09/02/2015 10:35 EDT | Updated 09/02/2016 01:12 EDT

Former CFL player Phillips charged with killing cellmate in California prison

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Former CFL star Lawrence Phillips has been charged with murder in the death of his cellmate at a Central California prison.

Phillips is suspected of killing 37-year-old Damion Soward at Kern Valley State Prison in April. Officials determined Soward was strangled. Soward is the cousin of former USC and Toronto Argonauts receiver R. Jay Soward.

The Kern County district attorney's office says Phillips, 40, faces a first-degree murder charge.

Phillips was once one of U.S. college football's top players at Nebraska. He played for the St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers during a three-year NFL career.

Phillips ran for 1,022 yards and 13 TDs with Montreal in 2002, helping the Alouettes win the Grey Cup that year. He was released during training camp in '03 for disciplinary reasons before joining the Calgary Stampeders.

Phillips appeared in eight games for Calgary, rushing for 486 yards and a TD before being released.

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.

KBAK-TV reported that Phillips was ordered back to court Sept. 15.


Information from: KBAK-TV,

The Associated Press