BOSTON – Former Patriots NFL star Aaron Hernandez hanged himself in his prison cell early Wednesday while serving a life sentence for murder, authorities said.
Hernandez, 27, was found by guards at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley just after 3 a.m., Department of Correction spokesman Christopher Fallon said in a statement. The former New England Patriots tight end was pronounced dead at a hospital about an hour later.
His death comes just days after he was acquitted of a double murder and on the same day the Patriots were set to visit the White House to mark their Super Bowl win. The team had no immediate comment.
Hernandez was in a single cell in a general population housing unit in the maximum-security state prison. He hanged himself with a bed sheet that he attached to a window, Fallon said. Hernandez tried to block the cell door from the inside by jamming it with various items, Fallon said.
Fallon said he’s not aware of any suicide note written by Hernandez. He said that officials had no concern that Hernandez might take his own life, and said if they had had any such worries he would have been transferred to a mental health unit.
Hernandez was moved to tears on Friday after he was acquitted of the 2012 fatal shootings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in Boston. Before his acquittal, Hernandez on Wednesday was seen blowing kisses to the little girl he fathered with fiancée Shayanna Jenkins. Cameras captured the tender exchange.
But, Hernandez was still serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for his conviction in the 2013 shooting of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating his fiancee’s sister.
He was tried but acquitted in the slayings of de Abreu and Furtado, whom prosecutors contended 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.
Hernandez’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Massachusetts State Police remain on the scene investigating the death.
Hernandez 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.
By DENISE LAVOIE
Associated Press writers Patrick Mairs in Philadelphia and Mark Pratt in Boston contributed to this report.