DA: Aaron Hernandez's Death Ruled Suicide

Investigators said they found three hand-written notes and a Bible in his cell

What to Know

  • Ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez died Wednesday after hanging himself with a bed sheet attached to his prison cell window.
  • NBC Boston's Investigators have learned that Hernandez was found with "John 3:16" written on his forehead.
  • Authorities say three handwritten notes were found next to a Bible in Hernandez's cell. The contents of those notes were not released.

Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez's death has officially been ruled a suicide, according to the district attorney's office in Worcester County, Massachusetts.

The state medical examiner said the cause of death was axphyxia by hanging, District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said in a statement Thursday.

Authorities said investigators found three handwritten notes next to a Bible in the cell. The contents of those notes were not released.

Prison officials said previously that they were not aware of a suicide note written by Hernandez and there had been no concern that Hernandez might take his own life.

While Hernandez died just hours before the Patriots visited the White House, it was family, not football, that dominated his final hours. He was on the phone with his longtime fiancee, Shaynna Jenkins-Hernandez, until the 8 p.m. lockdown at the prison Tuesday.

No one saw him again until he was found hanging in his cell around 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Thursday, Jenkins-Hernandez filed a motion on behalf of their 4-year-old daughter to try to stop the state from destroying any evidence related to his death.

According to the preliminary injunction, Jenkins-Hernandez "intends to investigate all of the circumstances regarding Aaron Hernandez's death."

The attorney filing this motion is expected in court Friday.

Hernandez, 27, was serving a life sentence for murder and just last week was acquitted in two other killings before he hanged himself with a bed sheet attached to his cell window at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts.

About an hour after he was found, Hernandez was pronounced dead at UMass-Memorial Health Alliance Hospital in Leominster, according to a statement from the Massachusetts Department of Correction. He was in a single cell in a general population unit in the maximum-security state prison.

Investigators say Hernandez blocked access to his cell from the inside by jamming cardboard into the door tracks. They said there were no signs of a struggle and Hernandez was alone at the time of the hanging.

Hernandez was locked in his cell around 8 p.m. Tuesday and no one entered until a correction officer observed him at 3:03 a.m. Wednesday and forced his way in, investigators said.

Law enforecement sources tell NBC Boston that Hernandez was found with the words "John 3:16" written on his forehead. The Bible passage 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.”

Jose Baez, Hernandez's lead attorney in his recent double murder trial, has called for an investigation into his client's death. He issued a statement saying that Hernandez's family and legal team were "shocked and surprised" at the news of his death. He said Hernandez's family has also commissioned its own independent autopsy, which nationally known forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden helped conduct at Faggas Funeral Home in Watertown.

The owner of the funeral home, which has also taken in the bodies of Craigslist killer Philip Markoff and victim Julissa Brisman, says the private autopsy took several hours.

There are no plans to hold services at Faggas. The body is expected to be moved to another location in his home state of Connecticut over the weekend.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters Thursday that any time someone takes their own life in prison "something clearly went wrong." But he said he has full confidence in the state Department of Correction.

He said he isn't aware of any staff at the maximum-security prison where Hernandez was serving a life sentence for murder being reprimanded as a result of the death.

The governor acknowledged there are "a million rumors" flying around, but none has been substantiated and he cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

On Friday, Hernandez was acquitted of all but a gun charge in a lengthy trial in the 2012 shooting deaths of Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu. He was already serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for his conviction in the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating his fiancee's sister.

The owners said there are no plans to hold services there. They said the body is expected to be moved to another location in Connecticut over the weekend.

The state's chief medical examiner had withheld some tissue samples from Hernandez's brain as part of the effort to confirm he took his own life. But officials said the brain will now be released to Boston University's CTE Center in accordance with the wishes of Hernandez's family.

Earlier Thursday, Baez held a press conference where he accused the medical examiner of "illegally" holding the brain.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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