Aaron Hernandez death ruled suicide; brain donated to sports concussion research

Aaron Hernandez‘s death in prison has been ruled a suicide and the former NFL star’s brain is being donated to sports concussion researchers, Massachusetts authorities said Thursday.

The declaration by prosecutors, state police and public health officials came after a tumultuous day in which Hernandez’s lawyer suggested the state was mishandling the investigation and illegally withholding his brain after releasing the rest of the body to a funeral home.

According to law enforcement sources, as reported by several Boston TV stations, Hernandez had “John 3:16” written with a red marker on his forehead. The widely quoted verse says, “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,” and a Bible found in his cell was reportedly opened to that page.

Authorities said the medical examiner had ruled cause of death was asphyxia by hanging and that investigators had found three handwritten notes next to a Bible in Hernandez’s cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley. Authorities previously said Hernandez had not left a suicide note and he hadn’t been on suicide watch.

“There were no signs of a struggle, and investigators determined that Mr. Hernandez was alone at the time of the hanging,” the statement read.

Hernandez had been locked into his cell at about 8 p.m. and no one entered the cell until a guard saw him just after 3 a.m. and forced his way in because cardboard had been jammed into the door track to impede entry, authorities said. Hernandez was found hanging from a bedsheet and rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead about an hour later.

Earlier Thursday, Hernandez’s lawyer complained that state officials had turned over the 27-year-old’s body but not his brain.

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