More than three years after his death, Aaron Hernandez's memory lives on in his only child.
On Friday, Nov. 6, Aaron's former fiancée Shayanna Jenkins took to social media to celebrate a very significant day: the birthdays of the late athlete and their daughter, Avielle.
"Happy Birthday to my sweet bundle of joy," she wrote to her firstborn on Instagram. "My sassy firecracker with such a sensitive soul , you are braver than you believe , stronger than you think and more loved than you'll ever know !"
"I know you cherish this day because it's one you share with your daddy," Shayanna continued. "Daddy is looking down on you and will continue to guide you forever ! May you smile big today and always ! I love you ... #Avielleturns8 #daddysgirl #AHforeverHBD."
While Avielle turned 8 years old on Friday, the day also marked what would have been Aaron's 31st birthday. In April 2017, the then-27-year-old athlete was found hanging in his prison cell and later pronounced dead at the hospital. At the time, he was serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. In 2020, Aaron's life was chronicled in a bombshell Netflix docuseries, which included claims about his sexuality.
Hernandez's childhood friend Dennis SanSoucie came forward about their alleged sexual relationship in the project. "I was a small piece of Aaron's sexual activity," he said in the series. "At that time frame, the girls didn't really hang out with the boys after school, so me and Aaron experimented and it was something that, I'll be honest with, that we continued because we probably enjoyed it. Um, hello?"
In an interview with ABC News' Amy Robach, Shayanna addressed the claims about her fiancé. "If he did feel that way or if he felt the urge, I wish that I was told," she said. "I wish that he would have told me because I would not have loved him any differently. I would have understood."
In November 2017, on Avielle's first birthday since Aaron's death, Shayanna commemorated the day with a touching tribute. "Today is such a special day !!! The two most important individuals in my life are lucky enough to share the same Birthday," she wrote. "I remember finding out I was pregnant and crying because I wasn't where I wanted to be in life BUT Aaron was so happy and reassured me that I would / we would be the best parents Avielle could ever ask for - and little did I know he was telling the truth."
According to Shayanna, the father and daughter have more in common than their birthday. "The both of you act so much alike it's insane," she continued. "I can't be anymore grateful for the two angels God gave me the chance of taking care of . I will forever try to do my best as a mother and to live true to my word for the love I've now lost . Aaron and Avielle I wish you both a very very Happy Birthday !!!! I love you both more than I can ever show."