On Dec. 1, 2012, Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend at the home they shared before taking his own life a short time later at the team facility. On Friday, twelve months after the murder-suicide, Belcher's body was exhumed at his family's request, attorney Dirk Vandever told the Kansas City Star.
It is believed to be the first exhumation of a former NFL player, and the family hopes it will lead to answers about why Belcher shot Kasandra Perkins nine times before turning the gun on himself.
“If his brain had been examined (when he died), we'd have a better understanding of why he did what he did,” Dr. Bennet Omalu, the man credited with discovering the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), told the Star. “We would have a better understanding about concussions and playing football, and we would advance the understanding of the science of all of this.”
Belcher, who played four NFL seasons, didn't have a documented history of concussions. But Kash Kiefer, a former teammate at Maine and close friend, told Bleacher Report last month that “Jovan suffered multiple concussions. But in football, you don't complain. You play. That was Jovan. He played.”
More details from the Star: "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 we know about the effects of CTE (a degenerative disease caused by repeated head injuries)."
There is no guarantee the exhumation will reveal if Belcher suffered CTE. While Omalu has found evidence of Alzheimer's in bodies buried longer than a year, Belcher shot himself in the head. That alone doesn't compromise possible evidence, but how well Belcher's body and brain were preserved will be critical.
Still, Julian Bailes, founder of the Brain Injury Research Institute, said that even if Belcher's brain is found to have CTE, that alone can't directly explain the murder-suicide.
Contacted Friday evening by the Star, Perkins' mother was unaware that Belcher's body was being exhumed, but added: "I'm doubtful it will solve anything."