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Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez commits suicide in prison, officials say

BOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots football star Aaron Hernandez hanged himself in the jail cell where he was serving a life sentence for murder, just days after being acquitted of a second murder charge, state prison officials said on Wednesday.

Hernandez, 27, was a rising star in the National Football League when he was arrested in June 2013 and accused of murdering an acquaintance near his Massachusetts home. He was convicted of that killing and sentenced to life in prison in 2015, but on Friday he was found not guilty of a 2012 double murder.

Staff at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts, found Hernandez hanging in his prison cell at 3:05 a.m. EDT (0705 GMT). He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead an hour later.

Click through for a look back at Aaron Hernandez's NFL career:

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Aaron Hernandez's football career
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Aaron Hernandez's football career
New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez runs after a catch against the Washington Redskins during the first half of their NFL football game in Landover, Maryland December 11, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (L) scores a touchdown as he is tackled by Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea in the second quarter of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts November 21, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - CIRCA 2010: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots poses for his 2010 NFL headshot circa 2010 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez talks on a phone during media day for the NFL Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis January 31, 2012. The New York Giants will play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on February 5. REUTERS/Brent Smith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the first half of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts December 10, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
19 September 2010: New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (85) makes a catch over the middle as New York Jets cornerback Dwight Lowery (26) defends during the first half the New England Patriots vs New York Jets game at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey (Photo by Rich Kane/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images)
ATLANTA - AUGUST 19: Tight end Aaron Hernandez #85 of the New England Patriots jogs off of the field during halftime during the preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on August 19, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 27 : Tight end Aaron Hernandez #81 of the New England Patriots looks on during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 27, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Patriots defeated the Eagles 38 to 20. (Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 27: Aaron Hernandez #81 of the New England Patriots looks up after he was tackled by the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 27, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 31: Aaron Hernandez #81 of the New England Patriots answers questions from the media during Media Day ahead of Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 31, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 27: New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez after practice. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - AUGUST 13: Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez didn't take part in the workout, but it didn't stop him from enjoying himself as the New England Patriots held a training camp workout this afternoon outside of Gillette Stadium. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JULY 27: The New England Patriots held practice at the practice fields at Gillette Stadium. Tom Brady, left, and Aaron Hernandez take a break. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JULY 28: The New England Patriots held practice at the practice fields at Gillette Stadium. Tom Brady, left, and Aaron Hernandez chat on the sidelines. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - DECEMBER 10: New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez on the sidelines as the clock winds down in his team's 42-14 victory over the Houston Texans. The New England Patriots hosted the Houston Texans in an NFL Monday Night Football game at Gillette Stadium. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 21: Aaron Hernandez #81 of the New England Patriots leaves the field during a game with New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on October 21, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
SEATTLE - OCTOBER 14: Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, right, returned to the lineup, and on New England's first play from scrimmage, he caught a pass from Tom Brady, not pictured, and stiff armed Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright, left, as he picked up some yardage after the catch. The New England Patriots visited the Seattle Seahawks in an NFL regular season game at CenturyLink Field. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 23: New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez makes a catch during warm up before they play the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
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"Mr. Hernandez hanged himself utilizing a bed sheet that he attached to his cell window," the state corrections commission said in a statement. "Mr. Hernandez also attempted to block his door from the inside by jamming the door with various items."

A lawyer for Hernandez, a former star tight end with a $41 million contract, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

RELATED: Aaron Hernandez overview

Massachusetts State Police are investigating the death.

More than a year after Hernandez was arrested and charged with murdering Odin Lloyd in an industrial park near his North Attleborough, Massachusetts, home, he was charged with gunning down two Cape Verdean nationals outside a Boston nightclub in 2012.

In his trial for that shooting this year, defense lawyer Jose Baez hammered the credibility of the prosecution's star witness, suggesting that he had killed the men and pinned it on Hernandez in exchange for immunity. Baez is best known for successfully defending Florida mother Casey Anthony in 2011 against charges of murdering her daughter.

Hernandez was cleared of all the charges he faced in the second case but one, a weapons possession count.

After that trial ended, the athlete was expected to appeal his sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole for Lloyd's killing.


(Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Von Ahn)

RELATED: Mortality rate from suicide by demographic over time in the United States

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