In fi­nal hours, Her­nan­dez thought of fam­ily, not foot­ball

Truro Daily News - - SPORTS - THE As­so­CI­AtED prEss

Bos­toN

Fam­ily, not foot­ball, dom­i­nated Aaron Her­nan­dez’s fi­nal hours as a lifer in prison.

As the hour of his death ap­proached, the for­mer NFL star chat­ted on the phone with his long­time fi­ancee, Shayanna Jenk­ins-Her­nan­dez. Au­thor­i­ties say the pair stayed on the phone un­til the 8 p.m. lock­down at the max­i­mum-se­cu­rity prison where he was serv­ing a life sen­tence for mur­der.

Alone in his cell, the ex-New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots tight end scrib­bled three notes. He laid them care­fully next to a Bi­ble.

Then he turned his bed­sheet into a noose and hanged him­self.

Those cryptic de­tails emerged Thurs­day as au­thor­i­ties ruled Her­nan­dez’s death a sui­cide and turned his body over to a fu­neral home so his fam­ily could lay him to rest.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors wouldn’t say what Her­nan­dez’s hand­writ­ten notes said. But they said they were sat­is­fied he died at his own hand, and they said his brain would be do­nated to sports con­cus­sion re­searchers, end­ing a brief pub­lic dis­pute over its cus­tody. More de­tails emerged Thurs­d­say as au­thor­i­ties ruled for­mer NFL star Aaron Her­nan­dez’s death a sui­cide.

Au­thor­i­ties said the med­i­cal ex­am­iner had ruled Her­nan­dez’s cause of death was as­phyxia by hang­ing and in­ves­ti­ga­tors had found the notes and Bi­ble in Her­nan­dez’s cell at the Souza-Bara­nowski Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter in Shirley.

Au­thor­i­ties pre­vi­ously said Her­nan­dez had not left a sui­cide note and he hadn’t been on sui­cide watch.

“There were no signs of a strug­gle, and in­ves­ti­ga­tors de­ter­mined that Mr. Her­nan­dez was alone at the time of the

hang­ing,” the Worces­ter County district at­tor­ney’s of­fice said in a state­ment.

Her­nan­dez had been locked into his cell at about 8 p.m. on Wed­nes­day and no one en­tered the cell un­til a guard saw him just af­ter 3 a.m. and forced his way in be­cause card­board had been jammed into the door track to im­pede en­try, au­thor­i­ties said. Her­nan­dez was found hang­ing from a bed­sheet and was rushed to a hos­pi­tal, where he was pro­nounced dead an hour later.

Ear­lier Thurs­day, Her­nan­dez’s lawyer com­plained that state of­fi­cials had turned over the 27-year-old’s body but not his brain.

At­tor­ney Jose Baez said the fam­ily had ar­ranged for re­searchers at Bos­ton Univer­sity’s Chronic Trau­matic En­cephalopa­thy Cen­ter to take cus­tody of the brain. The cen­tre stud­ies a pro­gres­sive de­gen­er­a­tive brain dis­ease found in some ath­letes who have experienced repet­i­tive brain trauma.

Her­nan­dez’s body is at a Bos­ton-area fu­neral home, but ser­vices for the Bris­tol, Conn., na­tive likely will be held else­where.

Baez said he re­tained Dr. Michael Baden, a for­mer chief med­i­cal ex­am­iner for New York City, to per­form an in­de­pen­dent au­topsy.

Baden, who didn’t im­me­di­ately com­ment, has per­formed au­top­sies in sev­eral high-profile cases, in­clud­ing the death of Michael Brown, a black teenager shot and killed by a white po­lice of­fi­cer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.

Baez de­clined to say whether he or the fam­ily be­lieved brain dam­age from Her­nan­dez’s play­ing days led him to kill him­self.

Ap pHoto

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