Officials at Kern Valley State Prison are investigating the death of inmate Lawrence Phillips, a former NFL running back, as a suspected suicide.
Staff conducting security checks found Phillips, 40, unresponsive in his cell around 12:05 a.m. Wednesday, prison officials said. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead at 1:27 a.m.
Phillips had been in an administrative segregation unit on single-cell status since April 11, 2013, after he was accused of killing his cellmate. The homicide trial was currently in its early stages in Kern County.
Phillips was taken from San Diego County into the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on Oct. 16, 2008, when he began serving a 31-year, four-month sentence on convictions of inflicting great bodily injury involving domestic violence, corporal injury to a spouse, false imprisonment and vehicle theft.
Phillips played in the NFL prior to his incarceration in state prison. He was a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy during a standout college career at Nebraska, where he led a high-powered rushing attack that led the Cornhuskers to two national titles. The highly touted running back was drafted by the St. Louis Rams with the sixth overall pick in the 1996 NFL draft.
He struggled to match his collegiate success in the NFL, playing for the Rams, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers. He also spent time in NFL Europe and Canadian Football League before retiring from football in the early 2000s.
SUICIDE PREVENTION HELP: The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.