Disgraced former NFL star Aaron Hernandez, who was convicted in 2015 of murdering his friend Odin Lloyd, has been found dead after hanging himself in his prison cell, Massachusetts corrections officials say.
Hernandez was found unresponsive in his cell at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Lancaster, Massachusetts, about 3 a.m. Wednesday, according to a statement from the state Department of Correction.
“Mr. Hernandez was in a single cell in a general population unit,” the statement reads. “[He] 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.”
Hernandez was rushed to UMass Leominster hospital where he was pronounced dead at 4:07 a.m. He was 27.
The former New England Patriot was found with words “John 3:16” written across his forehead, ABC News reports. The bible verse reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
In a statement later Wednesday, Hernandez’s attorney Jose Baez said, ““The family and legal team is shocked and surprised at the news of Aaron’s death. There were no conversations or correspondence from Aaron to his family or legal team that would have indicated anything like this was possible.”
“We request that authorities conduct a transparent and thorough investigation,” Baez said in his statement.
He said his team will also investigate Hernandez’s death.
Hernandez’s suicide comes five days after he was acquitted of double murder charges in the deaths of two men outside a Boston nightclub in 2012. The jury found him not guilty of homicide, but convicted him of one count of possessing an unlicensed weapon.
Despite last week’s acquittal, Hernandez was still serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of Lloyd, his sister’s boyfriend. He was not eligible for parole. Hernandez had planned to appeal that conviction.
Fall From Grace
Before his 2013 arrest, Hernandez was a rising star. A tight end, he had played for the University of Florida, where he was recognized as an All-American.
Hernandez was selected by the New England Patriots during the fourth found of the 2010 NFL Draft. He signed a four-year contract that included a $200,000 signing bonus. He started the 2010 season as the youngest active player in the NFL.
The first two years went well, and Hernandez became a valuable member of the Patriots. In 2012, the team signed him to a five-year contract extension. His $12.5 million signing bonus was the largest ever given to a tight end in the NFL. He was under contract to stay with the team until at least 2018.
Things were going well in his personal life, as well. Hernandez started dating Shayanna Jenkins in 2007. In November 2012, the couple had their first child, a daughter named Avielle Janelle Jenkins-Hernandez. The couple got engaged, but never married.
But 2013 was the year that everything fell apart for Hernandez. On June 18, 2013, Hernandez was arrested for the murder of Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’ fiance. Lloyd had been shot in an industrial park. Prosecutors alleged that the killing was over something trivial, and the motive was never clearly articulated during trial.
Just 90 minutes after Hernandez was charged with murder, the Patriots released him.
While Hernandez was awaiting trial for the Lloyd murder in 2014, he was charged with the drive-by shooting deaths of Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Teixeira Furtado,
Ultimately, Hernandez was convicted of the Lloyd murder and sentenced to life in prison. His acquittal for the murders of de Abreau and Furtado changed little about his daily life: he was still serving a life sentence without possibility of parole.
While the Massachusetts State Police say that they are investigating Hernandez’ death, the coroner has classified his death as a suicide. Despite that classification, some friends have raised questions about what really happened.
The prison will begin their own investigation on how the suicide could have happened.