Metro

Mourners gather in Aaron Hernandez’s hometown for funeral

Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez arrived with her daughter for the funeral of Aaron Hernandez in Bristol, Conn.

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez arrived with her daughter for the funeral of Aaron Hernandez in Bristol, Conn.

BRISTOL, Conn. — Family and high-profile friends of Aaron Hernandez, the convicted killer and former New England Patriots star who hanged himself in his prison cell last week, on Monday paid their final respects to the notorious felon during a private funeral service in his hometown.

Under heavy security, mourners began arriving at the O’Brien Funeral Home on Lincoln Avenue shortly before noon.

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Attendees included Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, the longtime fiancee of Hernandez and the mother of his 4-year-old daughter; his older brother, Jonathan “DJ” Hernandez; and his mother, Terri Hernandez.

Terri Hernandez hugged a man on the side deck of the funeral home before going inside shortly after 12:05 p.m.

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Soon after, Jenkins-Hernandez exited a BMW van with her daughter, clutching the child by the hand as she entered the funeral home with two of Hernandez’s former college teammates.

The teammates, brothers Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, both play in the NFL and had posted tributes to Hernandez on social media soon after his suicide.

Brandon Spikes, who played with Hernandez at the University of Florida and with the Patriots, also attended the funeral.

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Hernandez’s family plans to cremate his remains at a later date, a spokeswoman said.

Hernandez, 27, was serving a life sentence for the June 2013 murder of Odin L. Lloyd when guards found him hanging by a bedsheet in his cell early Wednesday at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.

His suicide was particularly surprising because a Suffolk County jury had acquitted him days earlier of killing Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in a drive-by shooting in Boston in July 2012.

The legal victory had galvanized Hernandez’s high-powered defense team, which vowed to vigorously pursue an appeal of his first-degree murder conviction in the Lloyd case.

But the once-promising athlete, whose career highlights included a Super Bowl touchdown and a $40 million contract, brought talk of an appeal to an abrupt, shocking end with his death.

The Bible verse “John 3:16” was scrawled across his forehead, and three handwritten notes, including one to his daughter and one to Jenkins-Hernandez, were found in his cell when correction officers discovered him Wednesday, law enforcement officials have said.

As final preparations were being made for the funeral, George Leontire, a lawyer for Jenkins-Hernandez, went to court Monday morning, winning the release of copies of the notes to the family, as state prison officials continue their investigation of Hernandez’s death.

Neither Hernandez’s relatives nor his attorneys disclosed the contents of the notes later in the day.

Legal wrangling over Hernandez’s assets probably will continue long after he is laid to rest.

Wrongful death lawsuits brought by the families of de Abreu, Furtado, and Lloyd are still pending against Hernandez’s estate.

In addition, Hernandez family lawyers have said they may sue prison officials for negligence for failing to prevent his death.

A few bystanders stood outside the funeral home Monday afternoon, including Eduardo Lopez, 51, of Hartford.

He said he wanted to pay his respects, regardless of Hernandez’s criminal history.

“I’m not here to judge the guy,” said Lopez, who wore a Patriots hat. “I’m a big fan of the New England Patriots. That’s why I’m here.”

Maggie Amaya, of Bristol, told reporters at a gas station next to the funeral home that her nephew was a close friend of Hernandez.

“We love him,” she said. “We love Aaron. . . . The people of Bristol, we love this kid, regardless of what happened.”

Not all passersby shared that sentiment. One young man who walked past the crush of reporters camped out across the street expressed disgust over the intense media coverage of Hernandez’s death.

“Glorify a murderer,” the man said.

Guests began leaving the funeral home shortly after 3 p.m., and musicians were also seen leaving with their instruments in suitcases.

Hernandez’s attorneys, including Jose Baez, Ronald Sullivan, Linda Kenney Baden, Robert Proctor, Leontire, and Michelle Medina, exited the funeral home around 4 p.m. to read a brief statement on behalf of the family.

Sullivan, a Harvard Law professor, read the statement, thanking the public for “its thoughtful expressions of condolences.”

“The family wishes to say goodbye to Aaron in privacy,” Sullivan. “They love him and they miss him.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Globe correspondent Jeremy C. Fox and John R. Ellement of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.
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