When Aaron Hernandez was discovered in his cell after an apparent suicide Wednesday morning, the former NFL star had “John 3:16” scrawled across his forehead, according to several local reports.
The 27-year-old Hernandez, who was serving a life sentence for the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, a semipro football player dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée, was discovered hanged in his Massachusetts prison cell early Wednesday.
The discovery was surprising given Hernandez was not believed to be in a suicidal state and, just days prior, had been acquitted in a double homicide case.
The reference written across his forehead in red marker is perhaps the most well-known passage in the Bible. 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.”
In addition, Hernandez was found with red marks on his hands and feet, and a Bible was found in his cell, open to John 3:16, WFXT-TV reported.
The former New England Patriots tight end was discovered by guards shortly after 3 a.m. Wednesday, Correction Department spokesman Christopher Fallon told KABC-TV. At that point, he was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead an hour later.
Hernandez had been housed in a single cell in the general population unit at the maximum-security Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts. He reportedly tried to barricade himself, blocking his cell door to keep guards out, before he hanged himself with a bed sheet tied to a window.
Fallon said he was not aware of any suicide note and officials had no reason to believe he was suicidal, otherwise he would have been transferred to a mental health unit for evaluation.
Hernandez’s death came on the same day that his former Patriots teammates were visiting President Donald Trump and the White House.
Jose Baez, Hernandez’s attorney, has called for a full investigation into his client’s death.
“There were no conversations or correspondence from Aaron to his family or legal team that would have indicated anything like this was possible,” Baez said in a statement to Inside Edition.
Baez went on to say: “Aaron was looking forward to an opportunity for a second chance to prove his innocence. Those who love and care about him are heartbroken and determined to find the truth surrounding his untimely death.”
According to Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel to the Massachusetts Bar Association, Hernandez’s death could mean his 2015 conviction is vacated, since the former footballer had appealed the ruling on the 2013 killing of Lloyd.
That confusing loophole, Healy told The Boston Globe, is a result of a legal principle called “abatement ab initio,” which means “from the beginning.” Upon a person’s death, if they had not exhausted all of their appeals, the case reverts to its status at the beginning, nullifying the trial and conviction.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “in the Odin Lloyd matter, for the family, there won’t be any real closure. Aaron Hernandez will go to his death an innocent man.”
However, it should be noted that the “abatement ab initio” principle is rarely invoked, and often forgotten. Any motion to invoke the principle is expected to be challenged.