Convicted killer and former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez ended his fall from grace in dramatic fashion — smoking synthetic marijuana and scribbling a Bible verse on his forehead before hanging himself with a bedsheet in his prison cell, according to reports.
Hernandez used a red marker to scrawl John 3:16 above his eyes, a macabre suicide note that used the most widely quoted verse in all of Christianity.
“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,” the New Testament’s King James version reads.
A Bible in Hernandez’s Massachusetts cell was open to the same verse, according to Boston’s Fox25.
Prison officials said Hernandez, 27, who was serving a life sentence on a murder conviction, hanged himself with a sheet tied to his cell window at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.
Sources told CBS Boston’s WBZ-TV that investigators believe one of the last people to see Hernandez was a close friend who is now in isolation on “eyeball suicide watch.”
The sources also told the station investigators are looking into the possibility that Hernandez smoked synthetic marijuana also known as K2 on Tuesday night.
His body was found just after 3 a.m. Wednesday. He was in a single cell in a general housing unit, officials said.
Hernandez had a reputation for being a religious person during his college football career at the University of Florida and would read the Bible with head coach Urban Meyer every morning at 7:30 a.m., former teammates said.
Hernandez, a one-time rising star, was serving a life sentence without parole for the murder of Odin Lloyd in 2013.
Five days ago, Hernandez was acquitted of double murder charges in the drive-by shooting deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in July 2012.
Just before his acquittal, Hernandez smiled and blew a kiss to his 4-year-old daughter, who was in court for the first time.
The acquittal was said to have renewed Hernandez’ hope that his murder conviction would be overturned.
Ironically, Hernandez’ death may have given him a clean slate. A quirky criminal law is likely to vacate the conviction because his appeal was still pending. Such a move could hamper any civil lawsuits that would rely on the criminal conviction.
Legal experts said the law is designed to protect the integrity of the appeal process.
Prosecutors and the victim’s family could challenge any motion to vacate the conviction.
“This is a shocking and sad end to a very tragic series of events that has negatively impacted a number of families,” said Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III, who won the murder conviction against Hernandez.
Hernandez’s lawyer, Jose Baez, said he is not convinced the former football star killed himself.
"The family and legal team is shocked and surprised at the news of Aaron’s death," Baez said in a statement.
"There were no conversations that would have indicated anything like this was possible. Aaron was looking forward to an opportunity for a second chance to prove his innocence,” he said. “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."
Hernandez’s death came on the same day his former team went to the White House to be honored for its thrilling come-from-behind overtime victory in Super Bowl LI.
Longtime Patriots coach Bill Belichick, in an interview with CNBC last week, described Hernandez’s downfall with a single word: “Tragedy.”
Hernandez was a standout player during his three seasons at Florida — playing alongside future NFL quarterback and minor league baseball player Tim Tebow.
In 2009 he became the first Florida Gator to win the John Mackey Award, given to the top-performing college tight end.
He opted out of his senior year, entered the 2010 NFL draft and was selected in the fourth round. He played three seasons with the Patriots, and caught a pass in the team’s Super Bowl XLVI loss to the Giants in 2012.
During his pro career, the Bristol, Conn., native caught passes for nearly 2,000 yards and scored 18 touchdowns.
He signed a contract with the Patriots in 2010, followed by a five-year $40 million extension in 2012.
Hernandez shared a daughter, 4-year-old Avielle, with fiancee Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez. She took his name after he was convicted in 2015 of killing Lloyd, a landscaper who was dating Shayanna’s sister, Shaneah, at the time of the murder in 2013.