BRISTOL, Conn. — Aaron Hernandez’s family turned out Monday for a private funeral to say their farewells to the former New England Patriots tight end, and a judge ordered that three suicide notes he left be turned over by the time he is buried.
Hernandez’s mother, brother and fiancee were among about 50 mourners who attended the invitation-only service in his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut.
The former NFL player, who was serving a life sentence for a 2013 murder, hanged himself in his cell in a maximum-security prison in Massachusetts on April 19. Only days earlier he had been acquitted of murder charges in the shooting deaths of two men in Boston in 2012.
Ahead of the service, a lawyer for Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez, asked a Massachusetts judge to release copies of three notes Hernandez left next to a Bible before killing himself. He said Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.’s office had refused to share the contents of the notes until the investigation into Hernandez’s death was complete.
The judge said Early’s office can redact information from the notes before producing copies to protect the ongoing investigation.
At the funeral home, two men in suits checked IDs as guests drove up the driveway. Police closed a street outside to traffic, and television news crews were stationed in a lot across the street. At one point, Hernandez’s mother, Terri Hernandez, stepped out ahead of the service to smoke a cigarette on the funeral home’s front porch.
The guests included twin NFL players Mike and Maurkice Pouncey; prominent medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden, whom Hernandez’s family retained to perform an independent autopsy; and at least one of Hernandez’s defense attorneys.
Maggie Amaya, of Bristol, was turned away from the service because she did not have an invitation. She said her nephew was a friend of Hernandez’s at Bristol Central High School. She and other Bristol residents said they were disappointed there wasn’t a public service.
“We love this kid regardless of what happened,” Amaya said. “I’d just rather remember the kid who represented the Patriots.”
The burial will be private at an undisclosed location, and the timing of that was unclear. Hernandez’s family in a statement asked for privacy as they mourn and thanked people for offering condolences.
Hernandez was serving a life sentence for the slaying of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee. His body was found in the North Attleboro Industrial Park, within a mile of Hernandez's home in Westwood Estates in North Attleboro.
After the Massachusetts medical examiner ruled the death a suicide, Hernandez’s brain was taken to Boston University, where scientists will study it for any signs of repeated trauma suffered during his years of playing football.
A judge on Friday ordered key evidence in the prison suicide preserved, granting a request from Hernandez’s fiancee so the family can investigate the circumstances of his death.