Olivia Thibou had been looking forward to sleeping in on her day off. But at 6:53 a.m., her cell phone started vibrating. She ignored it at first, but it wouldn't stop.
She reached for her phone and saw the caller ID: "Shaneah — My Little Part of Odin." That is how she refers to Shaneah Jenkins, the former girlfriend of her brother, Odin Lloyd. The two women had become close—they call each other "sisters"—since Lloyd's death in 2013. Two years later, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was found guilty of Lloyd's murder and sentenced to life without parole.
"I'm thinking, 'It's my day off. Why are you calling me this early?'" Thibou tells B/R Mag. "She never calls me that early."
She didn't answer, but a thought kept nibbling away: What if there were some sort of emergency?
So Thibou called Jenkins back. That's when she heard the news: Hernandez had apparently hanged himself in his prison cell and died Wednesday.
"I just started crying," Thibou says. "I'm just...confused. It doesn't make sense. The timing doesn't make any sense."
Five days ago, Hernandez was acquitted of double murder in a case involving two men in Boston. Hernandez wept in court as the verdict was read. And although he was serving a life sentence for Lloyd's murder, Hernandez was scheduled to appeal that verdict. There was nothing outwardly pointing toward any inward despair.
Thibou declined to say whether Jenkins—the sister of Hernandez's fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, who took the name despite never officially marrying Hernandez—had spoken to her sibling about Hernandez's suicide. The sisters were close; Shaneah had stayed at Hernandez's house in the days following Lloyd's murder, and Hernandez had assured her he would help catch Lloyd's killer. But the relationship broke down after Hernandez was charged with Lloyd's murder. In the stilted conversations they shared since then, the siblings avoided talking about anything to do with Lloyd or Hernandez.
Thibou says she wants to take a couple of days before she publicly speaks about her reaction to Hernandez's death. The news adds a new layer to her family's grief, one they have yet to fully understand. Thibou says she was still coming down from the emotion brought on by last Friday's "not guilty" verdict for Hernandez in the double homicide case, which caused her to relive the angst brought on by her brother's trial.
On Saturday, Thibou posted on her private Facebook:
"This morning I woke up, tears in my eyes..today 2 years ago almost around this exact time. Leonard (her fiance), Chance (her son) and I were riding to the courthouse when Brandon Ferris called to tell me a verdict came in. I didn't think it would come that early in the day. Knowing we weren't going to make it on time, I plugged my phone to the auxiliary and watched the verdict being read live. Holding Leonard's hand I screamed out and cried when madame foreman announced guilty for murder! I watched my mom, sister Shaneah, uncle and aunts break down in tears. I got to the courthouse ran through the cameras hugged Brandon and just cried!
"Yesterday I had that same feeling as I sat at my desk waiting 6 days for this verdict. I knew in my heart it could go either way, but thought there were to many coincidences maybe someone on the jury was seeing it like us. My heart sunk yesterday and at my desk I cried 'not guilty'....yes he's in jail for life for Odin..but there's still families that have no one guilty in their loved ones murders..please continue to pray for their broken hearts and ours!"
Each member of Lloyd's family is processing the news in their own way. Lloyd's other sister, Shaquilla Thibou, was the last family member to see Lloyd alive; she had witnessed him get into the car with Hernandez and two other people that early June morning, and drive away. She then received text messages from her brother moments before he was shot, execution style: "U saw who I'm with.....Nfl.....just so you know."
When Shaquilla got word of Hernandez's death, Olivia says her sister went to Lloyd's grave to be with him, and ask how he felt about it. She didn't want to say anything until she had consulted with her older brother. Around 8 a.m., she posted a childhood photo of herself, Odin and Olivia on Facebook, with the caption, "I couldn't have asked for a better brother, nor a better sister [heart emoji]." Then, another post: "Not every death deserves an RIP....."
Lloyd's mother, Ursula Ward, who has already publicly forgiven Hernandez, sobbed heavily when she heard the news. TV crews have been camped outside her house since early morning. Thibou says she turned off her phone for a few hours, to get some peace. The circus is back in town, one last time.
For now, though, it's time for Olivia to get moving. Some day off. She throws some stuff together for the drive to Boston, to her mom and the house where she, Shaquilla and Odin grew up.
"The emotions," she says, "have been nonstop."