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