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Former NFL star Hernandez hangs himself in prison cell

  • Author: Cindy Boren, The Washington Post
  • Updated: April 19, 2017
  • Published April 19, 2017

Former NFL player Aaron Hernandez during his murder trial in Fall River, Massachusetts, March 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end who was serving a life sentence for murder without the possibility of parole, hanged himself in his prison cell early Wednesday morning, Massachusetts Department of Corrections officials say.

Officers at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Mass., found Hernandez, 27, hanging from a bedsheet at about 3:05 a.m. Wednesday. They attempted lifesaving techniques on the former Pro Bowl player and he was taken to UMass Memorial Health Alliance Hospital in Leominster, where he was pronounced dead.

Christopher Fallon, the deputy commissioner of communications for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, told The Post in an email that Hernandez, who was in a single cell in general population housing, attached the sheet to his cell window and tried to block his door by "jamming it with various items." He added that Massachusetts State Police were present and an investigation is ongoing.

Hernandez's death ends a stunning fall from the golden life of a star athlete and comes on the day the Patriots visit the White House to celebrate their victory in Super Bowl LI. The team, which cut him only hours after his June 2013 arrest for the murder of Odin Lloyd, and his former teammates have had very little comment on his downfall and a Patriots spokesman said Wednesday that he did not anticipate the club commenting.

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (L) shakes hands with New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez after the Patriots defeated the Broncos in Denver, December 18, 2011. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File

Last week, Coach Bill Belichick, in a CNBC word-association interview, used the word "tragic" to describe Hernandez. After Hernandez's arrest in 2013, Belichick said, "It's a sad day. It's really a sad day on so many levels. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, with the victim. I express my sympathy with everyone that's been impacted. A young man has lost his life, a family has suffered a tragic loss."

The murder of Lloyd occurred less than a year after Hernandez signed a seven-year, $40 million contract extension with the Patriots that included a $12.5 million bonus, the highest ever for a tight end. He had been a steal for the Patriots, falling to the fourth round of the NFL draft because of concerns about his maturity and the people with whom he associated. "He was really intelligent, and that's why he was such a pain in the [butt]," a former University of Florida staffer told NFL.com in 2014. "He knew how to beat the system on everything."

As pro teams considered whether drafting him was worth the risk, then-coach Urban Meyer and his staff warned that it was "crucial that Hernandez be surrounded by the right people," according to NFL.com. The coaches tried to keep him from returning home to Connecticut and worried when his friends there came to Gainesville on game weekends.

A little less than a week ago, he was acquitted in a double murder trial but was convicted of a gun possession charge. There was a brief, sweet moment during that trial when Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, his fiancee, brought the couple's 4-year-old daughter to the courtroom and the two exchanges waves. For a brief moment, he smiled broadly and his face lit up.

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