Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was found hanged by a bed sheet in his jail cell early Wednesday, according to the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. Hernandez, 27, was later pronounced dead at a local hospital, according to a statement released by the DOC.

Here’s what we know:

What are the authorities saying about his death?

They’re calling it a suicide, but an autopsy will be conducted later this week in Boston.

According to the statement from the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley Massachusetts, Hernandez hanged himself with a bed sheet that he attached to a cell window. It also says that he tried to block the door by jamming it with various items.

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What is the family’s reaction?

One of Hernandez’ lawyers, Juan Baez, said in a statement released to USA TODAY Sports and other media outlets that the family is heartbroken and are requesting a “transparent and thorough investigation.”

“There were no conversations or correspondence from Aaron to his family or legal team that would have indicated anything like this was possible,” Baez said in the statement. “Aaron was looking forward to an opportunity for a second chance to prove his innocence. Those who love and care about him are heartbroken and determined to find the truth surrounding his untimely death. We request that authorities conduct a transparent and thorough investigation.”

Why was Hernandez in prison?

He was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole after being found guilty of the 2013 shooting of Odin Lloyd, who had been dating the sister of Hernandez' fiancee Shayanna Jenkins at the time of murder.

Lloyd was shot six times and died in an industrial park less than a mile from Hernandez's home. At the time, Hernandez had a $40 million contract with the Patriots.

Hernandez was appealing the verdict.

Wasn’t he back in the news last week?

Late last week, Hernandez was found not guilty of killing Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, two Boston men who were shot to death as they waited at a stoplight in the early morning of July 16, 2012.

He was found guilty on one charge, and that was for unlawful gun possession and was sentenced to four-to-five years in state prison for that. The verdict came down one day short of the two-year anniversary of Hernandez' conviction in the Lloyd case.

After the verdict was read, Hernandez turned to Jenkins and mouthed, "I love you."

As she left the court room, Jenkins would only say, "I am very, very happy" according to reporters there.

Hernandez and Jenkins have a 4-year-old daughter, Avielle Janelle Hernandez.

And finally …

Massachusetts School of Law Dean and President Michael Coyne told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday that in Massachusetts “when a defendant is no longer able to assist with his appeal, the law says the conviction should be vacated.”

In light of Hernandez’s death, the state will probably vacate Hernandez's conviction in the coming months.

Coyne said the law is the same in several states and even on the federal level.