Former New England Patriots star, and convicted murderer, Aaron Hernandez, committed suicide this week in his Massachusetts prison cell, by hanging. His brain has been donated to science. He left notes, and jammed his cell door with cardboard to impede rescue.
He had just won an acquittal in a double murder, and was reported to be in high spirits. Corrections officials, friends, family, and his legal defense team are shocked by his suicide, and maintain it was out of character. Hernandez, serving a life sentence for killing his friend, semi professional football player Odin Lloyd, was known in prison for being in control.
A motive for the unexpected suicide isn’t clear. He’d just won a significant legal victory, and appeared to have adjusted well to prison life. He leaves behind a grieving fiance and four-year-old daughter.
Hernandez was once a rising star in the football world, who had earned a 40 million dollar four year contract extension, before his murder conviction destroyed his career, and his freedom. In an odd legal twist, due to an obscure Massachusetts law, his conviction will be vacated, since he died before he had exhausted the appeals process.
His family donated his brain to Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, researching the role sports-related concussions play in serious brain disease, which has plagued many football players and other athletes in contact sports. The Hernandez story has been one of great sadness, tragedy, and wasted potential, but perhaps something positive will ultimately derive from this medical research.