Former NFL Player Lawrence Phillips Found Dead In Prison

Lawrence Phillips

Former NFL player Lawrence Phillips, who was serving 31 years for assaulting his girlfriend, was found dead in his cell on Wednesday (Jan. 13) at Kern Valley State Prison in California. He was 40 years old.

Authorities are currently investigating the death as a suspected suicide, reports USA Today.

Phillips was facing a possible death penalty in the alleged murder of his former cellmate.

A preliminary hearing was held on Tuesday (Jan. 12), in which a Superior Court judge ruled there was "sufficient cause to believe" Phillips committed murder, which would've made way for a trial that could've ended with the death penalty.

His attorney Jesse Whitten said his client didn't seem depressed at the hearing, and believed he would beat the case.

"There was nothing about his demeanor that made me think he was suicidal at all, or depressed," Whitten told USA Today. "He was very confident about winning this case and he was even optimistic about his appeal on his prior cases."

Phillips was sentenced to 31 years in prison in 2008 for twice choking his girlfriend in 2005 in San Diego, and in 2006, of driving his car into three teens after a pickup football game in Los Angeles.

He played for three NFL teams over four years in the 1990s, ending his career with San Francisco in 1999.