The families of Aaron Hernandez’s three alleged victims have confirmed that they will continue to sue his estate.
The former Patriot, 27, was found in his cell Wednesday morning having apparently hung himself just days after he was acquitted in the 2012 murders of Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu.
He was serving a life sentence for the 2013 shooting of his former friend Odin Lloyd, for which he was convicted in 2015.
Now the money he made as one of the brightest young talents in the NFL is up for grabs – but questions remain about how much is left, and how his death will affect the civil cases.
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‘Justice’: Ursula Ward (pictured), mom of Aaron Hernandez’s slain friend Odin Lloyd, said his suicide on Wednesday was ‘justice’ but is still pursuing a civil suit against his estate
Suits: Salvatore Furtado (left) and Ernesto Abreu (right), the fathers of two men allegedly shot by Hernandez, are also suing his estate. It’s unclear how much Hernandez left behind
Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, believes that Hernandez’s suicide was ‘another form of justice’, according to WCVB 5.
But she is still pursuing the ‘summary judgment motion that was allowed months ago that already established [Hernandez’s] liability in this case,’ her attorney, Doug Sheff, said.
Sheff said they now expect to be able to ‘move ahead on the damages portion of the case.’
However, it may not be plain sailing: Hernandez was due for an appeal at the time he died, and under a long-standing Massachusetts legal principle, courts customarily vacate the convictions of defendants who die before their appeals are heard.
The legal principle, called ‘abatement ab initio’ or ‘from the beginning,’ can make it harder for related civil suits – such as the one Ward has filed – to succeed.
But it could open up other opportunities too, said William Kennedy, who represents Salvatore Furtado, father of victim Safiro Furtado, as well as de Abreu’s family, in a separate suit.
He said if the Lloyd conviction is vacated, the Patriots must pay Hernandez’s estate a $3.5 million portion of his bonus that they withheld when he was arrested.
Dead: Hernandez seemingly killed himself Wednesday. It’s not known how much of his NFL money was lost to years spent in court. He was convicted of murdering Odin Lloyd in 2015
Victims: Hernandez was accused of shooting dead Safiro Furtado (left) and Daniel de Abreu (right) at a Boston nightclub in 2012. He was acquitted last week of the two deaths
‘At the time of his original arrest in the Odin Lloyd case, my understanding was that there was a $3.5 million bonus that we’ve made a subject of an action in the Superior Court,’ he said.
‘We got a commitment from the Patriots that before any of that payment would be made they would notify the court to give us a chance to deal with that.’
Vacated: Hernandez’s conviction for killing Odin Lloyd (pictured) may be vacated in the wake of his death. That would mean the Patriots must pay a $3.5m bonus to his estate
However, it’s unclear what assets Hernandez still has, after years of battling to clear his name in the courts.
He also has a four-year-old daughter with his long-time girlfriend Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, who changed her name to incorporate his; in 2012 he bought a home for $1.3 million.
Although she views Hernandez’s death as ‘justice’, Ursula Ward had previously said she forgave Hernandez for her son’s murder.
Ernesto Abreu, 61, father of victim Daniel de Abreu, said he took no pleasure in seeing Hernandez dead.
‘I’m not happy about his death; it’s actually a shame, any loss of life is a shame. I believe in leaving things in God’s hands,’ he told the Boston Globe.
He added: ‘Legally, there is no one at blame for my son’s death, and, yes, I’m sad about that, but we are moving on from this.’
Kennedy said of the Furtado family that they have ‘their own loss to concentrate on, the loss of these two young fellows.
‘I don’t think they take any joy in the loss of the Hernandez family… That’s the way they are. They keep God in their hearts at all times.’
Left behind: Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez and their daughter (both pictured last Wednesday), 4, may inherit some of his money. But how much remains to be seen