Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez, acquitted of a double murder just days ago, died after hanging himself in his prison cell Wednesday morning, Massachusetts prisons officials said.
Hernandez, 27, was found by guards in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley just after 3 a.m., Department of Correction spokesman Christopher Fallon said in a statement.
The former New England Patriots tight end was pronounced dead at UMass Memorial-HealthAlliance Hospital in Leominster about an hour later.
Hernandez was in a single cell in a general population housing unit in the maximum security state prison. He hanged himself using a bed sheet that he attached to a cell window, Fallon said.
Hernandez tried to block the cell door from the inside by jamming the door with various items, Fallon said.
Hernandez was moved to tears on Friday after he was acquitted of the 2012 fatal shootings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in Boston.
But he was still serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for his conviction in the 2013 shooting of Odin Lloyd, who was dating his fiancee’s sister.
His death means his murder conviction is likely to disappear.
Under Massachusetts law, defense attorneys can seek to have convictions vacated when a defendant dies before an appeal is heard.
Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2013 death of Odin Lloyd.
Massachusetts State Police remain on the scene investigating the death.
The prison where Hernandez apparently hanged himself has seen its share of troubles since it opened nearly two decades ago.
There have been several other inmate suicides at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, several attacks on prison staff and several instances of inmate-on-inmate violence. The most famous one was the strangulation of convicted pedophile priest John Geoghan by another prisoner.
The prison, built for $105 million, was hailed as the nation’s most technologically advanced when it opened in 1998. It has more than 1,000 cells.
It is named for two former prisons workers killed in 1972 during an aborted escape attempt.