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How did Aaron Hernandez die? Brain analysis shows shocking details on bizarre scene officers found in his cell

His brain was 'riddled' with stage 3 CTE to a degree 'that we’ve never seen… except for individuals very much older,' stated a research study
Aaron Hernandez died at age 27 after he was jailed for the murder of his sister's boyfriend (Netflix)
Aaron Hernandez died at age 27 after he was jailed for the murder of his sister's boyfriend (Netflix)

Aaron Hernandez is the subject of a new REELZ documentary produced by AMS Pictures. The segment will explore the death of Odin Lloyd and the conviction of the former NFL player Aaron Hernandez for his murder two years later.

How did Aaron Hernandez die?

Hernandez was discovered on April 19, 2017, hanging in cell 57 of a Massachusetts Correctional Facility. According to the Massachusetts Department of Correction, the Office of Investigative Services was notified that Hernandez was “found unresponsive” and suspended from a ligature in Cell 57 of the G2 Housing Unit at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center (SBCC).

His autopsy reports revealed a negative toxicology report and the cause of death as suicide, the report says. Authorities closed the investigation into Hernandez’s death soon after.


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Aaron Hernandez (Netflix)

Another report from the state police for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, dated May 4, 2017, gave additional details. A Sergeant Smith stated that around 3.03 am, a code “99” was called by Correction Officer Gerard Breau reporting Hernandez “was hanged in cell #57”. When other officers came, they discovered the door was “pegged”, meaning that cardboard had been pushed into the door tracks to prevent the door from opening. 

Guards found that Hernandez “had placed a large amount of shampoo on the floor, which made it very slippery”, the state police report continues. They cut Hernandez down. He was “hanged naked from a bed sheet tied around the window bars”.  The officers did CPR and took him to the hospital, but he never recovered and was declared dead.

At the hospital, an officer noted that “ligature marks were visible on Hernandez’s neck and there was some discharge/vomit from his nose and mouth area.” His right middle finger had a fresh cut and there was some blood on the fingers.

Aaron Hernandez's death certificate (Massachusetts Correctional Facility)

On the wall “were several drawings and John 3:16 written in a substance consistent with blood. Under the drawings was a Bible open to John 3:16, with the 16th verse marked in blood. Next to the Bible were 3 handwritten notes.” John 3:16 reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

A photo from Hernandez’s prison file showing a Bible in his cell. (Massachusetts Correctional Facility)
A photo from Hernandez’s prison file showing a Bible in his cell. (Massachusetts Correctional Facility)

Under his bed was a bit of bedsheet that had been cut and that had been around Hernandez’s neck. Tied on the bars on the window was the other piece of the bedsheet. There were no signs of a struggle in the cell.

Sgt Smith told the police that Hernandez had been locked in his single inmate cell around 7.59 pm. He remained in the cell until 3.03 am when he was discovered hanged. There was video surveillance of the cell block from the time he entered the cell until the time he was transported.

Aaron Hernandez (Netflix)

The once-promising athlete and 4th round draft pick with a $40 million contract was eventually convicted of murdering the boyfriend of his fiancee’s sister, a man named Odin Lloyd. He was also involved in many other violent acts, including a double murder in Boston.

After his death, brain analysis showed he was suffering from severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy – the most severe case that researchers had ever seen in someone his age. Although Hernandez died of suicide, some believe that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) could have triggered that act, as it has been linked to increased suicidal impulse as well as aggression.

Boston University did research into Hernandez’s brain after his suicide. The university said in a news release that its expert found that Aaron Hernandez “CTE to a degree never before seen by BU researchers in such a young person.”

His brain was “riddled” with stage 3 CTE to a degree “that we’ve never seen…in our 468 brains, except for individuals very much older,” Ann McKee, director of BU’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, told a news conference in 2017. “Individuals with similar gross findings…were at least 46 years old at the time of death.” Hernandez was 27.

Aaron Hernandez's brain autopsy revealed shocking details (Courtesy: Boston University Research Department)

According to Boston University, “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma (often athletes), including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head that do not cause symptoms. CTE has been known to affect boxers since the 1920’s (when it was initially termed punch drunk syndrome or dementia pugilistica)…The repeated brain trauma triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau.”
The special show will air on Sunday, February 14, at 10 pm ET/7 pm PT on REELZ.