BOSTON — Aaron Hernandez’s body was released to a funeral home following an autopsy, but government officials on Thursday refused to release more information about the circumstances behind his apparent suicide in a maximum-security prison.
The Boston Globe, which first reported the release of the body, also said the former New England Patriots tight end was on the phone with his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, hours before he was found hanging in his cell early Wednesday, according to one of Hernandez’s lawyers. It’s not clear what they may have discussed.
Hernandez apparently killed himself by hanging himself from a bedsheet affixed to a window in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley. Guards found Hernandez shortly after 3 a.m. Wednesday.
Prison officials say Hernandez jammed the door to prevent officers from entering, didn’t leave a suicide note and wasn’t on suicide watch because he didn’t appear to be at risk.
But prison officials, state police and prosecutors declined to comment further or release any records related to Hernandez’s death, citing their ongoing investigation. They have yet to release the incident report, officers’ logs, video footage from the area around Hernandez’s cell or other details about prison protocol, despite repeated requests from The Associated Press.
Correction Department spokesman Christopher Fallon said the agency won’t comment until the investigation was completed. State police spokesman Dave Procopio also cited the “active” investigation in not releasing more information. The state medical examiner’s office also declined to comment on the status of its autopsy or the release of Hernandez’s body.
The Faggas Funeral Home in Watertown, Massachusetts, confirmed to the AP that it received the body but that funeral services will likely be held elsewhere for the Connecticut native.
Many other questions remain unanswered, including what’s to become of Hernandez’s estate and why he would kill himself just days after the he was cleared of two murder charges.
Hernandez had been serving a life sentence without parole for the 2013 slaying of a onetime friend.
During his trial in Boston for the killing of two men in Boston in 2012, Hernandez appeared upbeat, constantly backslapping his lawyers, letting out bellowing laughs and blowing kisses to his 4-year-old daughter and other family members in the audience.
The 27-year-old former University of Florida standout died five days after a jury acquitted him in those two deaths, which prosecutors alleged was precipitated by one of the men accidentally spilling a drink on Hernandez at a Boston nightclub.
News of the death came just hours before his former New England Patriots teammates visited the White House Wednesday to celebrate their Super Bowl victory.
The apparent suicide left friends, family and his legal team shocked and in disbelief. Many were searching for an explanation to the tragic end of a young man whose football skills at one point earned him a five-year, $40 million contract extension with the NFL’s top franchise.
“There were no conversations or correspondence from Aaron to his family or legal team that would have indicated anything like this was possible,” said his attorney, Jose Baez. “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.”
Baez declined to comment further Thursday.
The AP left phone messages for and sent emails to Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez and her lawyer.
Friends were grieving in Connecticut, where Hernandez was raised.
“Especially after him getting acquitted of the double murder. That was a positive thing in our minds,” said Alex Cugno, who grew up with Hernandez in Bristol. “I don’t believe that he would have killed himself. It just doesn’t add up.”
When inmates die in Massachusetts prisons
Massachusetts has strict protocols for dealing with prison deaths, such as Hernandez’s apparent suicide. State regulations spell out what must be done when an inmate is discovered dead or dying. Here’s what’s on the state Department of Correction’s official checklist:
— When an inmate appears to be dead, staff are required to begin life-saving measures immediately, except when the wounds are as obviously fatal, such as by decapitation or incineration, or when medical staff immediately declare the inmate dead.
— After the inmate is declared dead, corrections staff are required to monitor the body and “preserve the scene” until the medical examiner arrives.
— Upon notification of the death, the corrections commissioner or deputy commissioner must decide whether to deploy a “Medical Investigative Team” for a special investigation.
— The body isn’t to be moved until its removal is approved by the medical examiner, the district attorney and the superintendent.
— After the body is removed, the superintendent must request written documentation verifying the death, typically the medical examiner.
Hernandez home still for sale
The home where Hernandez lived when he was accused of murder is still on the market.
Hernandez was a star player for the Patriots when he bought the house not far from Gillette Stadium for $1.3 million in November 2012 through a corporation.
Town property records show it was sold outright to Hernandez for a dollar in November 2013, several months after he was arrested for the murder of Odin Lloyd.
The 5,800-square-foot house with 5 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms was put on the market for $1.5 million in March 2016. The asking price is now $1.3 million.
Attorneys for Lloyd’s mother have placed an attachment on the house as part of a lawsuit against Hernandez. The Internal Revenue Service has a $117,395 tax lien on the property.