BRISTOL, CT (WPRI) — Early Wednesday morning, the life of a former Patriot’s star came to a tragic end. Hernandez, 27, was found by guards at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley just after 3 a.m., Department of Correction spokesman Christopher Fallon said in a statement. He was pronounced dead about an hour later.
Family and friends who knew Hernandez before fame and still live in his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut are reacting to his untimely death. Community members say they knew a different man than the one accused of murder.
Hernandez’s cousin Randy Garcia says the family is in disbelief. “Something’s not right. Something doesn’t add up,” Garcia says.
Randy Garcia also tells Eyewitness News that one of his nephews spoke with Hernandez over the phone Tuesday night. “He was in good spirits. So for this to happen…we’re shocked,” he added.
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Bristol, Connecticut are just as shaken. Before Hernandez made it to fame, he made a big impact at Bristol Central High School. Residents say at that school he was a football star and a hometown hero.
“He always showed humbleness. We respected him. A lot of people looked up to him, said family barber Jose Cartagena.
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.
In college, Hernandez was recognized as the best tight end in the country. His hard work paid off and he was drafted by the Patriots in 2010. Bristol locals say Hernandez never forgot where he came from.
“It was too bad he didn’t have somebody to talk to, or that he didn’t have anybody to reach out,” remarked Bristol resident Emmanuel Barracato.
Aaron Hernandez was a professional football player and convicted murderer. He was serving a life sentence for the murder of Odin Llyod. Last Friday, Hernandez was acquitted in the deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.
“We never saw him in any way, shape or form or even think of him being a criminal or convict or however other people want to see him as,” says Randy Garcia.
Hernandez’s family says they don’t believe he would take his own life and neither does the attorney who got him acquitted of the double murder in Boston. Jose Baez said Wednesday his firm plans to conduct a private investigation into the death.