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New details on Aaron Hernandez’s death released in police report

Former New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez at Bristol County Superior Court in April.
Former New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez at Bristol County Superior Court in April.Brian Snyder/Reuters/Pool

Aaron Hernandez was elated after his acquittal last month on charges of murdering two men in Boston in 2012 and began thinking he might play professional football again, “even if it wasn’t with the Pats,” according to an investigative report into his suicide released Thursday.

But Hernandez, the ex-NFL star who was already serving a life sentence for another murder, also told inmates at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley that “when you die your soul gets reincarnated,” and that he learned a prisoner’s convictions are erased if he dies while his appeal is pending.

The 132-page report by the Department of Correction, as well as a shorter State Police document, said Hernandez gave little indication he was considering suicide and also revealed that he had no drugs in his system when he hanged himself in his cell with a bedsheet on April 19.

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The DOC report suggested Hernandez had become increasingly religious in prison.

State Police said that when correction officers burst into Hernandez’s cell just after 3:00 a.m. on the day of his death, he was hanging naked from a window with the Bible verse “John 3:16” written in ink on his forehead.

In addition, there were “large circular blood mark[s]” on each of his feet, the same scriptural citation was etched in blood on the wall, and a drop of blood was placed on the verse in an open Bible that Hernandez had in his cell, the reports stated.

A drop of blood was placed on the verse in an open Bible that Aaron Hernandez had in his cell.
A drop of blood was placed on the verse in an open Bible that Aaron Hernandez had in his cell.Mass. Dept. of Corrections

The apparent attempts by the once-celebrated athlete to cloak his death in religious symbolism mirrored inmate accounts of his heightened spirituality during his time behind bars. He was serving a life sentence for the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd.

“He was a very spiritual guy who was always quoting the Bible,” one person who claimed to be a close friend of Hernandez told investigators, according to the DOC report. The same person also said he “just spoke with him yesterday, and he was in a great place,” adding that Hernandez talked about spending time with his 4-year-old daughter.

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“There was absolutely no indication that he would do anything like that,” the unidentified man said.

State Police backed up that contention in their own report, noting that Hernandez spent his final hours talking on the phone and made no “apparent indication of an intent to harm himself” during the several conversations he had.

Yet hours later, he tied a makeshift noose around his neck and shoved cardboard into the door tracks of his cell to prevent guards from opening it easily, the reports said. In addition, there was “a large amount of shampoo on the floor, which made it very slippery,” State Police said.

Their report noted there were no signs of a struggle in the single cell.

There were, however, indications that Hernandez feuded with other inmates and staff after his arrival at Souza-Baranowski in the spring of 2015, shortly after his conviction for murdering Lloyd.

A bible from Aaron Hernandez's cell at the Souza-Baronowski Correctional Center.
A bible from Aaron Hernandez's cell at the Souza-Baronowski Correctional Center.Mass. Dept. of Corrections

In May 2015, he was cited for tampering with a lock and told a correction officer, “This place ain’t [expletive] to me. I’ll run this place and keep running [expletive]. Prison ain’t [expletive] to me.”

Other dust-ups included citations for getting a neck tattoo that said “Lifetime,” serving as a lookout during a fight, using another inmate’s identification number to make a call, possessing tobacco products and a homemade lighter, repeatedly fighting with other inmates, possessing a shank, and having another inmate in his single cell with him, according to DOC documents.

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Jose Baez, a lawyer for Hernandez, did not directly address findings in the reports Thursday but said in a statement that his team will move forward with its own investigation.

“The total lack of professionalism exhibited by government officials and their employees during this entire process is unprecedented,” Baez said, adding that officials previously leaked many details of the probe to the media.

He said “unprofessional behavior” by the authorities raises concerns about the validity of the investigation.

Neither of the reports released Thursday contained details about three handwritten notes that investigators found in Hernandez’s cell at the time of his death.

The Globe has reported previously that two of the letters were addressed to Hernandez’s fiancee and daughter, but the third note has been the subject of rampant speculation.

Larry Army, a lawyer for a Souza-Baranowski inmate named Kyle Kennedy, said at a recent press conference that Kennedy believes the third note was addressed to him and that the two inmates had a close relationship.

Hernandez’s lawyers have denied that a letter to Kennedy exists.

Hernandez’s sexuality had been a topic of discussion,according to the DOC report. One inmate told investigators he thought a radio broadcast had been disrespectful by saying “he deserved what he got and had also mentioned that they had brought up the fact that Hernandez may be gay,” the report said.

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At the same time, inmates indicated that Hernandez appeared to be at peace toward the end of his life.

“Consistent among the inmates interviewed was that Hernandez kept to himself, was very spiritual, appeared to be positive, liked to meditate and [they] did not observe him to be acting differently or having any issues,” the DOC report said.

Hernandez’s suicide prompted a lockdown at the prison for several days while authorities searched for contraband. The DOC report noted that “various contraband correspondence” was found among Hernandez’s personal effects.

However, the State Police report said a toxicology screen conducted as part of the autopsy “came back negative for all substances tested to include synthetic cannabinoids.”

A lawyer for the families of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, the men Hernandez was cleared of killing in a drive-by shooting in July 2012 in Boston, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Douglas Sheff, an attorney for Lloyd’s family, said the findings were not surprising andwould have no impact on the family’s wrongful death lawsuit pending against Hernandez’s estate.

“What’s of interest to them is preserving the memory of their beloved son and brother,” Sheff said. “The focus should come off of Aaron Hernandez and be placed where it deserves to be: on the loss of Odin Lloyd.”


Nestor Ramos of the Globe staff contributed to this report.