Hours after former star Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez died after being found hanged in his prison cell, those who knew him from the time he was a child are in shock.
Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Correction said 27-year-old Hernandez hanged himself with a bed sheet at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley. He was found in his cell around 3 a.m. and transported to UMass Memorial Health Alliance Hospital in Leominster, where he was pronounced dead at 4:07 a.m.
Hernandez's cousin, Randy Hernandez, a native of Bristol, Connecticut, who now lives in Cape Coral, Florida, said he does not believe Aaron committed suicide.
"I think there's a lot of foul play involved," he said. "We're still in shock and we're trying to humble ourselves as much as we can. We just can't believe that after such hope and seeing he just won the double-murder case, that he could take his own life."
Massachusetts State Police are actively investigating.
The former New England Patriots tight end was serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old landscaper and amateur football player.
Hernandez was recently on trial for the 2012 double slaying of of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in Boston and was acquitted Friday of all but a gun charge.
His attorney, Jose Baez, said in a statement that Hernandez's family and legal team was "shocked and surprised by the news and conducting its own "examination into this tragic event."
"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. "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. We request that authorities conduct a transparent and thorough investigation."
Aaron Hernandez was known in his native hometown of Bristol as a star high school football player.
Jose Cartagena, the co-owner of Creative Cutz, knew Hernandez from when he would go to the barber shop and described him as a humble man.
“It’s just a tough situation for a lot of people. My heart goes out to his family and you know the situation that they’ve been dealing with for the past few weeks,” Cartagena said.
Lisette Turner, knew Hernandez from high school, and also knows Hernandez’s brother and mother.
“It’s just sad for all of them. It wasn’t easy when things first started to happen, and it’s not going to be easy now after the fact,” she said.
Hernandez was a friend of Andrew Carello's son and said he knew the former NFL player from the time he was 7 years old.
"He slept over here a few times. He was a good kid, very respectful," Carello said.
He said Hernandez had so much talent.
"It's just a waste of God-given talent. Just to be wasted like that, it's just terrible," Carello said.
Alex Cugno grew up with the former New England Patriots tight end in Bristol, Connecticut. Cugno says he and other Hernandez pals can't believe he took his own life.
Cugno says he thinks it's "fishy" that Hernandez would have killed himself when he was just acquitted of a 2012 double murder.
His friend says he'll remember Hernandez as a happy, goofy man who was always trying to make people laugh.
After high school, Hernandez received a scholarship to the University of Florida.
Hernandez played for the Patriots from 2010 to 2012 and once had a $40 million contract. He was considered one of the best tight ends in the NFL before his arrest in 2013.