BOSTON, May 10 (Reuters) - The fiancee of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez initially thought reports last month of his prison suicide were a cruel hoax, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez said in an interview to be broadcast next week on CBS television's "Dr. Phil" show.
The former National Football League athlete hanged himself in the Massachusetts prison cell where he was serving a life sentence for murder, but his death shocked his family as it came just days after a jury had cleared him of a separate double-murder charge.
"I thought it was a hoax, that this was some cruel person playing a trick on me," Jenkins-Hernandez told longtime talk show host Phil McGraw. "I felt like we were looking so bright. We were going up a ladder to a positive direction."
Hernandez had been upbeat and had taken a more spiritual tone in his conversations with fellow inmates at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Lancaster, Massachusetts, according to court papers released last week.
"Tell my story fully, but never think anything besides how much I love you," he wrote to Jenkins-Hernandez in a note found by his body. In that note, he also told his fiancee "you're rich."
Aaron Hernandez's football career
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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Hernandez had a $41 million contract with one of the NFL's top franchises when he was arrested in June 2013 and charged with murdering acquaintance Odin Lloyd. The team dropped him within hours.
Hernandez was convicted of that murder in 2015 and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.
A Massachusetts judge on Tuesday overturned that conviction, citing a state legal principle that allows a verdict to be vacated if the defendant dies before he has exhausted the appeals process. Prosecutors plan to appeal that decision.
Inmates said that idea had been the subject of prison gossip in the days before Hernandez's death, according to court papers, and local media have reported that Hernandez may have believed his fiancee could recoup some of the money he lost when the Patriots released him if his earlier conviction were overturned.
Dr. Phil asks that question in the interview, to be broadcast in two segments on May 15-16, according to advance excerpts provided by his show: "Did he kill himself so that you could collect $6.5 million?"
The excerpts do not indicate Jenkins-Hernandez's response and a CBS spokeswoman declined to comment on what she said. A lawyer for Jenkins-Hernandez did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (Reporting by Scott Malone, editing by G Crosse)