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Aaron Hernandez died by suicide in his prison cell Wednesday morning, officials for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections said.
At around 3 a.m., the former New England Patriots star was found by corrections officers hanging in his cell at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Christopher Fallon, a spokesman for the department, said in a statement. Hernandez was transported to UMass Memorial HealthAlliance Hospital in Leominster, where he was pronounced dead at just after 4 a.m.
"Mr. Hernandez hanged himself utilizing a bed sheet that he attached to his cell window," Fallon said in the statement. "Mr. Hernandez also attempted to block his door from the inside by jamming the door with various items." He was in a single cell unit within the maximum security prison's general population housing area.
The 27-year-old was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd.
On Friday, Hernandez was moved to tears after he was acquitted in a double murder trial for the 2012 killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. Just before his acquittal, Hernandez was seen blowing kisses to his daughter with fiancée Shayanna Jenkins. Cameras captured the tender exchange.
State police officials are investigating Hernandez's death, and detectives were at Souza-Baranowski early Wednesday. An autopsy is also being conducted Wednesday by the state medical examiner's office in Boston.
Jose Baez, one of the attorneys who represented Hernandez in his most recent trial, said in a statement released early Wednesday:
The family and legal team is shocked and surprised at the news of Aaron’s death. There were no conversations or correspondence from Aaron to his family or legal team that would have indicated anything like this was possible. 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 untimely death. We request that authorities conduct a transparent and thorough investigation.
Baez said his law firm would independently examine the facts surrounding Hernandez's death.
In a statement, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn said, "This is a shocking and sad end to a very tragic series of events that has negatively impacted a number of families."
The Massachusetts Bar Association's chief legal counsel, Martin Healy, said because Hernandez's 2015 murder conviction had not been fully appealed to the state's highest court, it will be vacated.
"What this means for Aaron Hernandez is that he will in fact die an innocent man," Healy said.
Hernandez's death comes the same day the Patriots are making their visit to the White House to mark their February Super Bowl win.
A spokesman for the Patriots said the team wouldn't be commenting on Hernandez's death.
With reporting from WBUR's Lisa Creamer and The Associated Press