Ex-NFL player Lawrence Phillips dies in prison of suspected suicide

In this July 26, 1999, file photo, newly-signed San Francisco 49ers running back Lawrence Phillips, smiles during a news conference at training camp in Stockton, Calif. (Brian Baer, File)

Former NFL running back Lawrence Phillips was found dead in his cell at Kern Valley State Prison early Wednesday of a suspected suicide, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.

Guards conducting security checks found the 40-year-old unresponsive in his cell shortly after midnight. He was transported to an outside hospital where he was pronounced dead about an hour and a half later.

Phillips was sent to prison in 2008 to serve a 31-year, four-month sentence after he was convicted of twice choking his girlfriend in 2005 in San Diego and of driving his car into three teens later that year after a pickup football game in Los Angeles.

He was sentenced for inflicting great bodily injury involving domestic violence, corporal injury to a spouse, false imprisonment and vehicle theft.

He had been housed alone in a segregation cell since April 2013 after he was suspected of killing his cellmate, 37-year-old Damien Soward. On Tuesday, a judge ruled that there was enough evidence to try Phillips in Soward's death.

Phillips played for the St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers during a three-year NFL career. He was once one of the top U.S. college football players at Nebraska.

The Associated Press contributed to this report
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