Timeline: The days and hours surrounding Hernandez’s death

Aaron Hernandez.

Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

Aaron Hernandez.

The following timeline about the death of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez is based on accounts provided both before and after his death by various sources, including law enforcement, prosecutors, state officials, attorneys, experts, family members, and the Globe’s reporting:

Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017:

• Hernandez goes on trial for murder in the 2012 killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado

• Throughout the seven-week trial, Hernandez appeared alert and engaged. He would smile or wave when he looked at Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, his longtime fiancee and the mother of his 4-year-old daughter.


Hernandez often joked with court clerks, told them to enjoy their day and teased one clerk in particular about his haircut — because the man is bald and has nothing to cut.

During lunch breaks, the tall former athlete would devour the egg salad sandwiches he was provided by the court, several clerks said.

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“The happiest defendant I ever saw,” one courthouse employee, who asked not to be identified by name, recalled after Hernandez’s death.

• But beneath the surface, his true feelings may have been much more complicated.

A person with direct knowledge who spoke on condition of anonymity after Hernandez’s death said that while many observers of Hernandez’s recent trial remarked on his confident demeanor, within prison walls he was insecure and clung to gang members for approval.


He was not aloof with other inmates, this person said. Instead, he appeared eager to be “one of the boys.” He often sat and laughed or played basketball with gang members. Hernandez was briefly put on suicide watch immediately after he was convicted for the 2013 murder of Odin L. Lloyd, the person said.

And a former state worker, briefed on Hernandez’s history in prison, said some clinicians believed Hernandez needed counseling, given the depths to which he had fallen, and the likelihood his sentence would end only with his death behind bars.

Friday, April 14:

• A jury acquits Hernandez of murder committing the double murder, handing him his first significant legal victory since his shocking arrest for a third slaying in 2013.

When the verdict came down, he nodded and choked back tears. He turned toward Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, his longtime fiancee and the mother of his daughter, and said, “I love you.”

Later, after Hernandez’s death, a psychology expert would say he was struck by video showing Hernandez’s reaction to his acquittal, saying it may have been “a sign of depression that was starting to rear its head.”

While cleared on the most serious charges in the case, the jury found Hernandez guilty of illegal gun possession, for which he was sentenced to serve four to five years in prison.

• But Hernandez, 27, was already serving a life sentence without a chance of parole for his earlier conviction for fatally shooting Odin L. Lloyd in June 2013.

Hernandez’ appeal of that earlier conviction was before the Supreme Judicial Court and had not yet been scheduled. The court could either uphold his conviction in the Lloyd case or order a new trial in Bristol Superior Court in Fall River.

Ronald Sullivan, one of Hernandez’s lawyers, said the acquittal in the double-murder case would have no direct impact on the appeal of the Lloyd case.

But both Sullivan and another of Hernandez’s attorney’s, Jose Baez, expressed confidence that the Lloyd case conviction would be overturned.

• By day’s end, Hernandez was returned to Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, a maximum security prison in Shirley.

Correction department officials would later say Hernandez was not on a suicide watch at the prison because he had not signaled he was at risk.

Tuesday, April 18, the evening before his death

• Hernandez spoke with Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, his fiancee and the mother of his child, by telephone that evening, according to Ronald Sullivan, one of his attorneys. Telephone hours ended at about 8 p.m., Sullivan would later say, declining to say what Hernandez and his fiancee discussed.

• At about 8 p.m., guards locked Hernandez in his cell.

• Sometime after that, authorities believe, Hernandez stuffed his cell door with cardboard to keep would-be rescuers at bay.

• Authorities also later said they determined that Hernandez was alone when he hanged himself, as no one had entered the cell until he was found hanged. Authorities also said they found no signs of a struggle after Hernandez’s death.

Wednesday, April 19, his death:

• At about 3:03 a.m. Hernandez was found hanging from a bedsheet attached to a window in his cell in Unit G-2, the general population housing unit, of the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, according to the state Department of Correction.

“Lifesaving techniques” were attempted on Hernandez and he was taken to UMass Memorial-HealthAlliance Hospital in Leominster, officials said.

At 4:07 a.m., Hernandez was pronounced dead by a physician at the hospital. The state medical examiner’s office took custody of Hernandez’s body to conduct an autopsy at its Boston facility.

• When Hernandez was found, a familiar biblical citation, John 3:16, was scrawled in red ink on his forehead.

In the King James version of the Bible, the notation refers to the following passage: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

• State Police Detectives and Crime Scene Service Troopers went to the prison that morning to investigate.

Correction department officials said no notes were found in an initial search of the cell, but officials later announced the finding of three handwritten notes beside a Bible in his cell.

Prosecutors have refused to disclose the contents of those notes or the addressees. But, according to two law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation, Hernandez addressed two of the letters found in his cell to his 4-year-old daughter and to his fiancee.

• Souza-Baranowski Superintendent Steven Silva personally notified Hernandez’s relatives about the former professional athlete’s death.

The hours after his death

• Shortly after 6 a.m. on April 19, the state correction department announced Hernandez’s death. In the hours that followed, reaction poured in.

• Hernandez’s sports agent questioned the report that he had killed himself.

