of God’s forgiveness. But, after 18 months of chatting him up about the Bible, his progress got cut short.
When Hernandez, at age 27, was found suspended by a bed sheet noosed around his neck and tied to the window at 3:00 a.m. on April 19, 2017, he had written John 3:16 on his forehead. His Bible was open to the same passage. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead an hour later.
Hernandez’ meteoric rise to the top NFL team and his tragic demise following the murder of his fiancée’s sister’s boyfriend is a story of the hollowness of the American Dream without God.
Hernandez was an anomaly in football. While street toughs abound in the bruising sport, most of them leave the streets behind when they enter the glory of the gridiron. They have traded up for the trappings of wealth and fame.
But Hernandez didn’t transition. He had a 7,100-square-foot house and a $40 million contract, but he stayed loyal to his “hood” and thug life.
Hernandez relished violence and feared nothing. Together with Rob Gronkowski, they formed the most feared pair of tight ends in the NFL. While Gronk offered some of the stickiest hands and trickiest feet, Hernandez was the rampaging ball runner who was turned on by pain. To have either one on your team was a huge advantage; the Patriots had both.
Then in 2013, Hernandez was arrested. In April 2015, Hernandez was found guilty of the murder of Odin Lloyd, who dated his fiancée’s sister. Two years later, he was acquitted of a double slaying — just days before his suicide. Speculation abounded, but no one could ever ascertain why he killed or why he committed suicide.
Thomas Hodgson is better known as the tough-talking sheriff of Bristol County than as a Christian. He deprived inmates of TVs, reduced meal portions and sent out shackled prisoners to work in crews. He offered to build Trump’s wall along the Mexican border and charged his prisoners $5/day/room to help offset prison costs.
In Massachusetts where Democrats run deep, his law and order ethics resonated with many blue-collar workers and ran contrary to the elitists that ran the state. Was he politicking like Joe Arpaio, the anti-immigrant Arizona sheriff?
Maybe. But he was also genuinely concerned for the spiritual well-being of his inmates. To gasps of civil rights hounds, he ripped out equipment from the prison gym and made it into a spiritual retreat center.
Growing up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Hodgson was one of 13 children. He went to Catholic mass every morning at 6:00 a.m. and studied at a Catholic military high school before taking college classes in criminal justice.
The Bristol County House of Corrections in Massachusetts was under Hodgson’s administration; 41% of its population were defendants, according to the Boston Globe.
When Hernandez was brought there, Hodgson took a special interest in his high profile inmate. He spoke frequently about him publicly.
“He had the world in his hands. His destiny was set for greatness, until he made a bad decision. And suddenly, his life changed,” he sternly warned eighth graders on a field trip to the Fall River Justice Center on Law Day.
But Hodgson wasn’t just capitalizing on the footballer’s fame for self-aggrandizement. Behind the scenes, he was genuinely interested in the condition of his soul. Taking advantage of his role as maximum authority in the jail, Hodgson began to meet Hernandez privately and talk to him about his faith and his father, who died when he was 16.
“There’s a saying my father used to always use with my 12 brothers and sisters,” Hodgson told him. “He used to say, ‘Always remember, God writes straight with crooked lines.’” Read the rest of Aaron Hernandez Christian?