LOS ANGELES, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Lawrence Phillips, a former NFL player convicted of inflicting great bodily injury in a domestic violence case and later charged with murdering a cellmate, was found dead in his California prison cell early on Wednesday of a suspected suicide, officials said.
The 40-year-old Phillips' death comes less than five months after he was charged with murder in the April 11, 2015, strangling of his cellmate, a prison spokeswoman said.
He was awaiting trial in the case in Kern County, where he was held in prison in the town of Delano, about 130 miles (209 km) north of Los Angeles.
Phillips was found unresponsive shortly after midnight at Kern Valley State Prison and rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead early on Wednesday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement.
The former running back, who had been kept in a prison cell by himself since the 2013 death of his 37-year-old cellmate Damion Soward, was sent to prison in 2008 to serve a sentence of more than 31 years, officials said.
He was convicted that year in San Diego County of inflicting great bodily injury in a domestic violence incident, corporal injury to a spouse, false imprisonment and vehicle theft.
Phillips played for three National Football League teams in the 1990s, finishing his four seasons in the league with the San Francisco 49ers in 1999. He later ended his playing career with stints in the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League.
Representatives from the National Football League Players Association could not immediately be reached for comment.
Take a look back at Lawrence Phillips' career:
Lawrence Phillips, former NFL player
Ex-NFL player Phillips dead in California prison of suspected suicide
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 31: Lawrence Phillips #1 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers before a college football game against the Florida State Seminioles on August 31, 1994 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
2 Jan 1996: Lawrence Phillips #1 of Nebraska runs the ball while pressured by a Florida Gators defender during the Fiesta Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe Arizona. Nebraska won the game to claim the national championship in Division 1 football. Mandat
CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 13: Lawrence Phillips #21 of the St. Louis Rams looks on against the Carolina Panthers at Ericsson Stadium on October 13, 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Panthers defeated the Rams 45-13. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
14 Sep 1997: Running back Lawrence Phillips #21 of the St Louis Rams in action during a game against the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos won the game 35-14. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr /Allsport
DAVIE, : Miami Dolphins' new running back Lawrence Phillips (L) walks off the practice field with coach Kippy Brown after his first day of workouts with the team 03 December in Davie, Florida. Phillips' former team, the St. Louis Rams released him for disciplinary reasons. AFP PHOTO/Rhona WISE (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
Lawrence Phillips, running back of the Barcelona Dragons, jumps over the devensive block of Frankfurt Galaxy during their NFL Europe League football match, Sunday June 20, 1999 in Frankfurt's Waldstadium. In the block are Jamaal Alexander, left, and Kendrik Gholston, right, between unifdentified others. Frankfurt has already qualified for the World Bowl final, Barcelona can be the opponent if they win this match. (AP Photo/Axel Seidemann)
San Francisco 49ers newest running back Lawrence Phillips,left, shakes the hand of head coach Steve Mariucci following a news conference at 49ers training camp in Stockton, Calif., Monday July 26, 1999. Phillips signed a two-year deal worth $1.75 million, including a $425,000 signing bonus. (AP Photo/Brian Baer)
FILE - In this July 26, 1999, file photo, newly-signed San Francisco 49ers running back Lawrence Phillips, center, smiles with 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci, left, and general manager Bill Walsh during a news conference at training camp in Stockton, Calif. Phillips has been charged with murder in the death of his cellmate at a Central California prison. Phillips was once one of the nation's top college football players at Nebraska. He played for the St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers during a three-year NFL career. Phillips is serving a sentence of more than 31 years. He was convicted of choking his girlfriend and later of driving his car into three teens after a pickup football game.(AP Photo/Brian Baer, File)
19 Aug 1999: Lawrence Phillips #33 of the San Francisco 49ers carries the ball during the pre-season game against the Seattle Seahawks at 3Com Park in San Francisco, California. The 49ers defeated the Seahawks 24-23. Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport
3 Oct 1999: Lawrence Phillips #33 of the San Francisco 49ers carries the ball during a game against the Tennessee Titans at 3Com Park in San Francisco, California. The 49ers defeated the Titans 24-22.
FILE - In this June 2, 2005, file photo, former NFL running back Lawrence Phillips is arraigned in Superior Court in the Foltz Criminal Courts Building in Los Angeles. Phillips has been charged with murder in the death of his cellmate at a Central California prison. Phillips was once one of the nation's top college football players at Nebraska. He played for the St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers during a three-year NFL career. Phillips is serving a sentence of more than 31 years. He was convicted of choking his girlfriend and later of driving his car into three teens after a pickup football game. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool File)