In fi­nal hours, a phone call and writ­ing of notes

San Francisco Chronicle - - SCOREBOARD -

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.

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