New York - The
death of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was
officially ruled a suicide on Thursday, clearing the way for his brain
to be tested in concussion research.
The Worcester County District Attorney's Office in Massachusetts said
after an investigation into the former NFL star's death that Hernandez
took his own life.
Guards discovered the body of Hernandez, who was 27, in his single
cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Centre in Shirley,
Massachusetts, early on Wednesday morning and he was pronounced dead at a
Chief medical examiner Dr. Henry N. Nields made the conclusion that
"manner of death was suicide and the cause asphyxia by hanging,"
according to a news release.
Three handwritten notes were found in the cell but the contents
weren't immediately released and authorities said there was no
indication of foul play.
"There were no signs of a struggle and investigators determined that
Mr. Hernandez was alone at the time of the hanging," the district
attorney's office said in the statement.
The determination of a cause of death cleared the way for Hernandez's
brain to be released to Boston University as the family had wished to
undergo testing as part of the university's concussion research.
With concern over the impact that repeated blows to the head can
cause NFL players and brain examination only possible after death, the
Hernandez family wanted his brain to be studied.
Hernandez family lawyer Jose Baez said earlier Thursday the medical
examiner was "illegally" holding the brain after releasing the body to a
"It's our position that they are holding Aaron Hernandez's brain
illegally," Baez said.
"There's a fixing procedure to prepare these
specimens. It is their position that they are going to be the ones to do
the fixing procedure. The family does not have confidence in the
medical examiner's office."
Baez said the family decided on giving the brain to Boston University
to seek signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) - the
debilitating brain disease that researchers say is caused in part by
concussions while playing American football and other head trauma.
"The family of Aaron Hernandez has decided to donate Aaron's brain to
the study so we can possibly help other young men who play football ...
further the cause, and possibly shed light and provide more evidence on
this case," Baez said.
Hernandez was serving a life sentence handed down in 2015 for the murder of Odin Lloyd.
His suicide came only five days after he was acquitted on
double-murder charges in a separate case, and the timing of his death
and absence of a suicide note has left many perplexed.
"There were no conversations or correspondence from Aaron to his
family or legal team that would have indicated anything like this was
possible," Baez said.
"Aaron was looking forward to an opportunity for a
second chance to prove his innocence. Those who love and care about him
are heartbroken and determined to find the truth surrounding his
Guards discovered the body of Hernandez hanging by a bedsheet from a
cell window at a maximum security state prison not far from the
Patriots' home stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Hernandez signed a seven-year, $40 million contract with the Patriots
prior to the 2012 season. His death came on the same day the Patriots
visited the White House to mark their Super Bowl 51 comeback victory