Ex-NFL star’s prison death ruled a sui­cide, of­fi­cials say

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - NATION & WORLD - By Philip Marcelo and Collin Binkley

BOS­TON — Aaron Her­nan­dez’s death in prison has been ruled a sui­cide and the former NFL star’s brain is be­ing do­nated to sports con­cus­sion re­searchers, Mas­sachusetts au­thor­i­ties said Thurs­day.

The dec­la­ra­tion by pros­e­cu­tors, state po­lice and pub­lic health of­fi­cials came af­ter Her­nan­dez’s lawyer sug­gested the state was mis­han­dling the investigation and il­le­gally with­hold­ing his brain af­ter re­leas­ing the body to a fu­neral home.

Au­thor­i­ties said the med­i­cal ex­am­iner had ruled cause of death was as­phyxia by hang­ing and that in­ves­ti­ga­tors had found three hand­writ­ten notes next to a Bi­ble in Her­nan­dez’s cell in Shirley. Au­thor­i­ties pre­vi­ously said Her­nan­dez had not left a sui­cide note.

“Therewere no signs of a strug­gle, and in­ves­ti­ga­tors de­ter­mined that Mr. Her­nan­dez was alone at the time of the hang­ing,” a state­ment read.

Her­nan­dez had been locked in his cell at about 8 p.m. 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 rushed to a hospi­tal, where he was pro­nounced dead about an hour later.

Au­thor­i­ties have not re­leased the in­ci­dent re­port, of­fi­cers’ logs or video footage from the area around Her­nan­dez’s cell.

Ear­lier Thurs­day, at­tor­ney Jose Baez said Her­nan­dez’s fam­ily had ar­ranged for re­searchers at Bos­ton Univer­sity’s Chronic Trau­matic En­cephalopa­thy Cen­ter to take cus­tody of the brain. The cen­ter stud­ies a brain dis­ease found in some ath­letes who have ex­pe­ri­enced repet­i­tive brain trauma.

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

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

Her­nan­dez had been serv­ing a life sen­tence with­out pa­role for the 2013 slay­ing of a one­time friend. He died five days af­ter a jury ac­quit­ted him in the 2012 deaths of two men.

His death came hours be­fore his former Pa­tri­ots team­mates vis­ited the White House to cel­e­brate their Su­per Bowl vic­tory.

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