In final hours, a phone call and writing of notes
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 early Wednesday 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.
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 SouzaBaranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.
“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.
Hernandez had been locked into his cell about 8 p.m. Tuesday, and no one entered the cell until a guard forced his way in just after 3 a.m. 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.
Hernandez’s body is at a Boston-area funeral home, but services for the Bristol, Conn., native probably will be held elsewhere. Attorney Jose Baez said he retained Dr. Michael Baden, a former chief medical examiner for New York City, to perform an independent autopsy.
It may never be clear why Hernandez killed himself just days after he was cleared of two additional murder charges. He had been serving a life sentence without parole for the 2013 slaying of a onetime friend, Odin Lloyd. But during his trial for the killings of two men in 2012, he appeared upbeat.
What’s to become of Hernandez’s home and other assets is another unanswered question.
The 5,800-square-foot, five-bedroom, sevenbathroom house he bought near Gillette Stadium for $1.3 million in 2012 is still up for sale. It was put on the market for $1.5 million in 2016.
Attorneys for Lloyd’s mother have placed an attachment on the house as part of their civil lawsuit against Hernandez. The Internal Revenue Service has a $117,000 lien on the property.