SHIRLEY, Mass. - State prison officials reported that former Bristol resident and ex-NFL player Aaron Hernandez took his own life early Wednesday morning in his cell.
Hernandez was serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. The former Patriots player was discovered hanging from a bed sheet at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center. State police and prison authorities are investigating his death.
The 27-year-old Hernandez, who was described by Bristol residents as a funny kid that was liked by everyone, was a talented athlete plagued by tragedy.
Hernandez died five days after he was acquitted in the 2012 murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado who were shot to death in their car in Boston.
His death calls into question the status of the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Lloyd’s family. Members of the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office notified Lloyd’s mother early Wednesday morning that Hernandez had died, said the DA’s Director of Communications Gregg Miliote.
“This is a shocking and sad end to a very tragic series of events that has negatively impacted a number of families,” said Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn, who prosecuted Hernandez in the Lloyd case.
Hernandez was sentenced in 2015 to life in prison for Lloyd’s death, which occurred in June 2013.
Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s finacee, was found shot to death about a mile from the former Bristol football star’s North Attleboro mansion.
His conviction in the Lloyd case was under appeal at the time of his death. Under Massachusetts law, his appellate attorneys can have the conviction vacated simply by filing paperwork, according to Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel of the Massachusetts Bar Association. The rule, “abatement ab initio,” allows appellate attorneys to file for an abatement of the conviction if their client dies during the appeals process. The abatement of the murder charge would only impact the way the family’s attorney must enter evidence in the civil lawsuit, Healy said. “In a civil lawsuit, the jury only has to find someone guilty by a preponderance of evidence,” Healy said. “That means it was more likely than not that the individual committed a crime.”
It is a lower standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt” which is used in criminal trials. If the case gets vacated, it won’t prevent the civil lawsuit from continuing because the family’s attorney can still use the same evidence used in the criminal trial, but it must be entered into the record independent of the criminal trial, Healy said.
Hernandez had signed a $40 million, five-year contract with the Patriots about a month after de Abreu and Furtado were found dead in Boston’s South End.
Prosecutors from the Worcester District Attorney’s Office claimed during the trial that Hernandez killed the men after one of them accidentally spilled a drink on him in a Boston nightclub, according to the Associated Press.
The Patriots dropped Hernandez from the team roster in 2013 just hours after his arrest on murder charges in the Lloyd case.
Hernandez’ mother Terri Hernandez still lives in Connecticut. He is also survived by an older brother, Jonathan Hernandez, a former University of Connecticut quarterback, and other relatives.
He was seen in court last week blowing kisses to his young daughter who he had with his fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez.
Massachusetts Department of Correction spokesperson Christopher Fallon said he had no information on whether Hernandez left a suicide note.
Reports from the Associated Press were included in this story.
sa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@newbritainherald.com.