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Lawrence Phillips, former Nebraska Cornhusker, St. Louis Ram, Miami Dolphin, and San Francisco 49er running back was found unresponsive in his jail cell yesterday at Kern Valley State Prison in California. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital and prison officials are investigating his death as a suspected suicide.
Phillips was serving a 31-year sentence for various domestic abuse offenses, and had been charged with murdering his prison cellmate in September. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said that at the time he was found, he was in a single-person cell.
Phillips began running afoul of the law during his college days. He was charged with assault and vandalism during his 1994 sophomore season, and arrested for assaulting his then girlfriend after the second game of his junior season. He was also investigated by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits from an agent.
He turned pro early, but his legal troubles continued. During his two years with the Rams, he spent 23 days in jail. He played two games for the Dolphins before being released after pleading no contest to assaulting a woman in a Florida nightclub. He only lasted half a season with the 49ers before being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team.
In 2005, Phillips was arrested and charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon after allegedly driving his car into a group of teenagers following a pickup football game. It turned out he was wanted on domestic assault warrants in both Los Angeles and San Diego at the time. He was convicted of the vehicular assault in 2008, and the domestic assault charges while in prison in 2009.
In all, Phillips only played six years of professional football for seven different teams scattered in the U.S., Europe, and Canada. At the time of his death, was due to stand trial for the murder of his cellmate, Damian Soward, who was found choked to death in the cell the two shared. Phillips was 40 years old.
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