Body of former UM football player involved in murder-suicide exhumed for brain examination

The body of former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher has been exhumed for tests on his brain to determine whether injuries to his head could have led to the Dec. 1, 2012, murder-suicide.
DAVID EULITT | MCT
The body of former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher has been exhumed for tests on his brain to determine whether injuries to his head could have led to the Dec. 1, 2012, murder-suicide.
Posted Dec. 14, 2013, at 5:26 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 14, 2013, at 6:33 p.m.

Just more than a year after Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his longtime girlfriend Kasandra Perkins and then turned the gun on himself, his body has been exhumed in hopes that tests on his brain will reveal what led to the Dec. 1, 2012, murder-suicide that shocked the professional and collegiate football communities.

Belcher’s body was exhumed at North Babylon Cemetery in Bay Shore, N.Y., according to Dirk Vandever, an attorney who’s working with the Belcher family, according to The Kansas City Star.

It is believed to be the first exhumation of a former NFL player, which the family hopes will produce answers or at least clues about why Belcher, 25, shot Perkins nine times at the home they shared in Kansas City before driving to the Chiefs’ practice facility and shooting himself in the head, leaving their infant daughter orphaned.

“If his brain had been examined (when he died), we’d have a better understanding of why he did what he did,” said Bennet Omalu, who is credited with discovering the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). “We would have a better understanding about concussions and playing football, and we would advance the understanding of the science of all of this.”

CTE is a degenerative disease caused by repeated head injuries. It has been linked to depression, dementia, confusion, memory loss, aggression and even suicide in many former NFL players.

Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy has found the disease in 45 of 46 former NFL players it has studied. Until recently, the disease was only diagnosable posthumously. Tony Dorsett and Mark Duper are among the living former players to be diagnosed with CTE.

Belcher played in the NFL for four seasons, all with the Chiefs, and did not have a documented history of concussions when he killed his girlfriend and himself last December.

But friends told Bleacher Report last month that Belcher had suffered multiple concussions. Other stories emerged that Belcher had become unpredictable and irritable in the months leading up to the murder-suicide and was beginning to drink more — an autopsy showed his blood-alcohol level on the morning of the murder-suicide was more than twice the legal limit in Missouri. These stories matched a lot of what is known about the effects of CTE.

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