Lawrence Phillips, a former NFL player convicted in a domestic violence case and later charged with murdering a cellmate, has been found dead in his California prison cell of a suspected suicide.

The death of the 40-year-old came less than five months after he was charged with murder after allegedly strangling his cellmate in April 2015, a prison spokeswoman said.

The former University of Nebraska star was awaiting trial in that case and faced a possible life sentence if convicted.

He was found unresponsive shortly after midnight at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, a town about 130 miles north of Los Angeles, and rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead early on Wednesday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.

Prison officials said they were treating it as a suspected suicide.

Getty ImagesRunning back Lawrence Phillips #21 of the St. Louis Rams looks on from the sideline during a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium on August 3. 1996 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Crime: Lawrence Phillips was sentenced to 31 years in prison

The former running back, who had been held alone in a prison cell since the 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, false imprisonment and vehicle theft, prison officials said.

Media reports at the time said the former player had choked his girlfriend, leaving her unconscious.

Phillips played for three National Football League teams in the 1990s, joining the St. Louis Rams as a first-round pick in 1996 and finishing with the San Francisco 49ers in 1999 after rushing for 1,453 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns during his NFL career.

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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.
Playing days: Lawrence Phillips playing for the San Francisco 49ers in 1999

He ended his playing days with stints in the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League, where he was an all-star on the Montreal Alouettes’ 2002 Grey Cup championship team.

Phillips, who spent time in foster care as a child before becoming a two-time college football national champion at the University of Nebraska, also had a number of arrests on his record before his most recent conviction.

While at college, he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault charges after attacking his former girlfriend, according to a media report at the time.

Representatives from the NFL Players Association could not immediately be reached for comment.

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