Two prison inmates with Los Angeles ties — including a one-time professional football player — are suspected in separate homicides over the weekend at the Bakersfield-area penitentiary where they were sent to serve lengthy sentences, authorities reported Monday.
Former Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers running back Lawrence Phillips is accused of killing his cellmate, 37-year-old Damion Soward, who was found unconscious at Kern Valley State Prison about 12:45 a.m. Saturday, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Soward, who was serving a term of 82 years to life for first-degree murder, died at a hospital early Sunday evening, CDCR Lt. Marshall Denning said.
Phillips, 39, has been incarcerated since late 2009, when he was sentenced to more than 31 years behind bars for beating and choking his girlfriend on several occasions in San Diego, and for intentionally driving his car into three teenagers during a dispute after a pickup football game in Los Angeles. The crimes all occurred in August 2005.
About 10 hours after the first suspected prison homicide came to light, Kern Valley prison inmate Rattanak Kim, 41, was discovered unresponsive in his cell. He was pronounced dead by medical personnel shortly before noon Saturday.
Kim had begun serving a 35-year-to-life sentence in 1995, after being convicted in San Diego County of conspiracy to commit murder. Prison officials have identified his cellmate, John Munoz, 24, as a suspect in Kim’s alleged slaying, Denning said.
Four years ago, Munoz began a nearly 42-year sentence following a conviction in Los Angeles on charges of burglary and sexual assault resulting in great bodily injury.
Phillips and Munoz have been separated from the general prison population pending completion of investigations into the suspected homicides by prison officials, the Kern County coroner and the local district attorney’s office, according to Denning.
Authorities have disclosed no suspected motives or causes of death in the two cases.
— City News Service