FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — They are sisters, born just two years apart. Now they are divided by the aisle of a courtroom.
Shayanna Jenkins sits behind her fiance, Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriot on trial for murder. Shaneah Jenkins sits with the family of Odin Lloyd, her boyfriend and the man Hernandez is accused of killing on June 17, 2013.
The sisters, who introduced the men, now have a relationship that appears fractured. The rift was on full display last week as Shaneah took the stand against Hernandez while her sister sat in the front row, supporting him.
The once-close sisters, for a time, took similar paths, according to Shaneah’s testimony.
Shayanna, 25, and Shaneah, 23, grew up in Bristol, Connecticut, and both attended Bristol Central High School. Shayanna had an on-and-off relationship with Hernandez that spanned the last two years of high school. When Hernandez went off to Florida to play football, Shayanna went to community college.
After Hernandez was drafted by the Patriots in 2010, Shayanna left college and moved with him to a Massachusetts condo. Two years later, Hernandez signed a $40 million contract and, that November, Shayanna gave birth to a daughter. The family moved into a mansion in North Attleborough, not far from Gillette Stadium.
Shaneah, like her sister, enrolled in community college but later transferred to Central Connecticut State University. She held down several jobs while majoring in criminology: at a home care company, for a law firm and at a Comfort Suites hotel in Southington, Connecticut.
It was there that she met Lloyd, who was doing electrical work with a crew staying at the hotel, in January 2012. By March, they were dating. They talked every day and after Lloyd’s work in Connecticut ended, their relationship deepened.
Lloyd and Hernandez first met in August 2012, when, for the younger sister’s birthday, Hernandez got a skybox for a Patriots game at Gillette Stadium. After that, the men saw each other a few times a month, Shaneah told the court. She would stay with her sister and Hernandez when she went to Massachusetts to visit Lloyd every couple of weeks.
“Almost every time I went there, he was with me,” Shaneah testified.
During those visits, while the sisters would hang out upstairs, go shopping or get their nails done, Lloyd and Hernandez would sometimes hole up in the basement “man cave” and smoke marijuana, often with other people, Shaneah testified. A few times, the couples went to clubs together.
By May 2013, Shaneah graduated college and had big plans: pursuing a law degree at New England School of Law. She was moving to Boston, she testified, and she and Lloyd were planning to move in together.
The next month, Lloyd was dead.
Shaneah, now a second-year criminal law student, tearfully testified about getting the call from police in the middle of the night. She called her mother. Her next call was to her older sister.
After heading to see Lloyd’s mother in Boston, Shaneah and her uncle drove to the home Shayanna and Hernandez shared. Surveillance video played in court from inside the home showed Shayanna giving her a long hug.
As she watched the video play from her seat in the front row, Shayanna put her hand on her forehead, then wiped away tears.
But other parts of Shaneah’s testimony seemed to agitate the older sister, who had her arms crossed and bounced her leg, occasionally emitting sighs as her sister spoke.
Shayanna pulled out a notebook and began scribbling notes at a few points, including when Shaneah insisted Hernandez had checked in with her only once to see how she was doing in the days after Lloyd was found dead. Hernandez’s lawyer presented Shaneah with her own grand jury testimony, when she said he had periodically asked if she was OK. Shayanna then shared the notes with Hernandez’s legal team.
It’s not yet clear if Shayanna will testify. Prosecutors say they might call her. They have accused her of getting rid of possible evidence at Hernandez’s direction, a box from the basement, using her sister’s car. Shaneah testified she saw her sister carry a garbage bag to the basement after getting calls and texts the morning after Lloyd’s body was found.
Their mother, Jodi Jenkins, declined to comment for this story. They also have a 16-year-old sister.
Shayanna attended just one day of her sister’s testimony: Wednesday, when Shaneah was cross-examined.
During that time, the sisters did not make eye contact, except once.
Soon after she took the stand, the prosecutor asked if she saw her sister in the courtroom. Shaneah at first said no, until Shayanna craned her neck to make sure she was seen.
Hernandez was in the way.
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