Former NFL All-Star Aaron Hernandez committed suicide in a Massachusetts prison cell early Wednesday morning, just hours before his ex-teammates traveled to the White House to celebrate the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl glory.
The former tight end, who was convicted of murder in 2015, was found hanging in his cell at about 3 a.m. at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, a few days after he was acquitted of a separate double murder.
Christopher Fallon, spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, told The Boston Globe that Hernandez was not on any kind of suicide watch because he had never indicated he might harm himself. “If he had made any kind of statement, he would have not been in that unit,’’ said Fallon. So far, officials have not found anything resembling a suicide note, but the Massachusetts State Police are investigating his death.
Hernandez—who was serving a life-without-parole sentence for the 2013 murder of Odin L. Lloyd—was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead about an hour later. The 27-year-old had used a bedsheet to hang himself from the window, according to a DoC press release. “Mr. Hernandez was in a single cell in a general population unit,” it reads. “Mr. Hernandez also attempted to block his door from the inside by jamming the door with various items.” His family has been notified.
Patriots spokesman Stacey James said Wednesday morning that the team has been informed about Hernandez’s death. “We are aware of the reports, but I don’t anticipate that we will be commenting today,’’ he told the Globe.
“Today my heart hurts,” said Mike Pouncey, Hernandez’s former teammate at the University of Florida. Pouncey posted on Instagram that he spoke to Hernandez on Tuesday. “Through thick and thin right or wrong we never left each other's side. It was just a day ago we shared our last convo. I will forever miss you and love you bro. We will meet again.”
Last week, Hernandez was acquitted of murdering Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in July 2012, in a drive-by shooting outside a Boston nightclub.
When the verdict was read Friday, he was visibly emotional in the courtroom, according to multiple reports. His attorney, Ronald Sullivan, said: “He was charged for something somebody else did, and that is a weighty burden for anyone to shoulder.”
The victims’ families, however, were “devastated” by the acquittal, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley. Still, the families reportedly were comforted by knowing Hernandez wouldn’t be “walking out the door.” Conley said, “If those appeals are exhausted, he will spend the rest of his natural life behind bars, so that does give the families—and, frankly, our office—some consolation.”
Alexander Bradley, the star witness in last week’s trial, said he was shot in the head by Hernandez in 2013 and left for dead. He lost his right eye in the shooting. In a news release from the time, the Suffolk County district attorney said Hernandez shot Bradley after he “made a remark about the homicides.” Bradley has said he planned to avenge the attack.
Though Hernandez was convicted years ago in Lloyd’s death, the former All-Star maintained that he was innocent and had requested a new trial. Lloyd had been a friend of the player—his body was found in an industrial park just one mile from Hernandez’s home. When the Massachusetts State Police obtained a search warrant on his $1.3 million house, it was because they found evidence he intentionally destroyed the home’s high-end security system and then hired a crew of house cleaners in what was considered suspicious timing—the same day Lloyd’s body was discovered.
The same night Lloyd was fatally shot, he sent his sister his last-ever text messages: “Did you see who I am with?”
And, “Just so you know.”