The short answer is yes – all available evidence indicates Aaron Hernandez likely died by suicide in prison. But recent accusations of an orchestrated murder have revived the mysteries around his dramatic downfall. By looking closely at the timeline, context, and facts around Hernandez’s death, we can unravel the validity of these claims. While some details remain speculative, the official account of a suicide by hanging appears most consistent with the information we know.
Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez
Before examining the controversial end, it’s helpful to understand the backdrop of Aaron Hernandez‘s journey. His football talents lifted him to stardom before off-field troubles led to his conviction and incarceration:
- Drafted by the New England Patriots in 2010 and quickly emerged as a dynamic tight end, pairing with Rob Gronkowski to create headaches for defenses
- Produced excellent stats including 79 receptions for 910 yards and 7 TDs in 2011 season
- Signed a 5-year, $40 million contract extension in 2012 at just 22 years old
- Excelled on the field, helping the Patriots reach Super Bowl XLVI in 2011 season
But mounting legal issues ultimately torpedoed his playing career and freedom:
- June 2013 – Arrested and charged with 1st degree murder of friend Odin Lloyd
- Released by Patriots immediately after arrest
- 2015 – Convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole
- 2017 – Acquitted of separate 2012 double homicide charges
- Died in prison at age 27 while serving a life sentence
Hernandez had shown previous warning signs, including failed drug tests and involvement in bar fights. But the murder charges still shocked many given his youth and burgeoning NFL success. The steep fall from grace made his eventual early death in jail complex and controversial.
Timeline of Death Raises Questions
April 19, 2017 – Found dead in his cell at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Massachusetts after hanging himself with a bedsheet.
The suddenness of his demise so shortly after his trial created suspicion:
- Declared dead at UMass Memorial Hospital after guards found him hanging from his cell window
- No signs of a struggle or foul play according to authorities
- Three handwritten notes discovered, including one for his fiancée Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez
- Because he died before exhausting appeals, his prior murder conviction was vacated due to abatement
- Brain scan later showed advanced CTE consistent with football-related trauma
The peculiar timing kept Hernandez in the headlines following his death, which his family appealed to overturn the conviction entirely. The abatement technicality also impacted pending civil lawsuits and benefited his estate.
What Did Chandler Jones Claim About a Possible Murder?
In January 2023, former Patriots teammate Chandler Jones took to social media alleging Hernandez was killed in prison by unknown individuals. Among his accusations:
- Claimed Hernandez “didn’t sign up for that” and “knew too much”
- Suggested he was murdered on purpose to keep secrets
- Provided zero evidence to corroborate assertions
- Went against official accounts and statements on the death
Authorities have not commented on or validated these claims in any way. Jones, who played with Hernandez from 2012-2013, failed to offer any alternate explanation or theory for how Hernandez could have died if not by suicide.
Without supporting details, Jones’ allegations alone do little to challenge the conventional understanding. But they do highlight the ongoing intrigue around Hernandez’s life story and tragic end.
Evidence That Supports Hernandez‘s Prison Suicide
While speculation persists in some circles, a preponderance of evidence affirms Aaron Hernandez‘s death by suicide:
Autopsy – Medical examiner concluded cause of death was asphyxia by hanging. No indication of strangulation, altercations, or drug overdose.
Notes – Multiple suicide notes were found in his single cell, including personal letters to his fiancée, daughter, and attorney.
Manner of death – Hernandez was found hanging from a bedsheet tied to his cell window. His body showed no signs of struggle or defensive injuries.
Video – Prison surveillance footage outside his cell showed no one entered in the hours prior to his death.
Statements – His defense attorney acknowledged the suicide ruling, stating there was "no evidence to the contrary."
The above facts all align with a suicide verdict and were consistently reported by officials and media after Hernandez‘s death. No convincing alternate theory or interpretation has been put forward.
Theories and Motives Behind Hernandez‘s Fate
If Hernandez did take his own life as evidence suggests, why might he choose to do so at that time? Some theories explored include:
Hopelessness – Faced spending his life in prison without any chance of parole
CTE symptoms – Football brain injuries linked with lack of impulse control and aggression
Sexuality rumors – Unverified reports suggest he feared being outed
Prison struggle – Had difficulty adjusting to life behind bars
Each of these factors may have contributed to mounting despair and desperation for Hernandez. But the notion that he was targeted and silenced relies more on imagination than facts.
Table: Factors That May Have Influenced Hernandez‘s Mindset
|Hopelessness||His life sentence eliminated hope for freedom||High|
|CTE impact||Brain scans showed severe CTE after death||Medium|
|Sexuality||Unconfirmed rumors suggested distress over sexuality||Low|
|Prison life||Some reports indicated he was not adapting well||Medium|
CTE Diagnosis Adds Complexity
After his death, researchers examined Aaron Hernandez’s brain and diagnosed advanced CTE consistent with chronic brain trauma.
