Aaron Hernandez trial: Fiancée's testimony almost impossible to believe

Dan WetzelColumnist
Shayanna Jenkins testifies during Aaron Hernandez's murder trial. (AP)
Shayanna Jenkins testifies during Aaron Hernandez's murder trial. (AP)

FALL RIVER, Mass. – So if Monday's testimony from Shayanna Jenkins is to be believed, then this is what needs to be believed:

It's the afternoon of June 18, 2013, a full day after her sister's boyfriend, Odin Lloyd, was found murdered in a field near the North Attleboro, Mass., home Shayanna shared with her boyfriend, NFL star Aaron Hernandez.

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Everything was crazy. Police had come to the house the night before and searched the backyard using flashlights. They'd spoken to Hernandez at the house and then met with him again down at the station. They'd even spoken briefly to Shayanna herself.

Later, at Hernandez's request, she drove in the middle of the night, with her 8-month-old baby in the backseat, to the parking lot of a Rhode Island McDonald's and gave $500 to one of Hernandez's friends, Bo Wallace.

All of this was suspicious enough that Jenkins acknowledged she directly asked Hernandez if he killed Lloyd. He answered no and she left it there.

So now it's about 1 p.m. on the June 18 and she is hanging out in their living room on a huge wrap-around couch. Her younger sister Shaneah is there, distraught. So too is Shayanna and Hernandez's daughter. Hernandez is somewhere else. Shayanna acknowledged she was edgy and concerned.

"There were a lot of things going on," she testified Monday at Bristol County [Mass.] Superior Court, her second day on the stand in Hernandez's murder trial. "I had to play a role as far as trying to comfort my sister. Everyone's emotion was kind of on me. And I was nervous."

So in the middle of that, Hernandez calls and tells Shayanna she needs to remove a cardboard box that is sitting in a basement storage room. He says it's "important," according to Shayanna.

Now, to an outsider, this seems like an odd request. Remove a box from a storage room? Is that really a pressing concern at this moment? And not just take it out to the garage for garbage day. Instead it required a young mother who is comforting her sister to make a specific trip to get rid of it.

Strange. So strange it's just one of the reasons the prosecution has implied that the box contains, among other weapons, the .45 caliber Glock that was used to shoot Lloyd six times in the early-morning hours of June 17.

So strange that getting Jenkins to talk about the box was deemed worthy of her gaining immunity for her testimony.

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On a honey-do-list request this begs for additional questioning, yet Shayanna Jenkins said Monday she asked none. She basically drops everything and gets on task.

Surveillance video from inside the Hernandez home shows she takes two phone calls from Hernandez and makes three trips to the basement, chatting with him on her way down the stairs.

Jenkins testified she found the cardboard box but didn't really look inside, apparently not curious to its contents. She says that rather than examining the contents herself, she took some baby clothes and laid them on top of the box so that no one could look inside the box. Baby clothes?

"I didn't have any other way to cover the box," Jenkins testified.

"Cover for what purpose?" prosecutor William McCauley asked.

"So nothing was exposed I guess," Jenkins said.

When asked from whom she was protecting the contents of the box, Jenkins replied, "It was just in general. It wasn't necessarily hiding it from certain individuals. Just natural instinct to grab what was near me. If there was tape, I would have grabbed tape."

This is a box in a basement storage room. Shayanna is the only person in the basement, let alone the storage room. The only other people in the entire 7,100-square foot mansion are her sister, her uncle, her 8-month-old daughter and a cleaning lady.

If she has no idea of the contents of the box, and it's all very innocent, as one would presume, then why would it need to be protected from exposure? Isn't it just full of garbage?

On cross examination, the defense attempted to provide some insight into what may have been inside the box.

Did it have a smell?

"There was a skunky, marijuana smell in the box," Jenkins replied.

It's been established by numerous witnesses, including Shayanna Jenkins, that Hernandez frequently smoked marijuana in their basement. So now it appears the defense is attempting to show that the box contained pot, not a gun, though according to McCauley this is the first time Jenkins, who estimated the box weighed 35 to 40 pounds, has ever mentioned it smelled of marijuana.

(Thirty-five pounds of marijuana inside a 2-square-foot box? Not possible.)

After covering the box up with baby clothes, then placing both the box and the clothes in a plastic trash bag, Jenkins borrows her sister's car, perhaps for the first time ever, to go run a couple errands and throw the box away.

Shayanna then carried the cardboard box topped by baby clothes and wrapped in that back garbage bag, out the back door of the home, around to the driveway and into the trunk of Shaneah's car. It's heavy. In surveillance video you can see her struggling with the cumbersome item.

Then she leaves.

