Former NFL RB Lawrence Phillips found dead

Posted at 10:03 AM, Jan 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-13 22:46:38-05

Officials at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) are investigating the death of inmate Lawrence Phillips as a suspected suicide.

The incident occurred at 12:05 a.m. Wednesday, 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. 

23ABC News was in the courtroom Jan. 12, 2016 as Phillips was facing murder charges for the death of his cellmate Damion Soward. 23ABC News crews said that Phillips was acting odd and strange during the hearing. 

23ABC News reached out to Phillips' attorney Jesse Whitten, who said that he is unable to speak on any matter surrounding Phillips until a gag order is released.

23ABC News reached out to deputy District Attorney Andrea Bridges who said that the gag order is still in place and that she sends her condolences to the Phillips family.


Phillips had been in an Administrative Segregation Unit on single-cell status since April 11, 2013, after he was suspected of killing his cellmate, 37-year-old Damion Soward. Phillips was currently in the early stages of the trial in Kern County for the homicide.

CDCR spokeswoman, Dana Simas said there is a certain area of beds for inmates who are on suicide watch, but Phillips was not in that area. She said staff do 30 minute checks to try to reduce the chances of other inmates, outside of the suicide watch, from committing suicide. It was during one of those checks that staff found Phillips unresponsive. 

Phillips played for the St. Louis Rams before being released in 1997 for insubordination. He also played for the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers.

He was once one of the top U.S. college football players at Nebraska.

Phillips was sent to prison in 2008 to serve a sentence of more than 31 years 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.

KVSP opened in 2005 and houses 3,896 minimum-, medium-, maximum- and high-security custody inmates. KVSP offers academic classes and vocational programs and employs approximately 1,800 people. For more information, visit


A postmortem examination to determine cause and manner of death is scheduled to be performed on January 15, 2016.