News broke suddenly Wednesday morning that Aaron Hernandez, a former player for the New England Patriots, had been found dead in his jail cell overnight. The NFL star's death comes almost exactly two years after Hernandez was first convicted of first-degree murder in the 2013 killing of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, for which he was serving a life sentence.
An unconscious Hernandez was found by prison officials at roughly 3:05 a.m. in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, where he had been imprisoned within the general population housing unit since his 2015 transfer to the correctional facility (located in Shirley, Massachusetts).
According to an official statement released by the Massachusetts Department of Correction, the 27-year-old convict had attached a bed sheet to his cell window, and it was this from which he was found hanging. The statement went on to include that Hernandez had even taken further measures to prevent officials from entering the room using items within his cell.
"Mr. Hernandez also attempted to block his door from the inside by jamming the door with various items."
Upon discovering Hernandez's body, prison officials immediately conducted attempts to revive the man but were met with no success. He was then rushed to the University of Massachusetts Memorial-Health Alliance hospital in Leominster, where the former tight end was soon pronounced dead at 4:07 a.m. by one of the hospital's doctors. State police say they are now investigating the former athlete's shocking demise, though there has been no evidence of foul play cited at this point.
According to reports, in addition to updating the press, officials have also made sure to keep in communication with Hernandez's family, which includes his long-time fiancee Shayanna Jenkins as well as the couple's 4-year-old daughter Avielle Janelle.
Both Jenkins and their daughter had appeared in court just days ago to support Hernandez in a separate trial for which he was acquitted on charges of first-degree murder in the 2013 murders of two young men. The ruling visibly moved him to tears, cameras capturing his initial reaction as well as his emotional exchanges with his daughter.
The recent trial adds further complexity to the potential motives Hernandez may have had in taking his own life, but the ex-pro was no stranger to both controversy and misfortune all throughout the rest of his mere 27 years on Earth. The loss of his father at a very young age is said to have deeply impacted the athlete, and the incredibly publicly-documented, violent history with the law that ultimately ended his professional career would only go on to maintain the dark cloud that followed him. This sentiment was recently noted by the notoriously tight-lipped New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick (Hernandez's former boss and mentor) in a rare public indulgence of his opinion on the matter.
"Tragedy," Belichick simply responded when asked by CNBC's Suzy Welch for the one word he associated with the former prodigy. At the time, Hernandez was still alive and awaiting the jury ruling that would initially appear to lift a weight from his shoulders. His death, eerily occurring just six days after Belichick's interview, came as a complete shock even to those who had spent time with him every day.
Department of Correction spokesman Christopher Fallon said in a public statement that the prison officials responsible for overseeing Hernandez on a daily basis had never been given any hint that would have led them to fear he had plans to end his life, and that had they received those warning signs, he would have received treatment through the mental health unit within the facility.
The athlete's lawyers and family have yet to issue public responses.
[Featured Image by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images]