An autopsy performed one year after Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his 22-year-old girlfriend and killed himself found signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative brain disease found in athletes and others with a history of repetitive brain injuries.
Belcher, 25, killed Kasandra Perkins on Dec. 1, 2012, in the couple’s home while his mother was caring for his baby daughter in a nearby room. He then sped from the residence to the Chiefs training facility, where he shot himself in the head in front of then-general manager Scott Pioli and then-coach Romeo Crennel.
A neuro-pathologist found “tau” — the sludge-like protein that indicates extensive damage from repeated blows to the head — during an examination of the Belcher’s brain. The presence of tau suggests Belcher may have suffered from CTE, which has been linked to depression, dementia and memory loss. Dozens of former NFL players — as well as boxers and other athletes — have been diagnosed posthumously with CTE, which is caused by repeated blows to the head.
Belcher’s mother, Cheryl Shepherd, filed a lawsuit in December in Jackson County Circuit Court in Kansas City alleging her son was subjected to “repetitive head trauma,” and that the Chiefs failed to provide adequate medical care before he killed his girlfriend and then committed suicide.
That lawsuit and similar actions by more than 30 plaintiffs — many of them former Chiefs players — has been moved to federal court and subsequently set aside while a $765 million settlement between the league and various lawsuits is going through the approval process.