Aaron Hernandez, former New England Patriots star, found hanged in cell

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Aaron Hernandez, former New England Patriots star, found hanged in cell
ABC's Emily Rau reports on the death of former NFL star Aaron Hernandez.

SHIRLEY, Massachusetts (WABC) -- The death of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez, who was discovered hanged in his cell Wednesday morning, is now being investigated as a suicide.

Hernandez, 27, was found hanged in his single cell by corrections officers around 3 a.m., according to the Department of Corrections in Massachusetts.

Officials tried to save his life and he was taken to UMass Memorial - HealthAlliance Hospital in Leominster where he was pronounced dead around 4 a.m., the DOC said in a statement.

A bedsheet attached to a cell window was used and the door had been blocked from the inside, jammed with various items, the statement said.

A spokesman for the DOC said he hadn't heard whether there was a suicide note and that there was no "prior concern Hernandez was suicidal." If there had been, Hernandez would have been on a mental health watch in a different unit. He lived in the general population at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.

Hernandez's next of kin was notified. The Massachusetts State Police and Worcester County District Attorney's office are now investigating, and an autopsy is being performed in Boston.

On Wednesday morning, those who knew him expressed skepticism that Hernandez killed himself. One of his agents, Brian Murphy, wrote, "Absolutely no chance he took his own life. Chico was not a saint, but my family and I loved him and he would never take his own life."

A spokesman for the Patriots said, "We are aware of the reports, but I don't anticipate that we will be commenting today." The Patriots are scheduled to visit the White House this afternoon to meet with President Donald Trump.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, in an CNBC interview a few days ago, used one word when asked about Hernandez: "Tragedy."

Hernandez had a brief history of altercations in custody. He was tangentially involved in a May 2015 fight at Baranowski when he agreed to be a lookout for an inmate who fought with another inmate. In February 2014, Hernandez punched a fellow inmate at Bristol County House of Correction, knocking him to the ground.

On Friday, Hernandez was moved to tears after he was acquitted of the 2012 fatal shootings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in Boston.

Prosecutors contended they were gunned down after one of the men accidentally spilled a drink on Hernandez in a Boston nightclub. The jury in that case found Hernandez not guilty of first-degree murder but convicted him of unlawful possession of a gun, and the judge sentenced him to an additional four to five years in prison - separate from his existing life sentence.

He was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for his conviction in the 2013 shooting of Odin Lloyd, who was dating his fiancee's sister.

After Hernandez's death, his defense attorney in the double murder case, Jose Baez, said "there were no conversations or correspondence from Aaron to his family or legal team that would have indicated anything like this was possible."

Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn prosecuted Hernandez in the murder of Lloyd. Quinn calls Hernandez's death "a shocking and sad end to a very tragic series of events that has negatively impacted a number of families."

He grew up in Connecticut and played for the Patriots from 2010 to 2012. The team released him in June 2013, shortly after he was arrested in Lloyd's killing.

The Associated Press and ABC contributed to this report.