A lawyer for Ursula Ward, the mother of the man Aaron Hernandez was convicted of murdering, is asking the New England Patriots to voluntarily give Ward whatever money the ex-NFL star might still be owed.
"I lost a strong boy in my family that I will never see," Ward, the mother of Odin Lloyd, said Friday.
Ward choked back tears as she described the profound grief and sadness she lives with every day since her son's death.
But with Hernandez's suicide likely to vacate his conviction, instead of anger, Ward shares her sympathy with Hernandez and his loved ones.
"I pray to God that his soul is at peace," she said. "I pray to God that he finds comfort, and God will forgive him of whatever happened."
Ward's attorney, Douglas Sheff, said at a news conference Friday that a court has already ruled Hernandez legally responsible for the death of Lloyd in a wrongful-death lawsuit.
"All that remains in our case is the determination of damages, or how much," Sheff said.
Sheff said he issued a "friendly challenge" to the Patriots on behalf of Lloyd's mother, asking the team for $6 million.
The Patriots withheld a portion of Hernadez's salary and bonus — speculated to be worth $6 million — following his arrest in the 2013 killing of Lloyd. He was convicted and serving a life sentence when he was found dead by suicide in a Massachusetts prison Wednesday.
However, all first-degree murder convictions in Massachusetts trigger an automatic appeal and the state customarily vacates the convictions of defendants who die before their appeals are heard. Hernandez's appeal was still in its early stages and hadn't yet been heard when he hanged himself. Should Hernandez's murder conviction be overturned, his estate could be entitled to the remainder of his guaranteed NFL contract and pension.
"We urge the New England Patriots to work with the (NFL) Players Association to voluntarily make these payments," Sheff said. "This would be the best thing to do, it would be the right thing to do, and that would make the Patriots Ursula Ward's champion."
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The Patriots didn't immediately comment on the request.
Ward's lawsuit against Hernandez was filed in December 2013 but was temporarily put on hold during his first criminal trial. She said they are moving forward with the lawsuit because it can help the family financially and she would like to set up a scholarship in Lloyd's name.
"It's not about the civil case," Ward said Friday. "It's about my son, Odin Lloyd. It's about families that lost their loved ones, and we need justice."
In addition to the $6 million, the suit seeks to recover proceeds from the eventual sale of Hernandez's $1.3 million home and a Hummer. It's unclear what other assets Hernandez had when he died and how they might be distributed.
Hernandez's fiancée and the couple's 4-year-old daughter also would have legal claims to his estate.
Asked if he believed Hernandez had any money actually left after years of litigation, Sheff replied: "Good question. We wonder that ourselves."
Ward said the events of the past few days, including Hernandez being acquitted in the 2012 double murder of of Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu, have reopened old wounds.
"I lost my best friend. I lost my son. I lost the love of my life," Ward said, noting that only a mother who has lost her child can understand the pain of "tremendous loss."
She also offered her support to the families of Furtado and de Abreu.
"We are one family right now," Ward said. "I hold their hand like they're holding mine. I just want to tell them I love them. Regardless of what we are going through right now, we have a higher judge - a judge that is going to take care of us and give us the strength to move on."
The families of Furtado and de Abreu also had pending wrongful-death suits against Hernandez prior to the double murder trial, but it's unclear what impact Hernandez's acquittal and subsequent suicide could have on those cases.
No matter what the Patriots decide to do, Sheff says there is an order in place that would allow them to make a claim against the Patriots' money if it's determined that it's owed to the Hernandez estate.