Ex-NFL Star Lawrence Phillips Found Dead In Prison

Ex-NFL Star Lawrence Phillips Found Dead In Prison

( 4UMF NEWS ) Ex-NFL Star Lawrence Phillips Found Dead In Prison:

Lawrence Phillips, the troubled former NFL running back, was found dead in his prison cell at Kern Valley (Calif.) State Prison Wednesday morning, according to a Kern Valley Prison press release. The death is being investigated as a suicide.

"The incident occurred at 12:05 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, when staff conducting security checks found Phillips, 40, unresponsive in his cell. He was transported to an outside hospital where he was pronounced deceased at 1:27 a.m. Next-of-kin has been notified," the press release said.

Phillips had been kept in "single-cell status since April 11, 2015," according to the prison, after he was suspected of killing his cellmate. That homicide case was in its "early stages," according to the press release. The former 1996 first-round draft pick was serving a 31-year, four-month sentence for domestic violence, false imprisonment and vehicle theft.

According to a TMZ report, Tonissa Murdock, who the website said was listed as Phillips' next of kin at the prison, said she didn't believe Phillips took his own life.

"I know him well enough to know he wouldn't commit suicide," Murdock told TMZ.

The lengthy rap sheet on Phillips began as far back as his Nebraska days, where he helped the Cornhuskers win two national championships under coach Tom Osborne. During the 1995 season, Phillips was charged with assaulting a former girlfriend, Nebraska basketball player Kate McEwen, after authorities said Phillips broke into an apartment and dragged McEwen down the stairs by her hair.

After the Nebraska athletics department suspended Phillips, he was reinstated before a Nov. 4 game against Iowa State. Osborne was widely criticized for seeming to coddle Phillips and overlook the seriousness of the allegations.

"I don't think that what the university or the football program has done is the easy thing," said Osborne at Phillips' reinstatement press conference. "The easy thing would have been to dismiss him, probably permanently. But, basically, after examining all the factors involved . . . we simply didn't feel it was the right thing to do."

Phillips pleaded no-contest to a DUI charge in 1996, and ended up spending 23 days in a Lincoln, Neb., jail after his probation for misdemeanor assault stemming from the McEwen case was revoked.

Despite his shaky past, the Rams selected Phillips with the sixth pick in the first round of the '96 NFL draft, but he spent only three seasons in the league, with stops in St. Louis, Miami and San Francisco. Former Rams coach Dick Vermeil, who took the coaching reins after Phillips was drafted, told the Daily News Wednesday that his former player “obviously had issues that no one could really help him with.”