According to the Massachusetts Department of Correction, a corrections officer found Hernandez hanged in his cell just after 3 a.m. ET.
“Lifesaving techniques were attempted on Mr. Hernandez and he was transported to UMASS Leominster where he was pronounced dead at 4:07 a.m. by a physician at the hospital,” assistant-deputy commissioner of communications Christopher Fallon said in a statement.
The department said the former NFLer was in a single cell in a general population unit.
“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.”
Hernandez’s suicide comes less than a week after he was acquitted of murdering two men in 2012. Hernandez was serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of Odin L. Lloyd.
Massachusetts state police has launched an investigation into the circumstances around Hernandez’s death. An autopsy has been scheduled to determine the exact cause of death.
Brian Murphy, president of Athletes First player agency and a representative of Hernandez, took to social media following the news of the ex-NFLer’s death.
“Absolutely no chance he took his own life. Chico was not a saint, but my family and I loved him and he would never take his own life,” Murphy tweeted.
Hernandez’s defence lawyer Jose Baez issued a statement saying there was no previous indication the former football player would take his own life.
“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,” 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 untimely death.”
The attorney is calling for a “transparent and thorough investigation” into the death of his client.
The convicted murderer’s suicide comes the same day his former team visits the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl victory. In an email statement to the Boston Globe, a team spokesperson said they are aware of the former player’s death.
“We are aware of the reports, but I don’t anticipate that we will be commenting today,’’ the newspaper quoted Stacey James as saying.
Hernandez was acquitted Friday in the 2012 double murder that prosecutors said was fuelled by his anger over a spilled drink.
The jury found Hernandez not guilty of first-degree murder in the killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. It convicted him of a single charge: unlawful possession of gun. The judge sentenced him to an additional four to five years in prison, separate from his life sentence, for that conviction.
As the Associated Press reported, prosecutors accused Hernandez of opening fire on their car because he felt disrespected when one of the men bumped into him and spilled his drink at a Boston nightclub.
Hernandez grew up in Bristol, Connecticut, and played for the Patriots from 2010 to 2012. About six weeks after Furtado and de Abreu were killed, Hernandez signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Patriots and went on to play another season before Lloyd was killed. He was cut from the team shortly after he was arrested in Lloyd’s killing in June 2013. He was not charged in the 2012 killings until 2014.
–with a file from the Associated Press