By Shawn Sailer & Alexandra Padalino
Former National Football League player Aaron Hernandez was found hanged in his prison cell at 3 a.m. on April 19 at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Mass. He was pronounced dead at University of Massachusetts Memorial-Health Alliance Hospital in Leominster about an hour later.
His death was ruled a suicide.
Hernandez, 27, hanged himself using a bed sheet attached to a cell window. This was the first reported suicide by hanging at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, a
maximum security prison.
The ex-New England Patriots tight end was serving a life-sentence for a 2013 murder of ex-friend Odin Lloyd. He was acquitted of a double-murder charge on April 12 from a 2012 incident in Boston.
“I think it is very tragic what happened. It’s very sad to see what he did to himself. I feel bad for the Lloyd family because they won’t get the justice they deserve,” said sophomore Brandon Levesque.
Despite his greatness on the field, Hernandez had many off-the-field issues that led to his demise. His teenage years sparked the life of a violent criminal.
Hernandez was a football player with untapped potential. Below is a timeline of Hernandez’s triumphs and tragedies prior to his suicide:
— Jan. 6, 2006: Hernandez’s father died from complications from a surgery. Hernandez is a 16-year-old student at Bristol Central High School at the time. He later admitted he turned to drugs after his father’s death.
— September 2007: Hernandez attends the University of Florida after being named Connecticut’s Football Player of the Year as a high school senior.
— June 8, 2010: Hernandez, drafted in the fourth round, signs a four-year contract with the New England Patriots. At 20 years old, he’s the youngest player on active roster in the NFL that coming season.
— June 26, 2013: Hernandez is arrested on a murder charge in Lloyd’s slaying and taken from his home in handcuffs. He later pleads not guilty. The Patriots release him hours after his arrest.
— May 15, 2014: Hernandez is indicted on two counts of first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the shootings of de Abreu and Furtado. Prosecutors say Hernandez was angry because de Abreu accidentally bumped into him at a nightclub while dancing, spilling his drink.
— Jan. 9, 2015: Hernandez goes on trial for murder in Lloyd’s killing.
— April 15, 2015: Hernandez is convicted of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.
Hernandez, a member of the Patriots from 2010-2012 helped lead the Patriots to a Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, where the team lost to the New York Giants. He also won the BCS National Championship in 2009 with Florida. That year, Hernandez received the John Mackey Award, which is given to the best tight end in college football each year.
While it was originally reported that Hernandez did not leave any suicide notes, it
appears that three suicide notes and a bible were left in the prison cell. Hernandez also wrote a bible verse “John 3:16” on his forehead.
According to Fox News, the words were written with a red marker and a Bible was left open to the lines of the passage in the Bible. The verse reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
“I think that him using suicide to escape his life of punishment for his horrible actions is unfair to the people he hurt, and for people with mental health issues that contemplate suicide every day because of their pain,” said junior Rebecca Lee.
On the same day that Hernandez was found dead, his former team visited the White House following their Super Bowl LI victory.
“Some of the media is making a big deal out of it, making it sound like a sad story. It’s really not. He is a murderer. He messed up. He had everything and he threw it all away,” said sophomore Patriots fan Yanni Papadopoulous.
Boston University researchers will study Hernandez’s brain to determine if he suffered from the same degenerative brain disease as Hall of Famer Junior Seau and former Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, who also took their own lives. That brain disease is chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE.
Hernandez is survived by his longtime fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins and their four year old daughter.
“I think it’s a story of someone who had so much more to give in life, but he could not escape his past connections even with the money and fame. It is sad for a daughter that will grow up without a father,” said senior Chris Butler.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.