Key points about the CTE findings:
- Scan found abnormalities and brain atrophy in regions involving memory, impulse control, and behavior
- Level of CTE damage was unusually high for someone so young
- No other 27-year old brain they examined had such extensive CTE
- Adds evidence of the potential impacts football had on Hernandez‘s mental health
CTE is a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated head trauma. While not an excuse, the diagnosis provides insight on factors that may have affected Hernandez‘s state of mind and decisions.
Sexuality Rumors Lack Substance
In the wake of his prison suicide, unsubstantiated speculation surfaced about Hernandez struggling with his sexuality. But no solid public evidence corroborates this theory.
Potential fueling rumors:
- 2006 bar fight allegedly tied to a homophobic remark
- Police report suggesting he left a note for a rumored male lover
- 2015 conviction appeal attempt referencing fluid sexuality
Discussion around Hernandez‘s sexuality remains mostly hearsay. While fear of being outed in prison could add stress, this angle relies more on conjecture. Any sexuality factors likely only contributed to overall despair rather than providing motive for murder.
Media Portrayals Skewed Sympathy
The media largely portrayed Aaron Hernandez in an unflattering light, fixating on his criminality and legal woes:
- Emphasis on the horrific nature of Lloyd murder and trial evidence
- Highly scrutinized for gang-related ties, gun violations, and gangster-like tattoos
- Coverage of sexuality topics focused on scandal and shock value
Views became increasingly unsympathetic as allegations mounted:
- Early on was depicted as a fallen hero
- By the trials, was cast as reckless and heartless killer
- Attention on CTE diagnosis revived some sympathy
The media’s often distorted lens helps explain the lack of public urgency around deeper investigation into circumstances of his death.
Police Investigation Yielded No Alternate Theories
While some minor inconsistencies floated around the initial investigation, Massachusetts State Police found no reason to doubt the medical examiner‘s suicide determination.
- Some raised issue over timing of cell block checks
- Suggested delayed response after Hernandez was discovered
- Questioned why no suicide watch after acquittal
But no tangible evidence indicated foul play or a staged suicide. The released information pointed to adequate diligence around the death scene investigation.
If Hernandez was in fact murdered, no plausible cover up scenario has been laid out to match the evidence.
Public Perception Shifted Over Time
Among the general public, views on Aaron Hernandez swung drastically over his rise and fall:
- Initially revered as an elite NFL athlete and asset to the Patriots
- Garnered sympathy when first accused as a promising talent gone astray
- Demonized after the full extent of violent crimes came to light
- Viewed as a cautionary tale or manifestation of CTE impacts
- Stigmatized as an unrepentant killer deserving of his fate
The visceral reaction to his brutal crimes understandably colored perceptions. But the complexity of his demise called for more nuanced discussion of mental health factors.
No New Proof to Dispute Suicide Finding
In summary, a conclusive investigation determined Aaron Hernandez died by suicide in his prison cell in 2017. In the 5+ years since, no new compelling evidence has surfaced to refute this conclusion.
The accusations levied by Chandler Jones suggest the possibility of homicide, but provide no specifics to validate that theory. As shown below, all available information corroborates the suicide explanation:
|Manner of Death||Asphyxiation by hanging / no signs of struggle|
|Room Condition||Suicide notes, no sign of entry|
|Video Footage||No entry to his cell prior to death|
|Statements||Attorney accepts suicide conclusion|
|Autopsy||No drugs in system or trauma signs|
Without new evidence, there is little basis to overturn the consistent determination of suicide. Continued speculation may persist around motives and contributing factors. But the official explanations accounting for Hernandez‘s death remain standing on firm ground.
Conclusion: Suicide Theory Holds Up
In conclusion, Aaron Hernandez ended his own life in prison at a young age just days after being acquitted of a separate double homicide. The shocking nature of his demise amid legal troubles fueled speculation and accusations in the years since.
But a sober look at the established timelines and facts surrounding his death reinforce the initial findings of suicide. While the motives and psychology leading to this outcome warrant further discussion, all credible evidence still points to Hernandez taking his own life.
The recent social media allegations by Chandler Jones arguing Hernandez was murdered lack any substantive proof. Instead, they appear to be unfounded conjecture rehashing old mysteries.
There are still lessons to be learned from scrutinizing the trajectory of Aaron Hernandez‘s rise and demise. But when it comes to how his tragic final chapter unfolded, available signs direct us to the explanation that he hanged himself in his cell that fateful day. Barring new revelations, that conclusion stands firm against the latest round of conjecture and suspicion.