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Ex-NFL star Hernandez hangs himself in prison

  • AARON HERNANDEZ AARON HERNANDEZ

  • In this Dec. 12, 2005 photo, Aaron Hernandez poses for a photo in Bristol, Conn. Hernandez, a former NFL star, who was serving a life sentence for a murder conviction and Friday, April 14, 2017, was acquitted of a double murder, died after hanging himself at the prison early Wednesday, April 19, 2017, Massachusetts prisons officials said. (Patrick Raycraft/Hartford Courant via AP) PATRICK RAYCRAFT

  • In this Sept. 13, 2006 photo, Bristol Central tight end Aaron Hernandez appears in Bristol, Conn. Hernandez, a former NFL star who was serving a life sentence for a murder conviction and Friday, April 14, 2017, was acquitted of a double murder, died after hanging himself at the prison early Wednesday, April 19, 2017, Massachusetts prisons officials said. (Bob MacDonnell/Hartford Courant via AP) BOB MACDONNELL

  • Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez, fiancee of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, sits in the courtroom with the couple's daughter during jury deliberations in Hernandez's double-murder trial at Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, April 12. The Boston Globe via AP

  • In this Sept. 13, 2006 photo, Bristol Central tight end Aaron Hernandez runs up the field after a reception in practice in Bristol, Conn. Hernandez, a former NFL star who was serving a life sentence for a murder conviction and Friday, April 14, 2017, was acquitted of a double murder, died after hanging himself at the prison early Wednesday, April 19, 2017, Massachusetts prisons officials said. (Bob MacDonnell/Hartford Courant via AP) BOB MACDONNELL

  • FILE - In this Sunday Jan. 1, 2012, file photo, New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (81) tries to break free of Buffalo Bills linebacker Chris Kelsay (90) during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass. Hernandez, who was serving a life sentence for a murder conviction and just days ago was acquitted of a double murder, died after hanging himself in his prison cell Wednesday, April 19, 2017, Massachusetts prisons officials said. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File) Elise Amendola

  • New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez puts on a Super Bowl cap Jan. 22, 2012, following the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens in Foxborough. AP FILE PHOTO

  • FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, file photo, former New England Patriots NFL football player Aaron Hernandez is led into his court appearance at the Fall River Superior Court in Fall River, Mass. Massachusetts prison officials said Hernandez hanged himself in his cell and was pronounced dead at a hospital early Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (Matt Stone/The Boston Herald via AP, Pool, File) Matt Stone

  • FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008, file photo, the Florida Gators, from left, Aaron Hernandez (81), Louis Murphy (9) and Butch Rowley (37) celebrate after receiving the SEC Championship Trophy following a 31-20 win over top-ranked Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Championship NCAA college football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Hernandez, who was serving a life sentence for a murder conviction and just days ago was acquitted of a double murder, died after hanging himself in his prison cell Wednesday, April 19, 2017, Massachusetts prisons officials said. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File) Dave Martin



Associated Press
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

BOSTON — Hours before his former New England Patriots teammates were due to visit the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl victory, prison officials say, Aaron Hernandez tied one end of his bedsheet to a window and the other around his neck and hanged himself.

In a maximum-security prison outside Boston, about an hour from the stadium where he played alongside stars such as Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, Hernandez jammed the door to his one-man cell lest guards try to stop him and put an early end to the life-without-parole sentence he received for a 2013 murder.

He was 27.

Gone was the college football national championship, his own trip to the Super Bowl in just his second NFL season, and the $40 million contract extension he received as a reward. Just days after Hernandez was acquitted in a separate murder case, his friends, family and his legal team were searching for an explanation.

“There were no conversations or correspondence from Aaron to his family or legal team that would have indicated anything like this was possible,” said his attorney, Jose Baez. “Aaron was looking forward to an opportunity for a second chance to prove his innocence. Those who love and care about him are heartbroken and determined to find the truth surrounding his untimely death.”

Guards found Hernandez shortly after 3 a.m. Wednesday at the state prison in Shirley, Correction Department spokesman Christopher Fallon said. The former tight end was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead about an hour later.

Fallon said he was not aware of any suicide note and officials had no reason to believe Hernandez was suicidal. Otherwise, he would have been transferred to a mental health unit, Fallon said.

The Worcester County district attorney’s office and the Correction Department are investigating.

The Patriots had no immediate comment. At the White House in the afternoon, President Donald Trump congratulated the Super Bowl champions but made no mention of Hernandez.

A star tight end for the University of Florida when it won the 2008 title, Hernandez dropped to the fourth round of the NFL draft because of trouble in college that included a failed drug test and a bar fight. His name had also come up in an investigation into a shooting.

Still, he was a productive tight end for the Patriots for three seasons. He had 79 receptions for 910 yards and seven touchdowns in his second year to help the team reach the Super Bowl.

But the Patriots released him in 2013, shortly after he was arrested in the killing of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee. Hernandez was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Last week, Hernandez was acquitted in the 2012 drive-by shootings of two men in Boston. As the jury was deliberating, cameras spied Hernandez blowing kisses to the young daughter he fathered with fiancee Shayanna Jenkins.

Prosecutors claimed he gunned the two men down after one accidentally spilled a drink on him in a nightclub — and then got a tattoo of a handgun and the words “God Forgives” to commemorate the crime.

Investigators suggested Hernandez shot Lloyd to keep him quiet about the two earlier killings. A lawyer who represents Lloyd’s mother said she’s moving forward with a wrongful-death lawsuit against Hernandez’s estate.

In the Dorchester neighborhood where Lloyd grew up, a family friend of the victim wondered if Hernandez could no longer bear the weight of his crime and his squandered potential.

“I just think it got to him — the guilt,” Mixson Philip said. “Each man has to live with himself. You can put on an act like nothing happened, but you’ve got a soul. You’ve got a heart. You can’t say you don’t think about these things. There’s no going around that.”

Friends were grieving in Connecticut, where Hernandez was raised.

“Especially after him getting acquitted of the double murder. That was a positive thing in our minds,” said Alex Cugno, who grew up with Hernandez in Bristol. “I don’t believe that he would have killed himself. It just doesn’t add up. It’s fishy. It makes you wonder what really went on behind those walls in prison.”