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Family of Aaron Hernandez's victim asks Patriots to pay in wrongful death suit

The family of the man who former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was convicted of murdering is asking the NFL team to voluntarily pay damages — potentially millions of dollars — as part of a wrongful death lawsuit.

"That would be the right thing to do," family attorney Douglas Sheff told reporters Friday, standing with Ursula Ward, the mother of slain semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.

"That would make the Patriots Ursula Ward's champion," he added.

Sheff couldn't say how much he would want the team to pay, but the unexpected suicide of Hernandez in his Massachusetts prison cell on Wednesday has thrown the legal process in flux. Hernandez had been serving a life sentence for murder in the June 2013 shooting death of Lloyd — his friend and a member of the Boston Bandits.

Hernandez — a tight end for the Patriots from 2010 to 2012 — signed a $40 million contract before he was dropped by the team after his arrest. A jury convicted him in 2015.

But his case was in the middle of an appeal review by the state Supreme Judicial Court, and there was the potential that his guilty finding could have been overturned. His death, however, essentially leaves it unresolved — so the state could move to void his conviction entirely. It's a legal loophole known as "abatement ab initio," or "from the beginning."

Hernandez's appellate attorney, John Thompson, told the Boston Globe on Wednesday that he expected to file the appropriate paperwork to make that happen.

