An ex-NFL footballer who killed himself in April after he was acquitted in a double murder trial had a “severe case” of a neurodegenerative brain disease.
Aaron Hernandez, 27, suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease associated with head injury, his family lawyer said.
He was found hanging in a Massachusetts prison, where he was serving a life sentence for a 2013 murder.
Hernandez’s family had asked his brain to be tested for CTE.
Researchers at Boston University, which studies the progressive degenerative disease that is found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma, found the former New England Patriot’s brain to be at “an advanced stage” of CTE, according to lawyer Jose Baez.
“It was the most severe case they had ever seen,” he told reporters in Boston on Thursday.
CTE, which can only be diagnosed after death, has been found in the brains of dozens of former American football players.
His death came five days after he was acquitted in a double murder trial.
The former tight end was reportedly found with a Bible verse scrawled on his forehead after he took his own life.
The rise and fall of Aaron Hernandez
- June 2010: The tight end is drafted into the NFL from University of Florida and signs a four-year contract with the New England Patriots
- January 2012: Hernandez sets a career best with 138 receiving yards in a victory over the Buffalo Bills
- July 2012: Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado are shot dead in Boston
- August 2012: Hernandez signs a five-year, $40m contract with the Patriots
- February 2013: Alexander Bradley files a lawsuit claiming Hernandez shot him in the face after a dispute at a Florida strip club
- June 2013: Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who dated the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee, is found dead near Hernandez’s home. He is arrested for the murder and dropped by the Patriots
- May 2014: Hernandez is charged with first-degree murder in connection with Mr de Abreu and Mr Furtado’s killings
- April 2015: He is convicted of killing Lloyd and sentenced to life in prison
- April 2017: The former footballer is acquitted of the 2012 killings of Mr de Abreu and Mr Furtado. But five days later, he kills himself
He marked the gospel passage “John 3:16” in red ink on his forehead, according to local media reports.
It refers to the phrase: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Hernandez was cleared in the fatal shooting of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado outside a Boston nightclub in 2012.
But he was still serving a prison sentence for a separate killing before his death.
He had been found guilty in April 2015 of the first-degree murder of his friend, another American footballer, the semi-professional Odin Lloyd, in 2013.
Lloyd’s body was found with six bullet wounds less than a mile from Hernandez’s home.
Within hours of his arrest for the 2013 shooting, the Patriots sacked Hernandez, considered one of the top tight ends playing the game.
Hernandez was given a life sentence without parole.