His family now wants to know if he suffered from CTE.
Report: Former NFL player's body exhumed for brain study
The body of former NFL linebacker Jovan Belcher was exhumed Friday in order to perform tests on his brain, a lawyer for the player's family told the Kansas City Star.
Attorney Dirk Vandever told the newspaper that Belcher's family hopes tests will provide a clue as to why the four-year veteran of the Kansas City Chiefs shot his longtime girlfriend to death then killed himself about a year ago.
The only way to diagnose CTE is after death -- by analyzing brain tissue and finding microscopic clumps of an abnormal protein called tau. Tau has been found in the brains of dozens of former NFL players, including Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, Terry Long and Shane Dronett, who all committed suicide. It was also found in the brain of Mike Webster, who died in 2002.
Dr. Bennet Omalu, the first forensic pathologist to diagnose CTE in NFL players, told CNN time is a factor in the Belcher case.
"There is a reasonable probability that the (brain) tissues would have degenerated, but until you open the body up, you may not know if there would be viable tissue for reasonable analysis," he wrote in an e-mail to CNN on Sunday.