In the early morning hours of April 19, 2017, five days after he was acquitted of a double homicide, Aaron Hernandez was found hanging from a bedsheet in his prison cell. Hernandez was only 27 years old when he committed suicide, and he had just started serving his life sentence for a separate murder, the 2013 shooting of Odin Lloyd.
Hernandez’s suicide came as a complete shock to his friends and family, who believed the former New England Patriots tight end was feeling positive after receiving a not guilty verdict for the 2012 slayings of Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Teixeira Furtado.
In the month following his death, Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, told Dr. Phil that during her final conversation with Hernandez, he even sounded upbeat.
"I felt like we were looking so bright,” Jenkins said. “We were going up a ladder to a positive direction."
"Aaron Hernandez Uncovered" premieres Saturday, March 17 at 7PM ET/PT and Sunday, March 18 at 7PM ET/PT.
Hernandez’s defense attorney, Jose Baez, also couldn’t believe Hernandez had killed himself when he received the news of his client's death.
In an interview for Oxygen.com ahead of the network’s two-part special “Aaron Hernandez Uncovered,” Baez said, “My initial reaction when I found out Aaron had committed suicide was first one of shock, and it really didn’t set in until hours later, when I realized I couldn’t talk to him again, and that I was never going to speak to him again and that he was gone.”
Though Baez was obviously close with the former NFL star, he knew he had to put his own emotions aside to help Jenkins and the rest of Hernandez’s family.
“My first reaction was one of his lawyer because his fiancée needed me at that moment and needed me to do various tasks and needed me to do my job,” said Baez. “So, I didn’t have time to grieve right away. I had to work, and it wasn’t until much later that I actually got to mourn his death. And it still bothers me significantly to this day.”
A few days after Hernandez committed suicide, his legal team filed a motion to vacate his first-degree murder conviction. According to Massachusetts law and the legal principle of abatement ab initio, if a defendant dies without exhausting all legal appeals, the case defaults to its status at the beginning. As The Boston Globe reported, it’s “as if the trial and conviction never happened.”
At the time of Hernandez's suicide, he was in the process of appealing his conviction, so he was posthumously acquitted of the murder charge.
Before the murder conviction was vacated, Baez told reporters, “There’s no finality in the other case [the murder of Odin Lloyd] yet. He still has many appeals, which we’re going to start taking a look at.”
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