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Aaron Hernandez commits suicide in prison; prison launches death investigation

Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez stands at the defense table when court is adjourned without a verdict on day five of jury deliberations in his double murder trial at Suffolk Superior Court on Thursday, April 13, 2017. Hernandez is standing trial for the July 2012 killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado who he encountered in a Boston nightclub. The former NFL player is already serving a life sentence in the 2013 killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. (Nancy Lane/The Boston Herald via AP, Pool)

Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez hanged himself in his prison cell early Wednesday morning, according to the Massachusetts Department of Corrections.

He was 27 years old.

Hernandez used a bed sheet tied to his cell window to kill himself. He also tried to jam the door of cell with "various items," according to a statement from the prison.

He was being housed at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center. His body was discovered at 3:05 a.m.

The Massachusetts Department of Corrections said in a press release that lifesaving techniques were attempted on Mr. Hernandez and he was transported to UMASS Leominster where he was pronounced dead at 4:07 a.m. by a physician at the hospital.

The Massachusetts State Police are on scene and the investigation continues.

Hernandez's attorney Jose Baez said his family doesn't believe he was in the frame of mind to commit suicide and today launched an investigation on their behalf, according to TMZ.

"We're told Baez believes this could be a murder either by inmates or the folks who run the prison," TMZ Sports reports.

Brian Murphy, Hernandez's former agent, echoed Baez's skepticism.

"Absolutely no chance he took his own life," Murphy wrote on Twitter. "Chico was not a saint, but my family and I loved him and he would never take his own life."

Hernandez was handed a life sentence without the possibility of parole on April 15, 2015 after he was found guilty of killing Odin LLoyd in 2013.

Last week, Hernandez was cleared of a separate double murder charge. Video from inside courtroom showed Hernandez smiling at his surviving young daughter Avielle Janelle Jenkins-Hernandez.

Department spokesman Christopher Fallon said he's not aware of any suicide note written by Hernandez and stressed that an investigation is ongoing. He said that officials had no concern that Hernandez was planning on taking his own life, and if there was a concern about his well-being, Hernandez would have been transferred to a mental health unit.

Hernandez was moved to tears on Friday after he was acquitted of the 2012 fatal shootings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in Boston. Just before his acquittal, Hernandez was seen blowing kisses to the little girl he fathered with fiancée Shayanna Jenkins. Cameras captured the tender exchange.

He was tried but acquitted in the slayings of de Abreu and Furtado, whom prosecutors contended were gunned down after one of the men accidentally spilled a drink on Hernandez in a Boston nightclub. The jury in that case found Hernandez not guilty of first-degree murder but convicted him of unlawful possession of a gun, and the judge sentenced him to an additional four to five years in prison — separate from his existing life sentence.

Massachusetts State Police remain on the scene investigating the death.

Hernandez grew up in Connecticut and played for the Patriots from 2010 to 2012. The team released him in June 2013, shortly after he was arrested in Lloyd's killing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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