Hernandez suicide notes ordered released ahead of funeral

FILE - In this Friday, April 14, 2017, file photo, Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez turns to look toward his fiancee Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez as he reacts to his double murder acquittal at Suffolk Superior Court in Boston. Hernandez’s family is planning a private funeral for the former NFL star in his hometown in Bristol, Conn. A spokeswoman for the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association said Saturday, April 22, that the service is set for Monday, April 24. The former New England Patriots tight end was found hanged in his cell in a maximum-security prison in Massachusetts early Wednesday, April 19. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, Pool, File)

BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — Aaron Hernandez’s family turned out Monday for a private funeral to say their farewells to the former NFL star, and a judge ordered that three suicide notes he left be turned over by the time he is buried.

Hernandez’s mother, brother, fiancee and at least one defense attorney were among the dozens who attended the invitation-only service in his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut.

The former New England Patriots tight end, who was serving a life sentence for a 2013 murder, hanged himself in his cell in a maximum-security prison in Massachusetts last Wednesday. Only days earlier he had been acquitted of murder charges in the shooting deaths of two men in Boston in 2012.

Ahead of the 1 p.m. 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 is 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 burial will be private at an undisclosed location. 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.

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.

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