Where does she go? She has no idea, she said. She needed to buy diapers and baby formula but can't recall where she went to buy that stuff. A Rite Aid, maybe, but she's not sure. As for disposing the box, she said she went to an unknown dumpster in an unknown location.

Video shows Shayanna Jenkins leaving the house with a black trash bag the day after Odin Lloyd's murder.
Video shows Shayanna Jenkins leaving the house with a black trash bag the day after Odin Lloyd's murder.

"Did you know of an area that had a dumpster," McCauley asked.

"No," she said. "I drove around."

The trip to the mystery dumpster, an ATM and possibly a Rite Aid took an estimated 45 minutes. There are industrial parks and factories right near her home, less than half a mile, but she apparently didn't just head there because that would've taken two minutes. Of course, those are also near the murder scene.

"I was in Plainville, North Attleboro, I believe Foxborough at one point," she said. "I was driving around."

"What was causing you to drive around?" McCauley asked.

"I mean, nerves," Shayanna said. "Just everything that was going on."

"Where would you have gone to take this box and put it in a dumpster?" McCauley asked again.

"I don't know," Shayanna testified. "I found a random dumpster. I do not know where it was located."

"Commercial area? A residential area?"

"I believe residential but I'm not sure," Shayanna said.

There was one part of the trip where Jenkins' location was known, an ATM near the Plainville Crossing Shopping Center. She took out $800. There are pictures of her. There is a receipt. Why did she need money? Shaneah Jenkins testified her sister asked to borrow her car to get money to pay the house cleaners, although later McCauley produced a check Shayanna wrote to cover the $300 cleaning tab that day.

Whatever. She was at the Plainville Crossing Shopping Center. She is familiar with Plainville because it's just a few minutes from her current home and she and Hernandez previously shared a townhouse there.

Even a simple look on Yahoo Maps reveals that behind the shopping mall there are all sorts of dumpsters, as there are behind pretty much every single shopping center in America. There are also gas stations, fast food restaurants and other commercial property in plain view of the bank; all of them predictably have dumpsters too.

Shayanna Jenkins, in search of a dumpster, was literally surrounded by dumpsters.

So why drive around? Why not use any of them?

McCauley never asked or pressed on this issue. Maybe the prosecution didn't think they needed to because Shayanna Jenkins' testimony was so improbable that it was almost laughable.

When on cross examination from friendly defense attorneys, Jenkins easily and cheerfully rattled off details about home remodeling, middle school dates, her past employment, old family cookouts, New England Patriots games, limo rides during nights on the town and all sorts of other moments from her life, from the mundane to the memorable.

"Where would you like me to begin?" she asked defense attorney Charles Rankin at one point.

But about the dumpster on a traumatic, memorable day that is the focus of a trial with her now fiancée's future hanging in the balance?

What? Where? No idea.

She couldn't even recall any details when authorities first asked about the box and the dumpster two months after Lloyd was found dead. If the box contained no incriminating evidence, finding it then would have actually aided Hernandez.

It wasn't the only massive swing of Jenkins' demeanor. Across two days of testimony she showed not a hint of emotion. Not when discussing the police questioning her. Not the murder. Not the fact it was her own sister's boyfriend who was killed. No recollection of the deceased, who was a friend. Not even her relationship with her sister – "estranged," she said coldly.

It was so unwavering that at one point on Monday Shaneah left the fifth-floor courtroom here in tears.

Yet when testifying about catching Hernandez cheating on her in 2011, Shayanna broke down, her voice catching, tears coming and her unable to continue. That's what got her; Hernandez having pictures of other women on his phone.

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As for the afternoon of June 18, 2013, Shayanna returned home after about an hour, arriving with the diapers and the formula but not the box.

She also still had the baby clothes, which means they were not used to cover the unknown contents of the box inside an unknown dumpster from unknown people who might pick through that unknown dumpster, but instead merely to cover the unknown contents of the box for its removal from her own home.

Why would anyone need to hide the contents of a random box from the house when the only people there to see it were your own mourning sister, uncle and a cleaning lady?

Jenkins wasn't asked.

So if Monday's testimony of Shayanna Jenkins is to be believed, then this is what needs to believed:

A woman is suspicious enough to ask her boyfriend if he killed her sister's boyfriend in a field near their home, but she is not suspicious enough to ask why he might believe its important for her to immediately remove a box from the basement even after police have begun asking questions.

She was, however, careful enough to cover it up just in case someone wanted to see its contents, but of course she wasn't curious or caring enough to inquire herself about those contents.

She just hauled it away and then drove all over town (more than one, actually) looking for a place to dump it, but apparently didn't consider any of the dumpsters that were conveniently located near her home or the other errands she made. And in all the time since, she just can't remember enough to make a guess on where that dumpster is.

But there's nothing significant about that box, other than the smell, which Jenkins chose to withhold from any testimony she's given until today.

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