Judge orders evidence preserved in Hernandez prison suicide

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (AP/WHDH) — A judge on Friday ordered key evidence in the prison suicide of Aaron Hernandez preserved, granting a request from the ex-NFL star’s fiancee so the family can investigate the circumstances of his death.

Bristol Superior Court Judge Thomas McGuire’s ruling includes video recordings of Hernandez’s cell for the eight hours before he was found hanged, records of where Hernandez was during that time and all of his property, including his writings. Authorities say he left three notes next to a Bible in his cell.

McGuire’s order also covers recordings of his phone calls for 30 days before his death. But the judge declined to include recordings of other inmates’ phone calls — something that George Leontire, a lawyer for Hernandez’s fiancee, had requested.

The fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez, had filed court papers on behalf of Hernandez’s estate, asking that prison officials be barred from altering or destroying any potential evidence. She wasn’t present for Friday’s hearing.

The former New England Patriots tight end was found hanged in his cell in a maximum-security prison early Wednesday. He was serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player who had been dating Jenkins Hernandez’s sister.

Leontire was harshly critical of state authorities. Hernandez’s family, he said, still doesn’t know what was in the notes he left behind and was learning disturbing details about Hernandez’s death from news reports and on Twitter.

Authorities say cardboard was found jammed into the door tracks, likely an attempt to slow anyone who tried to enter the cell. Sources also tell 7News that the floor of the cell was slippery, covered in either soap or shampoo.

Hernandez was found just days after being acquitted in a 2012 double homicide case. While the DA is confident that Hernandez acted alone, sources say at least one corrections officer is facing disciplinary action for missing a 2 a.m. walk-through at the prison Wednesday morning.

The walk-through would have been only an hour before Hernandez was found hanging from a bed sheet in his cell.

Sources tell 7News that Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez spoke with her fiancee for at least an hour before he was found dead. She and her daughter were planning to visit Hernandez in prison on Saturday.

Boston University researchers will study Aaron Hernandez’s brain to determine if the former NFL star suffered from the same degenerative brain disease as Hall of Famer Junior Seau and former Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, who also took their own lives.

(Copyright (c) 2017 Sunbeam Television. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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