“Absolutely no chance he took his own life,” Brian Murphy, the agent, wrote on Twitter, using a nickname to refer to his client. “Chico was not a saint, but my family and I loved him, and he would never take his own life.”

• Jose Baez, one of Hernandez’s attorney’s, said his office will conduct its own investigation into the 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,” Baez said in a statement. “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.”

• John M. Thompson, the Springfield attorney assigned by the court to handle Hernandez’s appeal of his conviction for Odin L. Lloyd’s murder, said he was “shocked and saddened” by his client’s death.

“It’s awful to see a young man to die at this age,” Thompson said in a telephone interview. “We were engaged in his case. We were dedicating to getting his appeal going.”

Thompson, citing attorney-client privilege, declined to say when he last met with Hernandez and also declined to describe his client’s state of mind recently.

He said he hoped that Hernandez’s death would be properly and dispassionately investigated.

Thompson also said his office planned to file paperwork to have Hernandez’s conviction voided once a death certificate was available, because he died before his appeals were exhausted.

• A prisoner advocate said hanging from a cell window was an unusual way for an inmate to kill himself at the Souza-Baranowski facility, which is designed to make suicide difficult.

• Hernandez’s death came on the same day that many of his former teammates were honored at the White House for winning Super Bowl 51. A Patriots spokesman said shortly after Hernandez’ death that the team was aware of the reports but did not anticipate team representatives would comment that day.

Thursday, April 20:

• Hernandez’s body was released to Faggas Funeral Home in Watertown, where the owner said the home had no plans to hold services. The funeral home owner said Hernandez’s body would be shipped soon to another location, which she declined to identify.

• Hernandez attorney Jose Baez held a press conference at which he accused the state medical examiner’s office of withholding Hernandez’s brain illegally. Hernandez’s attorney has said Hernandez’s family wants Boston University to study his brain to see whether he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

• The state medical examiner’s office then announced it would release the brain to BU, saying it had withheld its release temporarily until the office had determined the cause and manner of Hernandez’s death.

• The state medical examiner ruled that the manner of Hernandez’s death was suicide and the cause asphyxia by hanging.

• Governor Charlie Baker also on Thursday expressed “full faith and confidence” in Department of Correction Commissioner Thomas Turco, but also said the death of any inmate is a cause for concern that requires the state to look into the operations of the prison.

“Our response is going to be primarily to investigate and to make sure that everybody understands exactly what happened and when, and why,” Baker said. “Anytime anybody kills themselves in a prison, something clearly went wrong.”

He said he did not believe anybody had been disciplined in the wake of Hernandez’s suicide, but the investigation continues.

• Meanwhile, as Hernandez’s family grieved Thursday, his older brother, Jonathan “DJ” Hernandez, sent out birthday wishes via Facebook to their mother, Terri. “Happy B-Day Mom!” Jonathan Hernandez wrote.

“I love you and I know if Aaron was here one more day he would have said he loves you too. Keep smiling because I know Aaron & Dad are both smiling down on us right now.”

Friday, April 21:

• A Bristol Superior Court judge ordered the Department of Correction to preserve evidence related to the death of Aaron Hernandez. His family’s attorneys had requested evidence be preserved so they can conduct their own investigation into his death.

In a three-page order, Judge Thomas McGuire ordered the department to preserve a slew of items, including: Hernandez’s property in the cell and his writings; the sheets and ligature found in the cell; photographs of the cell; Hernandez’s medical and mental health records; recordings of calls Hernandez made during the month leading up to his death; and records of forensic tests and witness interviews concerning Hernandez’s death.

• George Leontirem, an attorney for Hernandez’s fiancee, said she may file a negligence lawsuit against state prison officials for failing to prevent his suicide.

Leontirem said there was “no check of Mr. Hernandez’s cell” between 8 p.m. and 3:03 a.m. and that the time lag between was an “extraordinary violation” of department procedure. However, authorities have said only that no one entered the cell during that time.

Leontirem also said: “There is some discussion — again, these are leaks, I don’t know if they’re true or not — that the guard who failed to check Mr. Hernandez during that period of time has been put on some sort of disciplinary action or leave. I don’t know.” The Department of Correction and the correctional officers’ union did not respond on Friday to inquiries about possible discipline of the guard.

The attorney also disclosed that a second, independent autopsy was conducted Thursday, and Hernandez’s family was awaiting the results.

Also Friday, Douglas K. Sheff, the lawyer for Odin L. Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, requested that the Patriots pay $6 million to Hernandez’s estate, a move that would make that money available to the Lloyd family. Lawyers for the family say the $6 million may be owed to the estate under the terms of Hernandez’s player contract. A spokesman for the Patriots declined to comment.

Saturday, April 22:

• A statement from the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association said that a private funeral for Hernandez had been set for the afternoon of Monday, April 24, in his hometown of Bristol, Conn.

Services will be held between 1 and 3 p.m. at the O’Brien Funeral Home. Attendance will be restricted to friends and family by invitation.

In a statement, Hernandez’s family asked for privacy.

“The family of Aaron Hernandez wishes to thank all of you for the thoughtful expressions of condolences. We wish to say goodbye to Aaron in a private ceremony and thank everyone in advance for affording us a measure of privacy during this difficult time,” the statement read.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @mrochele
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