23 PHOTOS
Aaron Hernandez murder trial
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Aaron Hernandez murder trial
Former NFL player Aaron Hernandez is seen on his home security system carrying a weapon in an exhibit shown during his murder trial in Fall River, Massachusetts March 11, 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW SPORT FOOTBALL)
A still image from surveillance video displayed in court shows former New England Patriots NFL football player Aaron Hernandez (L), visiting a gas station in Canton, the night Odin Lloyd was killed, during trial in Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, February 26, 2015. Hernandez is charged in the murder of Lloyd in 2013. REUTERS/Charles Krupa/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL CRIME LAW)
Text messages between personal trainer Brian McDonough and former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez, displayed as evidence at Hernandez's murder trial, at Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, February 24, 2015. Hernandez is accused of the murder of Odin Lloyd in June 2013. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW SPORT FOOTBALL)
Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez sits during his murder trial at the Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, March 5, 2015. REUTERS/Steven Senne/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW SPORT FOOTBALL)
FALL RIVER, MA - APRIL 7: Closing arguments in the Aaron Hernandez trial for the murder of Odin Llyod at Fall River Superior Court. Hernandez looks at the jurors as the alternates are being chosen. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FALL RIVER, MA - APRIL 7: Closing arguments in the Aaron Hernandez trial for the murder of Odin Lloyd at Fall River Superior Court. defense attorney James Sultan holds up a photo of Ernest Wallace in his closing argument, suggesting that Hernandez was present when Lloyd was killed by Wallace. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FALL RIVER, MA - APRIL 7: Closing arguments in the Aaron Hernandez trial for the murder of Odin Llyod at Fall River Superior Court. Defense attorney James Sultan holds a photo of the murder scene during closing arguments. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FALL RIVER, MA - APRIL 7: Closing arguments in the Aaron Hernandez trial for the murder of Odin Llyod at Fall River Superior Court. Hernandez wipes his face as he listens to the judge speak to the jury. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FALL RIVER, MA - MARCH 31: Aaron Hernandez, left, listens to testimony next to his attorney Charles Rankin as a photo of witness Darryl Hodge is displayed during the murder trial of former New England Patriots tight end at Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Mass. Hernandez is accused of the June 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd. (Photo by Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Former New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez arrives in the courtroom at Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts April 1, 2015. Hernandez is accused of the murder of Odin Lloyd in June 2013. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Ursula Ward, mother of the victim, reacts to the guilty verdict for former NFL player Aaron Hernandez during his murder trial at the Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, April 15, 2015. Hernandez, 25, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, is convicted of fatally shooting semiprofessional football player Odin Lloyd in an industrial park near Hernandez's Massachusetts home in June 2013. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Shayanna Jenkins, fiancee of former NFL player Aaron Hernandez, listens during the murder trial for Hernandez at the Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, April 15, 2015. Hernandez, 25, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, is accused of fatally shooting semiprofessional football player Odin Lloyd in an industrial park near Hernandez's Massachusetts home in June 2013. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter
FALL RIVER, MA - MARCH 31: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft testifies during the murder trial for former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez at Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Mass. Hernandez is accused of the June 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd. (Photo by Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FALL RIVER, MA - FEBRUARY 7: Hernandez appeared for a pre-trial hearing at Bristol County Superior Court. He chats with his lawyer Charles Rankin. Aaron Hernandez, a former New England Patriots player, pleaded not-guilty to murder and weapons charges related to the death of Odin Lloyd of Dorchester. (Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FALL RIVER, MA - APRIL 7: Closing arguments in the Aaron Hernandez trial for the murder of Odin Llyod at Fall River Superior Court. Hernandez looks up as his defense attorney, James Sultan shows a video of Hernandez's home as he emerged from the basement. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
ATTLEBORO, MA - JULY 24: Aaron Hernandez entered the court room. Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez appeared in Attleboro District Court in Attleboro, Mass. on Wednesday, July 24, 2013. (Photo by Yoon S. Byun/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Judge Susan Garsh makes rulings about he potential testimony of prosecution witness Alexander Bradley without the jury present at the murder trial of former New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez at Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts April 1, 2015. Hernandez is accused of the murder of Odin Lloyd in June 2013. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Former NFL player Aaron Hernandez stands with his defense attorneys as he hears his verdict in his murder trial at the Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, April 15, 2015. Hernandez, 25, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, is convicted of fatally shooting semiprofessional football player Odin Lloyd in an industrial park near Hernandez's Massachusetts home in June 2013. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter
Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez sits during his murder trial at Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, April 6, 2015. REUTERS/Ted Fitzgerald/Pool
William Zane, of the Massachusetts state medical examiner's office, points to a mannequin while testifying about the location of bullet wounds in the body of Odin Lloyd during the murder trial of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez at Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, April 2, 2015. Zane performed an autopsy on Lloyd's body. REUTERS/Steven Senne/Pool
Former New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez (L) listens as his attorneys confer during a hearing without the jury present in Hernandez' trial at Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts April 1, 2015. Hernandez, 25, had a $41 million contract with the National Football League team but was dropped hours after his arrest in June, 2013 on murder and firearms charges in the death of Lloyd, who had been dating his fianc�'s sister. Hernandez, who has pleaded not guilty, faces life in prison if convicted. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Former NFL player Aaron Hernandez (L) confers with attorney Charles Rankin during his murder trial in Fall River, Massachusetts, March 24, 2015. Hernandez is accused of the June 2013 killing of semiprofessional football player Odin Lloyd. REUTERS/Aram Boghosian/Pool
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If Hernandez was never technically guilty of murder, then he — or his estate — could potentially be owed money from his contract that was unpaid. Reports have suggested that amount could be around $6 million, accounting for his signing bonus and salary at the time of his arrest.

The Patriots have not commented on the issue.

Meanwhile, Sheff said he is still in the process of determining how much in assets Hernandez was worth, including a Hummer and his home in North Attleborough, Massachusetts. Hernandez also leaves behind a fiancée and 4-year-old daughter, and it's unclear what financial arrangement he may have had with them.

Regardless, Sheff said, Lloyd's family deserves some compensation for their suffering. His mother told reporters that she would like to use such money toward scholarships under her son's name.

Ward also said her desire for justice isn't about reaping a windfall.

"I lost my best friend. I lost my son. I lost the love of my life," she said. "There's no amount of money in the world that can bring Odin back. None."

Related: How Aaron Hernandez's Death Voids Murder Conviction

The state medical examiner's office on Thursday ruled Hernandez's death a suicide after he was found hanged by a bed sheet in his single cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center. His attorney, Jose Baez, said was he was not on suicide watch.

Three hand-written notes and a Bible were found, but the district attorney's office did not say what the notes said.

His family is donating his brain to science to help research brain trauma.

19 PHOTOS
Aaron Hernandez's football career
See Gallery
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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