New England Patriots

Former Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez commits suicide in prison

(AP Photo/John Blanding)

Massachusetts prison officials say former NFL star Aaron Hernandez has hanged himself in his cell and pronounced dead at a hospital. He was 27.

The Massachusetts Department of Corrections says Hernandez was found hanged in his cell just after 3 a.m. Wednesday. Authorities tried to revive the former New England Patriots tight end, and he was pronounced dead at UMass Memorial — HealthAlliance Hospital in Leominster at 4:07 a.m.

“Mr. Hernandez was in a single cell in a general population unit,” a DOC statement said. “Mr. Hernandez hanged himself utilizing a bedsheet that he attached to his cell window. Mr. Hernandez also attempted to block his door from the inside by jamming the door with various items.”

Authorities say Hernandez tried to block the cell door from the inside by jamming the door with various items.

DOC spokesman Christopher Fallon said Hernandez was not on a suicide watch because there was no indication he was considering harming himself. “If he had made any kind of statement, he would have not been in that unit,” Fallon said.

He said investigators are poring over his cell in Unit G-2 but so far have not found anything that resembles a suicide note.

State Police are investigating and Hernandez’s family has been notified.

Hernandez’s suicide comes five days after he was acquitted of the 2012 murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in Boston. Just before his acquittal, Hernandez was seen blowing kisses to the little girl he fathered with fiancée Shayanna Jenkins. Cameras captured the tender exchange.

But, Hernandez was still serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for his conviction in the 2013 shooting of Odin Lloyd, who was dating his fiancée’s sister.

Hernandez’s attorneys had appealed for a new trial in the Lloyd case.

Hernandez grew up in a tough neighborhood in Bristol, Conn., and playing at the University of Florida, where he was chosen the country’s best tight end. He also ran into trouble there, getting into a bar fight and testing positive for marijuana.

He was a fourth-round draft pick of the Patriots in 2010, after many teams passed on him, leery of his reputation.

Teamed with Rob Gronkowski, Hernandez gave the Patriots a tight end combo that was second to none. He played three years, catching 175 passes for 18 touchdowns. He signed a five-year contract extension in 2012 worth up to $40 million.

In 2013, Hernandez and Lloyd had begun dating sisters, and the two men socialized together. In June 2013, at a Boston nightclub, Hernandez became angry with people Lloyd was talking with. Investigators said that Hernandez might have suspected that Lloyd was talking with them about the double murder case Hernandez was eventually acquitted of.

A jogger found Lloyd’s gunshot-riddled body in a Massachusetts industrial park on June 17, 2013. Hernandez was charged with murder nine days later, and the Patriots released him.

Though no murder weapon was found, and no witness to the shooting of Lloyd came forward, prosecutors built a circumstantial case tying Hernandez to the killing.

Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, spoke of a box that she said Mr. Hernandez instructed her to remove from their house and discard the day after Lloyd’s body was found. She also said Hernandez called her from the police station and asked her to give some money to Ernest Wallace, a friend who would eventually also be charged in the killing.

It was enough for the jury, which deliberated for six days before finding Hernandez guilty.

Hernandez’s death comes the same day the Patriots are making their visit to the White House today to mark their Super Bowl win. Team spokesman Stacey James said the Patriots were aware of the reports of Hernandez’s death but didn’t anticipate the club commenting Wednesday.

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