WESTWEGO, La. - Chris Henry's fiancée wept as she spoke about the late Cincinnati Bengals receiver yesterday, saying that while she often got credit for steering him clear of trouble, he changed her life, as well.
Henry, 26, was killed after he fell out of the bed of pickup truck driven by his fiancée, Loleini Tonga, during what police called a domestic dispute. Police are investigating, but no charges have been filed.
Tonga, wearing large sunglasses, paused to gather herself repeatedly as she spoke to hundreds of mourners at his funeral.
"In 6 years of knowing each other - through hard times, good times - we loved each other very much," she said. "People say I helped change his life. No. He changed mine."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Bengals players, coaches and members of the front office, as well as other NFL players were among those who attended.
Henry died Thursday, a day after he fell out of the truck in North Carolina, where he had been recovering from a broken forearm that ended his season. Police said Henry and his fiancée got into an argument at the Tonga family home and she drove away on a curvy residential street near downtown Charlotte. Henry jumped into the truck's bed.
A witness has said he heard Henry say, "If you take off, I'm going to jump off the truck and kill myself." A 911 caller told a dispatcher she saw a shirtless man wearing a cast "beating on the back of this truck window."
Police said Tonga stopped to assist Henry when he fell about a half-mile from the home.
Tonga and Henry had two children together, Chris Jr. and Demacrus, and they also cared for Tonga's two other children, Seini and Denalya.
Henry's football career was marred by off-the-field problems, beginning when he played college ball at West Virginia. His troubles continued during a 5-year NFL career. He was suspended five times for arrests ranging from weapons charges to drugs.