Ex-NFL player Phillips dead in California prison of suspected suicide

Wed Jan 13, 2016 4:08pm EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Lawrence Phillips, a former NFL player convicted in a domestic violence case and later charged with murdering a cellmate, was found dead in his California prison cell early on Wednesday of a suspected suicide, officials said.

The 40-year-old Phillips' death came less than five months after he was charged with murder in the April 11, 2015, strangling of his cellmate, a prison spokeswoman said.

The former University of Nebraska star was awaiting trial in that case and faced a possible life sentence if convicted.

He was found unresponsive shortly after midnight at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, a town about 130 miles (210 km) north of Los Angeles, and rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead early on Wednesday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement.

Prison officials said they were treating it as a suspected suicide. Citing privacy rules, corrections spokeswoman Dana Simas declined to say how Phillips might have killed himself.

The former running back, who had been held alone in a prison cell since the death of his 37-year-old cellmate, Damion Soward, was sent to prison in 2008 to serve a sentence of more than 31 years, officials said.

He was convicted that year in San Diego County of inflicting great bodily injury in a domestic violence incident, corporal injury, false imprisonment and vehicle theft, prison officials said.

Media reports at the time said the former player had choked his girlfriend, leaving her unconscious.   Continued...

Montreal Alouettes running back Lawrence Phillips (R) takes part in the team's practice at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, in this November 16, 2002 file photo. Phillips, a former National Football League player convicted of inflicting great bodily injury in a domestic violence case, was found dead in his California prison cell early on January 13, 2016 of a suspected suicide, officials said. REUTERS/Shaun Best/Files