(Reuters) The family of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez expressed shock on Wednesday that he had apparently hanged himself in his prison cell, and they vowed to investigate the circumstances.

The 27-year-old former athlete's body was found hanging from a bed sheet at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts, where he was serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of an acquaintance, just days after he was found not guilty of killing two other people.

State police were investigating the circumstances of the death of the former rising star in the National Football League, and a coroner was performing an autopsy on Wednesday.

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